August 23, 2017

New Report: Carolina Panthers build new Wi-Fi and DAS; Mercedes-Benz Stadium update, and more!

Q3thumbMobile Sports Report is pleased to announce the Q3 issue of our STADIUM TECH REPORT series, the ONLY in-depth publication created specifically for the stadium technology professional and the stadium technology marketplace.

In addition to our historical in-depth profiles of successful stadium technology deployments, our Q3 issue for 2016 has additional news and analysis, including a look at Wi-Fi analytics at the Mall of America, and a story about how the Cleveland Browns found $1 million in ROI using new analytics software from YinzCam. Download your FREE copy today!

Inside the report our editorial coverage also includes:

— Bank of America Stadium profile: An in-depth look at the Carolina Panthers’ decision to bring new Wi-Fi and DAS networks in-house;
— Mercedes-Benz Stadium profile: An early look at the technology being built into the new home of the Atlanta Falcons, with an emphasis on fiber;
— T-Mobile Arena photo essay: A first look at the newest venue on the famed Las Vegas Strip;
— Avaya Stadium profile: How the stadium’s Wi-Fi network became the star of the MLS All-Star game.

We’d like to take a quick moment to thank our sponsors, which for this issue include Mobilitie, Crown Castle, SOLiD, CommScope, JMA Wireless, Corning, Samsung Business, Xirrus, Huber+Suhner, ExteNet Systems, DAS Group Professionals and Boingo Wireless. Their generous sponsorship makes it possible for us to offer this content free of charge to our readers. We’d also like to thank you for your interest and support.

Survey says 75 percent of major sports arenas have Wi-Fi

Sos_thumb_2016MOBILE SPORTS REPORT is pleased to announce the STATE OF THE STADIUM TECHNOLOGY SURVEY 2016, our fourth annual look at technology deployments in major stadiums and arenas. Inside the report we have replies from more than 90 leading sports venues to get a snapshot of technology deployments in several categories, including Wi-Fi, DAS, Analytics, Fan Engagement and Digital Signage. Our survey and analysis shows that:

— Wi-Fi deployments have continued to increase, jumping to 75 percent of all respondents

— DAS deployments have reached 95 percent of all respondent venues

— Ticketing programs still dominate sports CRM usage
Wi-Fi analytics and other digital-information tracking programs are still in their infancy, but more teams are deploying digital-communications strategies.

These results are the only statistical breakdown of what’s being deployed in the stadium technology deployment marketplace so… DOWNLOAD YOUR COPY TODAY!

Mobile Sports Report would like to thank all the representatives from the major professional sports leagues, including the NBA, the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NHL and the MLS, as well as representatives from major colleges and universities and other sporting and entertainment arenas who took time to participate in our fourth-annual survey. It’s their sharing of time and information that makes our survey possible, so thanks!

Mobile Sports Report would also like to thank JMA Wireless for their sponsorship of this year’s survey, which allows us to offer this information free of charge to our readers.

New Report: US Bank Stadium sneak peek, Wi-Fi analytics and more!

DOC12Our newest STADIUM TECH REPORT features a look inside the Minnesota Vikings’ new home, US Bank Stadium, with a sneak peek photo essay ahead of the venue’s August opening dates. Also included in our latest issue is a feature on Wi-Fi analytics, as well as in-depth profiles of technology deployments at the St. Louis Cardinals’ Busch Stadium, and the Buffalo Bills’ Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Our Q2 issue for 2016 also has a big focus on DAS deployments, specifically at two venues with extra-large attendance issues — namely, the Kentucky Derby and the Daytona 500. You can get all this analysis and reporting by simply downloading a free copy of the report!

From its architecturally striking exterior to its sunny glass-walled interior, US Bank Stadium looks like a jewel for downtown Minneapolis. While we’ll have a full report on the technology inside a bit later this summer, you can feast your eyes on what we saw during a hard-hat tour of the stadium in early June.

On the Wi-Fi analytics side, you can hear from several leaders in stadium Wi-Fi implementations about how they are using data from their networks to improve the fan experience while also finding new ways to boost their own stadium businesses. Our profiles of Busch Stadium, Ralph Wilson Stadium and a bonus profile of the Los Angeles Coliseum all provide in-depth coverage of the unique challenges each one of these venues faces when it comes to technology deployments. And our DAS-focused coverage of deployments at Churchill Downs and Daytona International Speedway illustrate how expanded cellular coverage can provide enough connectivity when Wi-Fi isn’t an economic option. DOWNLOAD YOUR COPY of the report today and get this knowledge inside your head!

New Report: Super Bowl 50’s super wireless, under-seat Wi-Fi feature and more!

STR Q1 THUMBThe record-setting wireless network consumption at Super Bowl 50 is one of the lead topics in our latest STADIUM TECH REPORT, our long-form publication that takes an in-depth look at the most important news of the stadium technology world, alongside some great in-depth profiles of successful stadium technology deployments. Download your free copy today!

With fans consuming 26 terabytes of wireless data — 15.9 TB on the stadium’s distributed antenna system (DAS) and another 10.1 on the Wi-Fi network — the Super Bowl provided the ultimate test for the Levi’s Stadium wireless infrastructure, one that the venue passed with flying colors. One unique factor of the stadium’s wireless deployment, under-seat antennas for both the DAS and the Wi-Fi networks, is covered in-depth in our most recent issue, with a feature story about how under-seat deployments got started, and why they may become the default antenna placement for large public venues going forward.

Also in the issue: A profile of Wi-Fi and associated mobile device strategies at the University of Wisconsin, including geo-fencing for fan marketing at away games; a close-up look at the wireless infrastructure at the Denver Broncos’ Sports Authority Field at Mile High; a profile of the new Wi-Fi network at the Montreal Canadiens’ Bell Centre; and a look at some new social-media strategies deployed by the Miami Dolphins. All this information is available now for FREE DOWNLOAD so get your copy today!

We’d like to thank our Stadium Tech Report sponsors, who make this great content free for readers thanks to their support. For our Q1 issue our sponsors include Mobilitie, Crown Castle, CommScope, Samsung, Corning, JMA Wireless, Aruba, SOLiD, Xirrus and 5 Bars.

Levi’s Stadium crowd sets single-day Wi-Fi record with 10.1 TB used at Super Bowl 50

Broncos fans celebrate during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium. Photo:

Broncos fans celebrate during Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium. Photo:

The 71,088 fans at Levi’s Stadium for Super Bowl 50 helped set a single-day record for Wi-Fi usage, with 10.1 terabytes of traffic on the stadium network, according to the NFL and the San Francisco 49ers network staff.

According to figures provided to us by Roger Hacker, senior manager for corporate communications for the Niners, the Super Bowl 50 crowd broke last year’s previous Wi-Fi record of 6.23 TB by halftime, and ended up with the 10.1 total after recording traffic from 6 a.m. local time until 11 p.m. Of that total, 9.3 TB was used by fans on the free Super Bowl network and another 453 GB was used by media at the game. The remainder of 370 GB was used on dedicated internal operations networks, Hacker said.

When the Wi-Fi number is added to the 15.9 TB of cellular data used at the game, the total of 26.0 TB of wireless traffic is fairly stunning, and perhaps a wake-up call to current network operators at large public venues or those designing new ones, signifying that the usage pattern for mobile data at big events is still growing rapidly, with no top yet in sight.

Levi’s Stadium also set other Super Bowl connectivity records, the first by recording 27,316 unique Wi-Fi users and 20,300 concurrent users (set at 5:55pm PT), topping the previous Super Bowl records from last year of 25,936 uniques and 17,322 concurrent users, respectively. The previous max for concurrent Wi-Fi users at Levi’s Stadium was 18,901 for the stadium’s inaugural regular season game vs. the Chicago Bears on Sept. 14, 2014. At that game, the stadium saw 3.3 TB of Wi-Fi use.

Also new records for sustained connectivity and average use

While we’re still waiting for news about usage of the Super Bowl stadium app, there are some more record-setting stats to note: According to the stadium IT figures, the big-bandwidth day also saw a Levi’s Stadium record for peak Wi-Fi bandwidth used at 3.67 Gbps — this number is the total amount of bandwidth going through the network at a single moment in time, in this case at 3:25 p.m. Pacific Time. The previous record was a mark of 3.55 Gbps set during the Coors Light Stadium Series hockey game on Feb. 21, 2015, a night when not everything went well on the stadium-network side.

Sunday at Super Bowl 50 there were no apparent big glitches, with some Twitter complainers noting that stadium network technicians were quick to respond to any mentions of network downtime. Bandwidth provider Comcast has an interesting infographic of game-day data use, and said the peaks in Wi-Fi network activity happened during the following list of Super Bowl moments:

The 10 moments that generated the most data traffic at the stadium included:

The introduction of the 50 Super Bowl MVPs

Lady Gaga singing the National Anthem and the Blue Angels flyover

The opening kickoff

The first coach’s challenge

Von Miller’s forced fumble and the first touchdown of the game by Malik Jackson

The halftime show with Coldplay, Beyonce and Bruno Mars

Von Miller’s second forced fumble and C.J. Anderson’s game-sealing touchdown

Peyton Manning exiting the field and Gary Kubiak’s Gatorade shower

The Lombardi Trophy presentation

Using apps to get back home and to hotels

For those who are interested, here is our updated list of the top five big-venue single-day Wi-Fi records. If anyone has one to add to this list, please let us know!

1) 10.1 TB — Super Bowl 50, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., Feb. 7, 2016
2) 6.23 TB — Super Bowl XLIX, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., Feb. 1, 2015
3) 5.7 TB — Alabama vs. Texas A&M, Kyle Field, College Station, Texas, Oct. 17, 2015
4) 4.93 TB — College Football Playoff championship game, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, Jan. 12, 2015
5) 4.9 TB — College Football Playoff championship game, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., Jan. 11, 2016

Congrats to the Niners, the NFL, Aruba, Comcast, and Brocade, as well as DAS Group Professionals, DAS gear supplier JMA Wireless and all the major cellular carriers, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, who all made exceptional efforts to ensure great connectivity for fans across the board.

Your Levi’s Stadium technology primer: Everything you need to know about wireless technology at the site of Super Bowl 50!

Scoreboard promo for the Levi's Wi-Fi network, from 2014 season. All photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

Scoreboard promo for the Levi’s Wi-Fi network, from 2014 season. All photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

With Super Bowl 50 two weeks away there is going to be increased interest about whether or not Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., host site of the event, is “the most technologically advanced” athletic venue. Here at Mobile Sports Report, we have spent the better part of the last two years researching and reporting on Levi’s Stadium and all its technical components, attending multiple events and compiling all the known statistics we can find, to present as complete and as honest an assessment as possible, from a completely objective perspective, about the technology found at Levi’s Stadium.

So what’s our verdict? As we see it, there are three main features that set Levi’s Stadium aside from most others, and qualify it for consideration as one of the most technologically advanced large public venues: The stadium’s Wi-Fi network, its distributed antenna system, or DAS, and the integrated Levi’s Stadium app, which takes advantage of a large network of beacons to provide wayfinding and other location-based features. Though some of the components, like the Wi-Fi network, may not be the fastest or largest around, it’s our opinion that the sum of the parts puts Levi’s Stadium at or near the top of any well-connected stadium list; but the 2-year-old venue’s real test won’t come until Super Sunday, when we’ll all see if the networks, apps and personnel performance can live up to the stress of one of sport’s biggest events.

For anyone who wants to know the exhaustive details behind the technology, we’ve included in this story links to all of our Levi’s Stadium stories we think are pertinent, to help other writers or interested sports-tech types get a grip on what’s really going to be technologically available to the 72,000 or so fans who show up on Feb. 7 to watch the NFL’s 50th annual big game.

For starters, here is the first part of a feature we did at the start of the season about how Levi’s Stadium was getting ready for Super Bowl 50. Though we expect some more news next week about late additions, this article pretty much sums up the first-year performance and the tweaks the San Francisco 49ers made to their home-stadium’s wireless infrastructure. And here is the second part of the feature, which focuses more on the stadium’s excellent app, which we’ll talk more about later.

Fans take pictures at Levi's Stadium, opening day 2014 season.

Fans take pictures at Levi’s Stadium, opening day 2014 season.

Wi-Fi: It’s good, but is it the best?

The Wi-Fi in the stadium is pretty good, among the best out there anywhere, but probably not the biggest or fastest network in all the land. Though the Aruba-gear network was innovative for its heavy use of under-seat Wi-Fi APs and the 1,200 APs it had for its first year, other stadiums are meeting or beating those numbers, and under-seat deployments are now becoming quite trendy for venues that want fast, wide connectivity. With slightly more than 1,200 APs now, the Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi network has seen some big-traffic days for Wi-Fi, including the stadium’s NFL regular-season opener and a WrestleMania event last year.

Among stadiums we’ve seen, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, has more Wi-Fi APs and is a bigger place (by about 30,000 in capacity for football) so it had more overall Wi-Fi traffic than Levi’s the past couple years. And Kyle Field’s new network down at Texas A&M is the fastest we’ve seen anywhere, and already has had a bigger Wi-Fi traffic day than Levi’s Stadium. And we haven’t yet visited Miami’s Sun Life Stadium but they get a lot of wireless traffic there too. So while Levi’s Stadium may be among the best, we’re not quite sure it is at the top of the list, at least when it comes to sheer Wi-Fi connectivity.

We might change our tune if the Super Bowl 50 crowd can top last year’s Super Bowl Wi-Fi traffic total of 6.23 terabytes, recorded at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. But so far the biggest total recorded at Levi’s Stadium was 4.5 TB seen at the WrestleMania 31 event last March. From our unofficial observations, the “top 5” list of most single-day Wi-Fi events we know of are:

1) 6.23 TB — Super Bowl XLIX, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., Feb. 1, 2015
2) 5.7 TB — Alabama vs. Texas A&M, Kyle Field, College Station, Texas, Oct. 17, 2015
3) 4.93 TB — College Football Playoff championship game, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, Jan. 12, 2015
4) 4.9 TB — College Football Playoff championship game, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., Jan. 11, 2016
5) 4.5 TB — WrestleMania 31, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., March 31, 2015

For what it’s worth, Super Bowl XLVIII in MetLife Stadium used only 3.2 TB of Wi-Fi, so it will be interesting to see what happens with the growth curve at SB50. In addition to total data “tonnage” there is also an interesting observation about how much data is used per fan, on average. When we get the stats back from Super Bowl Sunday it will be interesting to see if the smaller crowd at Levi’s Stadium will have used more data per connected person, a good reflection of both the carrying capacity of the network and the ease of connecting and staying connected to the Wi-Fi.

Replacing the entire DAS for better cellular connectivity

What is often confusing to non-tech types who try to write about stadium wireless is realizing that there are often two separate networks, Wi-Fi and cellular, operating in the same venue. While many fans actively seek out Wi-Fi, many game-day attendees either don’t bother or don’t know how to connect to Wi-Fi, and so just use their phones like they do anywhere else. To make sure they still have a strong signal, wireless carriers and venues often team up to deploy a distributed antenna system, or DAS, which is basically a bunch of small antennas located inside the venue that act just like a big cell tower, connecting phones to the nearest antenna.

Close-up of new DAS antennas (from mid-July, before the wires were connected)

Close-up of new DAS antennas (from mid-July, before the wires were connected)

At Levi’s Stadium, integrator DAS Group Professionals (DGP) built a “neutral host” DAS for the stadium, which means the team owns the infrastructure and rents out space to carriers so they can connect to customers inside the building. One of the more interesting twists this past offseason was that DGP ripped out and replaced the entire DAS network it built the year before, at the behest of its customers, the major cellular providers. Why? According to DGP, the cell providers — who paid for the upgrade — are expecting as much as 2.5 times more cellular data at this year’s Super Bowl compared to last year, huge numbers that they were afraid might overwhelm the system installed in 2014.

During a stadium tour this summer, MSR saw that the main Levi’s Stadium head end (where the telecom gear that connects the stadium to the outside networks lives) was being doubled in size, so by any stretch cell connectivity should be good if not great during the big game. DGP was also supposed to be increasing cell coverage outside the stadium in the parking lots, but so far we haven’t heard any reports if reception was better this year than last.

At big events like the Super Bowl, the big wireless carriers will spend like crazy to make sure there are no reports of “phones not working,” so the DAS upgrades have become somewhat par for the course. AT&T said that it spent $25 million on wireless infrastructure improvements in the greater Bay area, including expanding its DAS operations inside Levi’s Stadium to allow them to handle 150 percent more traffic. You can expect that Verizon was spending some similar dollars, so rest assured, if you are there your phone will more likely than not find a signal.

What will the app let you do?

The biggest question remaining about the technological underpinnings of Super Bowl 50 — at least as of Sunday night — is whether or not all the features from the regular-season Levi’s Stadium app will make it into the mix for the Super Bowl, especially the one that really sets Levi’s Stadium apart, the ability to order food to be delivered to any seat in the stadium.

Though we’ve been given a “head nod” that the service will be available for Super Sunday, we haven’t yet received any official notice of what’s going to be in the game-day app either from app provider VenueNext or the NFL. This season Niners fans at home games could not only order food and drinks for themselves, they could order and pay for food to be delivered to friends in the stadium, something we noted in our season preview of changes to the groundbreaking Levi’s Stadium app.

App showing ability to buy pricey parking ticket for your RV

App showing ability to buy pricey parking ticket for your RV

If there is some doubt whether the league and the stadium might not make food-delivery available for the Super Bowl, it might have to do with the fact that at one of last year’s “big events” at Levi’s Stadium, the NHL’s Stadium Series outdoor hockey game, the food-delivery service melted down in the face of a massive amount of orders and a too-low level of human staffing. But our guess is that eventually (maybe this week?) we will hear that the Super Bowl app will embrace all the features of the regular Levi’s Stadium game-day app, including in-seat delivery.

What many fans at the game may find even more useful is the app’s ability to provide wayfinding capabilities through a mapping feature that uses the 2,000+ Bluetooth beacons installed throughout the venue to provide live wayfinding, just like how Google Maps shows your car as a blue dot driving down the highway. With many attendees most likely visiting the stadium for the first time, having the ability to find your way around via your device may be the most welcome reason to download the app. Fans should also be able to watch in-stadium replays seconds after plays happen, and may also be able to watch Super Bowl broadcast commercials via their mobile device. Stay tuned for more “official” announcements of app capabilities as we hear them.

In case you haven’t heard enough, here are a few more links from our in-person visits to Levi’s Stadium for Niners home games during the 2014 season.

Niners’ home opener tops Super Bowl for Wi-Fi data traffic with 3.3 Terabytes (Sept. 16, 2014)

Levi’s Stadium ‘NiNerds’ get high-visibility wardrobe upgrade (Nov. 23, 2014)

Stadium Tech Report: Network finishes season strong at Niners’ Levi’s Stadium (Jan. 12, 2015)