June 25, 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.

Stadium Tech Professionals: LAST DAY to take our 2016 stadium tech survey!

2015_SoS_thumbIf you are a stadium technology professional working for a school, team or stadium ownership group, it’s that time of year again — we need your participation in our 2016 State of the Stadium Technology Survey. Now in its fourth year of existence, the “State of the Stadium” survey is the only independent, large-public-venue research that charts deployments of stadium technology like Wi-Fi, DAS, Digital Signage and Beaconing, and the use of digital sports marketing tools like Wi-Fi analytics, CRM and social media. If you are part of a stadium operations group and know what goes on inside your venue, take the 2016 survey right now!

Because this is an ANONYMOUS, AGGREGATED INFORMATION ONLY survey, that means that answers aren’t tied to any school, team or individual. Just look at last year’s survey to see how the answers are reported. That also means that all answers are completely confidential, and will not be sold, marketed or otherwise communicated in any way, shape or form outside of the ANONYMOUS TOTALS used in the survey report.

So since we’re trying to find out aggregate numbers — not individual details — it’s just as important for all of us to know who doesn’t have Wi-Fi as well as who does. So even if your school or team or stadium doesn’t have Wi-Fi — and may never have Wi-Fi — you should still TAKE THE SURVEY and add your organization’s information to the total. The more answers we get, the better the data are for everyone.

Survey time is time well spent

And that “everyone” thing leads me to my next point: If you’re a regular reader here you can and should consider the few minutes it takes to complete the survey as a small way of “paying back” to the rest of the members of this fine industry, many of whom make time for the interviews, visits and emails that form the core of all the excellent free content available here on the MSR site and through our long-form reports (and now our podcasts as well). We know you are busy, and that spending time answering a list of technology questions may not seem like the highest priority on your to-do list. But a little bit of your time can really help us all.

That’s because we also know, from our website statistics and from our report download numbers and just from conversations with many of you, that our audience of stadium technology professionals appreciates the honest, objective stories and analysis we provide. (We humbly thank you for continuing to make us a regular reading choice.) And now, by taking the survey, you can help make the site and our work even better, just by adding your team, school or stadium’s technology deployment information into the 2016 State of the Stadium Technology Survey. The more results we get, the better and more informative the survey becomes — and that’s something that’s truly a win-win situation for all involved.

Once again the State of the Stadium Technology Survey will be exclusively delivered first to the attendees of the SEAT Conference, being held this year in Las Vegas, July 17-20. Production of this year’s survey is made possible by the sponsorship of JMA Wireless, and through our partnership with the SEAT Consortium, owners and operators of the excellent SEAT event. All those who participate in the survey will receive a full digital copy of the final report, whether you attend the SEAT Conference or not. As a bonus, all SEAT attendees will get a print version of the survey results. If you haven’t already, you can sign up to attend SEAT.

Final reminder: This survey is meant to be taken ONLY by stadium technology professionals, executives, and team or school representatives who can accurately describe the deployments in place at their organization. It is NOT a survey to be taken by everyone, only by those who have a deployment to describe. If you have any questions about whether you should take the survey or not, send an email to me at kaps at mobilesportsreport.com. Thanks in advance for your time and participation!

T-Mobile Arena opens in Las Vegas, with 565 Wi-FI APs

T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, on the official April 6 opening. All photos: Cox Business (click on any photo for a larger image)

T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, on the official April 6 opening. All photos: Cox Business (click on any photo for a larger image)

If they build it, will professional hockey or basketball teams come? The first part of that question has already been answered, with the official opening of T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on April 6, just in time for a kickoff concert from the Killers. With 565 Cisco Wi-Fi access points, the arena is well-enabled for wireless access; the big question is, will an NHL or NBA team soon call the place home?

With no deal announced for either league it’s an open-ended question. For now, the 20,000-seat venue, located just west of the strip near the New York New York hotel/casino (right next to the freeway) will have to be satisfied hosting all kinds of events from concerts to one-off sports events like the Harlem Globetrotters (April 19) and a WWE event in June. Fans at any event will be able to use free Wi-Fi provided by Cox Business, which is the “exclusive Technology Integration/Telecommunications Services Provider,” according to a press release from the official opening ceremonies.

While we haven’t visited the arena yet — we are looking forward to a hosted tour during this summer’s SEAT Conference in July — the $375 million multi-purpose venue, owned by a joint venture between AEG and MGM Resorts International, looks pretty cool with its overhanging lounges and outdoor plaza with real, live trees, a rarity on the strip. Inside, the tech underpinnings sound state of the art, beginning with a 10-Gigabit fiber optic network that serves as the arena’s backbone.

Special shrouds for the Wi-Fi APs

Custom shroud for Wi-Fi APs at T-Mobile Arena

Custom shroud for Wi-Fi APs at T-Mobile Arena

According to figures provided to us by Cox Business folks, the 565 Wi-FI APs include a mix of indoor and outdoor models from Cisco, some designed for office-type settings and some designed to withstand outdoor temperatures and weather. According to Cox its on-site engineers also designed a “vanity cover” type of shroud, which is more aesthetically pleasing to the eye while also helping keep the AP safe from “disruptions,” like possibly being bumped or some other physical intrusion.

The arena will also use Cisco’s StadiumVision system to provide synchronized content feeds to the 767 4K-capable digital displays throughout the venue. Thanks to the Cox sponsorship, that content could include “all 60 channels of high-definition news, sports and entertainment content from the Cox cable channel lineup as well as live in-house feeds from the arena,” according to Cox.

We have also heard reports, but have not confirmed with the company, that Mobilitie will be providing the in-venue DAS. Mobilitie’s involvement is not a big surprise, given that the company partnered with MGM in the past to bring Wi-Fi to the resort company’s casinos. Back when the T-Mobile naming sponsorship was announced, there were reports of special discounts and VIP access for T-Mobile customers, but so far none of that information was easily discovered on the arena’s website. Stay tuned for more updates as we get them on the DAS/cellular side of things; anyone who visits the arena soon should take a speedtest and post the results here in the comments.

Jeff Breaux, vice president of western operations, Cox Business, (left) and Derrick R. Hill, vice president, Cox Business/Hospitality Network, gesture toward the exterior digital signage at T-Mobile Arena.

Jeff Breaux, vice president of western operations, Cox Business, (left) and Derrick R. Hill, vice president, Cox Business/Hospitality Network, gesture toward the exterior digital signage at T-Mobile Arena.

SF Giants fans used 78.2 TB of Wi-Fi data at AT&T Park during 2015 season

The view from AT&T Park's left field corner. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

The view from AT&T Park’s left field corner. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

It didn’t end with a World Series championship but the 2015 season for the San Francisco Giants did see fans use 78.2 terabytes of Wi-Fi data during home games at AT&T Park, the most-ever at the venue, according to the Giants.

Bill Schlough, senior vice president and CIO for the Giants, sent over a bunch of wireless data statistics from the Giants’ season, and on both Wi-Fi and AT&T DAS usage, numbers were up significantly from the year before. In addition to the 78.2 TB of Wi-Fi data used during baseball games, Schlough said additional data used during preseason games, concerts and private parties (like the SEAT 2015 softball game!) probably added another 20+ TB to the total, putting the AT&T Park Wi-Fi usage for the year in the 100 TB range.

Anyone else out there with numbers that challenge for the total Wi-Fi season crown?

Here are some more precise measurements from the AT&T Park 2015 season, with comparisons to 2014 in parentheses:

— Average Wi-Fi Take-Rate: 34.8% (33.9% in 2014)

— Wi-Fi Traffic/Game: 966 GB (591 GB)

— AT&T DAS Traffic/Game: 264 GB (196 GB)

— Wi-Fi Traffic/Connection: +59% vs. 2014

— DAS Traffic/Connection: +35%

SEAT1

Chicago Cubs tap NFL deployment expertise of Extreme, DGP for new Wi-Fi, DAS at Wrigley Field

Artist rendering of the proposed fan plaza outside Wrigley Field. Renderings courtesy of the 1060 Project.

Artist rendering of the proposed fan plaza outside Wrigley Field. Renderings courtesy of the 1060 Project.

The video boards above the historic ivy-covered outfield walls are only the first clue that this isn’t your grandpa’s Wrigley Field anymore.

And though you won’t be able to see it, new Wi-Fi and DAS networks are coming soon to the Friendly Confines, as part of the Ricketts Family’s ambitious remake of Wrigley Field and its surrounding area. And according to Cubs IT executives, the team is tapping firms with NFL stadium expertise to bring not just fast and thorough wireless coverage to fans, but also back-end ownership and analytics so that the team can more effectively track online activity to improve the fan experience as well as improve the team’s return on infrastructure investment.

Though Wrigley Field has had full fan-facing Wi-Fi for longer than most Major League Baseball stadiums — the AT&T-built network arrived in 2012 — with the major overhaul of not just the park itself but the surrounding areas outside beginning this offseason, it was time to rethink the team’s overall approach to wireless connectivity, said Andrew McIntyre, senior director of information technology for the Chicago Cubs.

As part of the team’s ongoing 1060 Project the Ricketts family (which owns the Cubs) is not only adding more concessions and other fan amenities to Wrigley, they are also building a fan plaza outside the main gate as well as building a retail/office building and eventually a boutique hotel on the edge of the famed ballpark property at Chicago’s somewhat slanted corner of Clark and Addison. (If you don’t get the “1060” label, we suggest you ask Elwood Blues what the address of Wrigley Field is.)

“As it all starts looking more like a campus, it changes the dynamics” of how you provide wireless coverage to all areas, said McIntyre. As a regular attendee, speaker and steering council member of the SEAT Conference — the premier gathering of stadium technology professionals — McIntyre was well aware of all the new trends for large-venue Wi-Fi and DAS deployments, some of which were taking place in football stadiums across the country.

“We understood what was happening with other leagues in regards to Wi-Fi and DAS from what we saw at SEAT,” said McIntyre, in an interview at this summer’s SEAT Conference in San Francisco. “We started to evaluate those deployments and ideas as we were getting ready for our restoration.”

The Winners: Wi-Fi with a heavy side of analytics, and team-owned DAS

Cubs fans know how to enjoy a day at the park. Photo: Lisa Farrell, MSR

Cubs fans know how to enjoy a day at the park. Photo: Lisa Farrell, MSR

As major construction took place this past offseason, the Cubs de-activated the AT&T Wi-Fi network that had previously served fans inside the ballpark. Even though it doesn’t sound very old, McIntyre notes that many other stadiums around the country have had to completely overhaul Wi-Fi networks built just several years ago, due to the ever-increasing demand for more bandwidth and the rapid introduction of new phones and devices that fans are bringing to games.

“AT&T had previously controlled both the DAS and the Wi-Fi, and [to them] the Wi-Fi was kind of a ‘check the box thing,’ ” McIntyre said. “The scope [of the network] was just for Wrigley Field only. When we took down the Wi-Fi while we replaced the bleachers, we looked more toward the future.”

What McIntyre and the Cubs IT team saw was a future where Wi-Fi was used not only to provide connectivity, but to also provide a deep link between venue owners and operators and the digital activities of their visitors, through advanced analytics of Wi-Fi traffic. In the end the Cubs selected Wi-Fi provider Extreme Networks for the Wrigley project, in no small part due to Extreme’s experience in deploying Wi-Fi networks and Wi-Fi analytics inside numerous NFL stadiums.

“We saw patterns emerging in other leagues, and especially in the NFL, where the league and teams called out analytics,” said McIntyre. Extreme, which has a partnership deal with the NFL as its preferred provider of Wi-Fi analytics for its Purview software, has provided analytics help at recent Super Bowls in addition to being part of stadium Wi-Fi deployments for the New England Patriots, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Seattle Seahawks, among others.

“A lot of times talk about Wi-Fi is simply about coverage and capacity, and more, more, more,” McIntyre said. “The question of ‘what are you doing with the service’ becomes an afterthought.” McIntyre noted that in some cases, the NFL has deployed Extreme analytics on top of Wi-Fi infrastructure with gear from another manufacturer. “What they [Extreme] are able to provide [with analytics] is night and day compared to the competition,” McIntyre said.

Back of the iconic Wrigley bleachers, circa 2014. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Back of the iconic Wrigley bleachers, circa 2014. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

John Brams, director of Sports and Entertainment at Extreme Networks, called the coming Wrigley Field network “a signature deployment.” Wrigley Field itself is expected to have Wi-Fi service in time for the 2016 season, McIntyre said.

DAS: Neutral host instead of carrier-led

On the DAS side of the wireless equation, McIntyre and the Cubs team were impressed with the cellular network deployment at the San Francisco 49ers’ new venue, Levi’s Stadium, a deployment done by the lesser-known firm DAS Group Professionals, or DGP. While many may have first heard of DGP for its Levi’s Stadium deployment, DGP does have other large-venue experience, having built previous cellular networks for airports and the San Francisco Bay area’s BART light-rail service.

At Levi’s Stadium, DGP worked with the Niners to build a neutral-host DAS deployment that is owned and controlled by the team, an emerging trend for stadium owners and operators who don’t want to simply concede control to wireless carriers. Under a neutral-host deployment the owner or operator of the DAS typically builds a non-carrier-specific antenna infrastructure, and then charges wireless carriers to connect their systems to the back end of that network.

At a prior SEAT event McIntyre said the Cubs team talked to the Niners about why they went with DGP, and liked what they heard.

“The venue-owned DAS solution was a business model we liked,” McIntyre said, “It perfectly aligns with our strategy of being closer to the fan base and not one step removed.”

Steve Dutto, president of DGP, said the Cubs contract “validates our work at Levi’s Stadium.” The new DAS, McIntyre said, should be fully functional by 2017.

Artist rendering of the home plate view after all construction done.

Artist rendering of the home plate view after all construction done.

Stadium Tech Professionals: Time to take our 2015 stadium tech survey!

SOS14_thumbIf you are a stadium technology professional working for a school, team or stadium ownership group, it’s that time of year again — we need your participation to make our 2015 State of the Stadium Technology Survey our best yet! Now in its third year of existence, the “State of the Stadium” survey is the only independent, large-public-venue research that charts deployments of stadium technology like Wi-Fi, DAS, Digital Signage and Beaconing, and the use of digital sports marketing tools like CRM and social media. If you are part of a stadium operations group and know the answers, take the 2015 survey right now!

Before I get to a deeper explanation of the survey, a quick story: During last year’s survey season, I called a team IT exec that I knew well and asked why nobody from his organization had taken the survey. “Well, we don’t have Wi-Fi installed yet,” the exec said. “We’ll take the survey next year after it’s deployed.” I didn’t have the heart to say it at the time but — his take was completely the WRONG ANSWER. Why? Because this is an ANONYMOUS, AGGREGATED INFORMATION ONLY survey, which means that answers aren’t tied to any school, team or individual. Just look at last year’s survey to see how the answers are reported. That also means that all answers are completely confidential, and will not be sold, marketed or otherwise communicated in any way, shape or form outside of the ANONYMOUS TOTALS used in the survey report.

So since we’re trying to find out aggregate numbers — not individual details — it’s just as important for all of us to know who doesn’t have Wi-Fi as well as who does. So even if your school or team or stadium doesn’t have Wi-Fi — and may never have Wi-Fi — you should still TAKE THE SURVEY and add your organization’s information to the total. The more answers we get, the better the data are for everyone.

Survey time is time well spent

And that “everyone” thing leads me to my next point: If you’re a regular reader here you can and should consider the few minutes it takes to complete the survey as a small way of “paying back” to the rest of the members of this fine industry, many of whom make time for the interviews, visits and emails that form the core of all the excellent free content available here on the MSR site and through our long-form reports. We know you are busy, and that spending time answering a list of technology questions may not seem like the highest priority on your to-do list. But a little bit of your time can really help us all.

That’s because we also know, from our website statistics and from our report download numbers and just from conversations with many of you, that our audience of stadium technology professionals appreciates the honest, objective stories and analysis we provide. (We humbly thank you for making us a regular reading choice.) And now, by taking the survey, you can help make the site and our work even better, just by adding your team, school or stadium’s technology deployment information into the 2015 State of the Stadium Technology Survey. The more results we get, the better and more informative the survey becomes — and that’s something that’s truly a win-win situation for all involved.

Once again the State of the Stadium Technology Survey will be exclusively delivered first to the attendees of the SEAT Conference, being held this year in our home town of San Francisco, July 19-22. Production of this year’s survey is made possible by the sponsorship of Mobilitie, and through our partnership with the SEAT Consortium, owners and operators of the excellent SEAT event. All those who participate in the survey will receive a full digital copy of the final report, whether you attend the SEAT Conference or not.

Final reminder: This survey is meant to be taken ONLY by stadium technology professionals, executives, and team or school representatives who can accurately describe the deployments in place at their organization. It is NOT a survey to be taken by everyone, only by those who have a deployment to describe. If you have any questions about whether you should take the survey or not, send an email to me at kaps at mobilesportsreport.com. Thanks in advance for your time and participation!