Vikings hit peak of 4.32 TB for Wi-Fi use at U.S. Bank Stadium, with average 43 percent take rate

Game day at U.S. Bank Stadium. Credit all photos: Vikings.com (click on any photo for a larger image)

Game day at U.S. Bank Stadium. Credit all photos: Vikings.com (click on any photo for a larger image)

While the football season may not have gone exactly to Vikings’ fans wishes, the Wi-Fi network at U.S. Bank Stadium performed well during its inaugural NFL season, with a peak single-game data total of 4.32 terabytes used, part of a season average of 2.89 TB used during Vikings games.

According to statistics provided to MSR by Tod Caflisch, vice president and chief technical officer for the Vikings, the biggest data-use day was Sept. 18, 2016, during the regular-season home opener for the Vikings against the rival Green Bay Packers, a 17-14 Vikings victory. That contest also saw season highs for unique Wi-Fi users, with 31,668 fans connecting to the Wi-Fi at some point of the game day, and for most concurrent users, with 17,556 users connected at the same time. The 31,668 number represented a 49 percent take rate, with the game’s reported attendance of 64,786.

Even though Caflisch said the Vikings didn’t heavily promote the AmpThink-designed Wi-Fi network — which uses Cisco Wi-Fi gear in mostly handrail-mounted AP locations to serve the main bowl seating areas — the average take rate during the season was at the high end of numbers we’ve seen, with a 43 percent average over the two preseason and eight regular-season Vikings games.

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 11.41.21 AMAnd even though the total data-used number only crested 3 TB one other time in the season — a 3.16 TB mark during a 30-24 Vikings win over the Arizona Cardinals on Nov. 20, 2016 — the average mark of 2.89 TB per game showed solid, consistent use.

Caflisch said that the Vikings and U.S. Bank Stadium were also able to correct the train-snafu issue that arose at some of the early events at the new venue, which has a light-rail station right outside the stadium doors. While some of the first events had big lines of riders and not enough trains, Caflisch said that during the season extra trains were held in reserve at the transit station that is close to Target Field (a few stops down the line from U.S. Bank) and then filtered in as Vikings games neared their end.

“We were able to clear the [train] platform in 40 minutes after the last game,” Caflisch said. “The fans really loved the trains.” (More U.S. Bank Stadium images below)

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Vikings fans gather outside the stadium for pregame activites.

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Great nighttime view with city skyline visible through windows.

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A look at the handrail Wi-Fi antenna mounts (this photo credit: Paul Kapustka, MSR)

AT&T sees double DAS usage at College Football Playoff championship game

Screen Shot 2017-01-10 at 12.06.37 PMWireless data use at big sports events keeps continuing to grow, with AT&T reporting that its cellular network traffic from Monday’s College Football Playoff championship game between Clemson and Alabama was double the total from last year’s game.

According to AT&T, it saw fans use a total of 3.8 terabytes of wireless data Monday, on its stadium distributed antenna system (DAS) network at Raymond James Stadium as well as from other network sites in and around the stadium in Tampa. At last year’s championship game in Glendale, Ariz., AT&T saw 1.9 TB of data used on its cell networks. Keep in mind, these numbers are for AT&T networks ONLY, so the total wireless numbers are much larger.

Unfortunately, Verizon Wireless is (so far) declining to report its wireless data statistics from Monday night’s game, a situation we hope they reconsider; we are also still waiting to hear from Sprint and T-Mobile representatives to get their figures from the event. We also have a call in to the stadium authorities to see if we can get figures from the in-stadium Wi-Fi network, so stay tuned. If AT&T’s numbers are any indication, the thrilling 35-31 Clemson victory might just join our list of top single-day wireless event, especially since the event set an attendance record with 74,512 on hand to witness the drama.

NRG Stadium Wi-Fi ready for Super Bowl LI

NRG Stadium. Credit: Houston Texans Instagram

NRG Stadium. Credit: Houston Texans Instagram

Nonexistent a year ago, the new Wi-Fi network at Houston’s NRG Stadium has at least one more live game that administrators can use as a final tune-up before the venue and its wireless infrastructure host Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5.

Live since the start of the current NFL season, the Wi-Fi network deployed by integrator 5 Bars using Extreme Networks Wi-Fi gear has seen growth in fan usage for each subsequent game, according to David Moore, manager of information services for NRG Park.

“The first few games [of the season] it wasn’t heavily promoted, but as we went on usage shot up,” said Moore in a recent phone interview. Though he wouldn’t release specific figures on data use, Moore said that game-day totals near the end of the season saw in the range of 25,000 unique users per game, with data totals in the “4-5 terabyte” range. The stadium’s main tenants, the Houston Texans, will have at least one more home game this weekend when they host the Oakland Raiders in the first round of the NFL playoffs.

Under seat APs visible down seating row. Credit: 5 Bars

Under seat APs visible down seating row. Credit: 5 Bars

While it’s possible that the Texans could be hosting the AFC Championship game if all the higher-seed teams lose en route, this weekend’s game is most likely the last chance the NRG Stadium tech team will have as a dress rehearsal for the Super Bowl. Since the Super Bowl is historically the biggest single-day data-usage event — and has gotten bigger every year — all technical eyes will be on the NRG Stadium network, which only started becoming a reality after the stadium hosted last year’s men’s NCAA basketball Final Four. With a base seating capacity of 72,220, NRG’s Super Bowl crowd should roughly be the same as last year’s at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

Fast deployment schedule met

“It was a challenge [to deploy so quickly] and we are still working out the tuning,” said Michelle McKenna-Doyle, the NFL’s chief information officer, in an email interview. “We were fortunate to have the regular season to work on it, but hope to have it Super Bowl ready within next couple weeks. 5 Bars, Extreme Networks, The Texans, Harris County and the host committee all worked hard to make it a reality for our fans.”

At one point in recent history, it seemed like NRG might never get a fan-facing Wi-Fi network since the county-owned facility couldn’t find the budget necessary to bring wireless connectivity to the venue. But with the Super Bowl approaching, a consensus finally pushed through, with 5 Bars winning a deployment bid that still needed a change in equipment from Ruckus (the original supplier in the 5 Bars bid) to Extreme. While no official breakdown of funding shares has been supplied, the reported $6 million-plus cost of the Wi-Fi deployment was likely shared in some fashion by the Texans, the NFL, Verizon Wireless and Extreme.

Ready for the playoffs and Super Bowl! Credit: 5 Bars

Ready for the playoffs and Super Bowl! Credit: 5 Bars

According to Moore, Verizon chipped in to secure guaranteed offload for its cellular customers, as well as its own SSID that will automatically sign on Verizon customers in the facility, a tactic used by Verizon in several other NFL stadiums. Non-Verizon customer fans can use a free xfinitywifi SSID, as Comcast is the backbone supplier for the Wi-Fi network services.

According to Moore there are 1,250 Extreme Wi-Fi APs in the venue now, with 550 of those deployed under seats in the main bowl. While Moore said the under-seat location allows for much denser deployment and better network tuning, the method also caused the most headaches during deployment, beyond the usual cost and struggle of drilling through concrete floors.

First of all, the installers had to bring all the necessary power and cabling infrastructure in, since there was nothing underneath the concrete seat floors, Moore said. In fact, because there are offices underneath some of the seating areas, contractors had to negotiate a “drip pan” that kept moisture from seating power-washing away from the office roofing.

Another “big hiccup” emerged when the original equipment used for the under-seat locations didn’t lock out all the moisture, leading to a full replacement of all the 550 under-seat APs. Moore said the under-seat locations now use Extreme’s highest-grade outdoor-rated AP, the 3965i.

New DAS installed last year

Since Super Bowls also typically set records for cellular DAS usage, it’s no surprise that Verizon also recently updated the DAS at NRG Stadium, reportedly putting $12 million into a new system installed before the 2015 season. According to Moore, the DAS and the Wi-Fi also cover parking areas outside the venue, including a plaza where the Texans typically see 6,000 or more fans gathering before games.

“There’s great coverage” in the parking lots with the new DAS, Moore said. Announcements have not yet been made public, but you can expect that both AT&T and Verizon are busy beefing up the cellular systems in and around the stadium, as typical before any big public event.

With the dust finally settled, Texans fans and the soon-to-arrive Super Bowl fans will have good connectivity for the big day, due in no small part to the efforts of 5 Bars, which Moore complimented repeatedly for the company’s persistence and effort.

According to Moore 5 Bars had brought semi-trailers full of equipment to town ahead of the Final Four, and even used the floor of the old Houston Astrodome to roll out network inventory.

“They were working under the gun, with a limited amount of time to get it done,” said Moore of 5 Bars.

Let your voice be heard: The MSR ‘Voices of the Industry’ feature open for submissions

Ever have something you wanted to share or an opinion you wanted to voice about the stadium technology marketplace but never thought there’d be a place for it to be seen or heard? That changes now with our introduction of the Mobile Sports Report “Voices of the Industry” feature, which is now open for submissions.

Here’s how it works: If you have an opinion, whether it be of a technical, deployment, business or fan experience nature, simply send it to me via email to kaps at mobilesportsreport.com. If it is interesting and of worth to our community, we’ll print it on the site, ensuring your elevation to smart-person status and making you the envy of your peers.

Seriously, in conversations over the last year I have heard many of you voice interesting opinions and takes on many different topics, and over time I have thought it would be great to surface those conversations here on MSR, instead of having such missives lost in the general noise of social media platforms. So even if you just have an idea, maybe something not fully formed, shoot me an email or give me a call to see if I can help get your idea wider dissemination.

To be very clear: This is NOT intended to be an outlet for paid or corporate “contributions,” which several folks have asked about submitting. As we’ve stated many times in the past, MSR does NOT accept paid posts or commercial content contributions, and you do NOT need to be affiliated with an MSR sponsor to contribute.

Our content is 100 percent editorial in nature. And it will remain that way.

That being said, if a representative or smart person who works for an equipment manufacturer or software provider wants to talk about interesting new technology or deployment schemes, go ahead and send us your thoughts. Since the feature will be free and open to all comers, MSR retains the right to edit, approve or disapprove any submissions. We’ll operate mainly under the “Jim Rome” rule, which basically says, “Have a take and don’t suck.” One more rule is that all submissions must have a name and title for attribution — no anonymous contributions allowed.

So — have some thoughts on the best way to test AP deployments? On why DAS is enough for stadium coverage? About whether under-seat or overhead is the best way to get things done? Let us know and let the discussions begin.

Stadium POS system supplier Appetize gets $20 million in funding

Screen Shot 2016-12-22 at 12.14.36 PMAppetize, the company behind a new point-of-sale platform being used by such new stadiums as the Minnesota Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium and the Sacramento Kings’ Golden 1 Center, announced it had secured a $20 million funding round led by Shamrock Capital Advisors.

Oak View Group, the new stadium/technology concern from Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff, also participated in the round, which Appetize said it will use to expand the company size and locations, adding New York and Atlanta offices to the Los Angeles-area (Playa Vista, Calif.) headquarters. In addition to supplying stadiums with their own custom point-of-sale equipment, Appetize’s platform acts as a digital middleman of sorts between mobile apps with food-ordering features, like those from VenueNext (which works with Appetize at U.S. Bank Stadium) and back-of-house systems for inventory, ordering and other analytics.

While its list of sports-venue customers is long, Appetize said it will also use the funding round to help it expand to other large public venue verticals, including theme parks, convention centers, and campus installations.

Andy Howard, a partner with Shamrock, said Appetize’s executive team has great relationships with top concession vendors, and a clear idea of how to help venues not only improve the fan experience (with shorter or faster-moving lines) but also to provide instant analytics that can allow teams or stadium operators to track concession purchases and inventory in real time.

Mobile Sports Report saw Appetize’s devices in use during a recent visit to Golden 1 Center (tech report also coming soon!) and from a quick observation it seems like the flip terminals (which rotate vertically between concession staff and customers) really seem to speed up the transaction process time. Appetize’s systems also helped the Sacramento team put together a back of house app that shows concession purchase totals in real time — an amazing tool for venue owners and operators.

AT&T beefs up DAS at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium ahead of College Football Playoff championship

Tampa's Raymond James Stadium. DAS antennas visible on light standards. Photos credit: AT&T

Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium. DAS antennas visible on light standards. Photos credit: AT&T

With the college football playoff championship game coming to Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 9, 2017, it’s no surprise that wireless carriers like AT&T have been beefing up coverage in and around the venue ahead of what is historically one of the biggest wireless-use events in sports.

According to our unofficial list, the last two college football playoff games rank fifth and sixth overall in the list of “most Wi-Fi used for a single-day event,” trailing only the last two Super Bowls, WrestleMania 32 and a Texas A&M home game against Alabama. (Note to stadium IT types: If you have a recent event that should be on our list, let us know!) DAS stats from the CFP championship games were also among the top usage totals for single-day events, with such numbers still growing year to year.

DAS antenna visible on red stanchion

DAS antenna visible on red stanchion

For this year’s game at the home of the NFL’s Buccaneers, AT&T said it had increased coverage via the stadium’s DAS by 400 percent, now up to a total of 452 antennas inside the venue. In and around town, AT&T said it had invested more than $9 million in new improvements, including 20 new or enhanced cell sites, ahead of the playoff championship weekend. In addition, AT&T will be deploying 2 cell on wheels or COWs during the event.

MSR TOP 3 TOTAL USAGE

1. Super Bowl 50, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., Feb. 7, 2016: Wi-Fi: 10.1 TB; DAS: 15.9 TB; Total: 26 TB
2. Super Bowl XLIX, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., Feb. 1, 2015: Wi-Fi: 6.23 TB; DAS: 6.56 TB**; Total: 12.79 TB**
3. WrestleMania 32, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, April 3, 2016: Wi-Fi: 6.77 TB; DAS: 1.9 TB*; Total: 8.6 TB*

* = AT&T DAS stats only
** = AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint DAS stats only

MSR TOP 5 FOR WI-FI

1. Super Bowl 50, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., Feb. 7, 2016: Wi-Fi: 10.1 TB
2. WrestleMania 32, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, April 3, 2016: Wi-Fi: 6.77 TB
3. Super Bowl XLIX, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., Feb. 1, 2015: Wi-Fi: 6.23 TB
4. Alabama vs. Texas A&M, Kyle Field, College Station, Texas, Oct. 17, 2015: Wi-Fi: 5.7 TB
5. College Football Playoff championship game, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, Jan. 12, 2015: Wi-Fi: 4.93 TB