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On Location: American Airlines Center's Wi-Fi Network

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Ironically, the high-tech Aruba network is actually a step back from the center's original vision, which called for fans to have Internet access from their seats. Cuban and Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks scrapped that idea, citing the distraction factor. But don't take that as a sign that creative ideas for implementation aren't welcome. "Going forward, anything that doesn't impact fans' attention while the game is going on is workable to me," Cuban says.

Indeed, AA Center operators are committed to using wireless technology in a wide variety of applications. The building opened in 2001 with limited wireless capabilities, including wireless ticketing and a wireless point-of-sale system to support some of the building's memorabilia and merchandise outlets. But the functions weren't connected, and there was no wireless infrastructure in place.

"We had several wireless systems in the building, but for the most part, they were what I'd call proprietary--they were single use," Mayne says. Single use or not, wireless was working for in-seat services, and he set out to expand the system's reach, with the help of Heinlein and Glasser-Seinera. Heinlein and his IT staff wanted to deploy a wireless infrastructure to support applications across the building, and Glasser-Seinera wanted to create a wireless showcase that would attract the sponsorship of a major vendor. In February 2004, Heinlein outlined the technical requirements for the network and helped narrow the potential field of providers. Then Glasser-Seinera approached the shortlisted vendors about putting their gear on display in the arena.

"This is really an excellent place for a technology vendor to show what it can do," says Glasser-Seinera. About three million people pass through the AA Center doors each year, many of them high-power decision makers in their respective companies. Major brands such as UPS and Dr Pepper already have showcases in the building, and Dell Computer provides many of the PCs used throughout the facility in exchange for marketing exposure.

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