February 11, 2016

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: LevisStadium.com

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

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.

UPDATE: Top 4 carriers combine for 15.9 TB of cellular data use at Super Bowl 50

New Verizon Wireless under-seat DAS antenna placement at Levi's Stadium. Photo: Verizon Wireless

New Verizon Wireless under-seat DAS antenna placement at Levi’s Stadium. Photo: Verizon Wireless

UPDATE, 2/8/16, 1:50 p.m. — We now have data totals in from all four of the major U.S. cellular carriers, and at Sunday’s Super Bowl 50, fans combined to use 15.9 terabytes of data on the networks in and directly around Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

Leading the way in usage was Verizon Wireless with a claim of 7 TB used by its customers; AT&T was next with 5.2 TB of claimed usage, followed by T-Mobile with a report of 2.1 TB, and Sprint with 1.6 TB. All the carriers’ numbers are well above figures from last year’s Super Bowl, where by our reporting Sprint, AT&T and Verizon had a combined 6.56 TB of cellular data consumed during the big game. (We did not have any T-Mobile reports from last year.)

For all the carriers, the data apparently includes both traffic on the in-stadium distributed antenna system (DAS) network was well as any macro deployments outside the stadium in parking lot areas. The final total was well over double the 6.56 TB of cellular traffic seen at last year’s big game in Glendale, Ariz. We are still waiting for Wi-Fi numbers from the Levi’s Stadium networking crew but it’s a good bet the 6.23 TB number from last year’s game will be eclipsed and we will have a new single-game Wi-Fi record as well so stay tuned.

Though we did hear and see some scattered reports of network connectivity issues during the Denver Broncos’ 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers it appears the upgrade of the DAS Group Professionals DAS install at Levi’s Stadium with its gear mainly provided by JMA Wireless stood up to the biggest-ever test of traffic. Congrats to all involved.

Thanks also to the Verizon and AT&T crews who supplied us with tweet reports and emails Sunday night, it made for some entertaining in-game stats. Some tweets embedded below.

Commentary: Super Bowl 50 and the pursuit of stadium network statistics

Dan Williams talks Wi-Fi while the Levi's Stadium new turf grows silently behind him in this 2014 photo. All photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Dan Williams talks Wi-Fi while the Levi’s Stadium new turf grows silently behind him in this 2014 photo. All photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

If there’s one person who didn’t get enough recognition in the run-up to today’s Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium, it’s Dan Williams, the former director of information technology for the Niners and the man who was largely behind the venue’s celebrated network design.

From our standpoint, Williams deserves credit not just for leading the deployment of a stadium network that set the standard for the future of connected venues, but also for being among the first to openly talk about the network’s performance, sharing statistics both good and bad during his short stay at Levi’s Stadium. His honesty helped open the door wider on a potentially rich stream of information that we think could greatly assist stadium network professionals everywhere, especially if more teams followed his lead and shared stats openly and honestly.

But the pursuit of meaningful network statistics remains a challenging process on many levels, and it’s one that is ironically likely to get more confusing today as multiple parties are set to release live network statistics from Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium. Both Verizon Wireless and AT&T are planning to release live game-day performance figures for their cellular networks in and around the venue today, and we also expect to get Wi-Fi network statistics from the San Francisco 49ers, if not during the game then shortly thereafter.

Niners VP of technology Dan Williams attempts to fix my Droid 4 Wi-Fi issues (while trying not to laugh at the fact that I actually have and use a Droid 4) during the first preseason game at Levi's Stadium, July 2014

Niners VP of technology Dan Williams attempts to fix my Droid 4 Wi-Fi issues (while trying not to laugh at the fact that I actually have and use a Droid 4) during the first preseason game at Levi’s Stadium, July 2014

While we salute the change of heart (especially from Verizon) to make more information available, we’d also like to make a plea here for more independent access to venues on game day, so there can be an independent, objective voice on hand to counter the “sanitization” or simple non-reporting of less-impressive data that is almost sure to occur when interested parties are talking about themselves. But unless team, league or venue IT representatives band together and craft recognized standard methods of reporting the most-interesting data, we’re going to be left to sift through an ever-increasing mix of figures provided by those with their own agendas on what’s important and what should remain hidden. We’ll do our best on that front, but it’d be better if we had some industry-wide help.

Out of school behavior provides the most interesting info

Like many other stadium network professionals we’ve been fortunate enough to meet and spend time with — a list here that includes folks like the San Francisco Giant’s Bill Schlough, Madison Square Garden’s Katee Panter, the Dallas Cowboys’ John Winborn, and Chip Foley, formerly with the Barclays Center, among many others — Williams from the start showed a passion for making the network better, so it could better serve the fans who used it. Our first face to face meeting came during the first preseason football game at Levi’s Stadium, when I tweeted that I was having problems connecting to the Wi-Fi network. William’s response? An email asking me where I was sitting, followed quickly by an in-person visit. Now that’s customer support.

The outcome of that interaction was a revelation that the Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi network hadn’t prepared adequately for older devices that were still using the 2.4 GHz unlicensed bands; what was cool to me was not just that I kind-of discovered it by accident, but that Williams and his team admitted it publicly, then went about fixing it. The combination of objective reporting and honest confirmation, I think, worked to the benefit of all. But not everybody sees such things in the same light.

Season opener issues: Picture of app late in the first half.

Season opener issues: Picture of app late in the first half.

For instance, during the rest of Levi’s Stadium’s first year of operation, Williams shared with us not just raw “tonnage” numbers of Wi-Fi use but also interesting stats from the app, like exact numbers of replays watched and in-seat food delivery orders. Since those numbers were kind of low — in the low thousands for food deliveries and a decline in replay use after the season opener — they weren’t necessarily flattering to the owners of the system, even if you took into account the fact that some of this (like delivering to any seat in a 68,500-seat stadium) had never been tried before. In the end, even Niners CEO Jed York admitted that some elements of the stadium hadn’t performed as expected, as the stats we’d been seeing had borne out.

After Williams left the team, the Niners took control of the network stats reporting and hugely trimmed down the list of things they were willing to report, though we would also note that Roger Hacker and the Niners communications team are still at the top of the list when it comes to consistent, repeated reporting of the network stats they feel comfortable talking about. When there are big numbers to report, all goes well because everyone loves to talk about systems that deliver for fans as promised. But I can also tell you that when things go south, so does a lot of the honest communication, an unfortunate if understandable situation.

Who will tell you when things don’t work?

For Levi’s Stadium, the darkest night for the network came on Feb. 21, 2015, at the NHL’s Coors Light Stadium Series outdoor hockey game between the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings. In what has easily been our highest-traffic post ever, we described in detail some of the big problems that surfaced that evening, which included breakdowns of the delivery service, the Wi-Fi network, the light rail boarding process, and part of Verizon’s cellular network. What’s funny about our reporting is that I hadn’t planned on “working” that night — I had bought full-price tickets for myself and my brother, and as longtime hockey nuts we proudly wore our Blackhawks jerseys to represent our hometown team.

Screen shot of Levi's Stadium app during hockey game issues

Screen shot of Levi’s Stadium app during hockey game issues

My plan was just to relax, take CalTrain and VTA to the stadium and show off the network by ordering us food and drink to be delivered to our seats, but when some obvious and incomprehensible network breakdowns were evident, I went into reporting mode, and eventually found out mostly what went wrong. My point here is that, without independent, objective reporting live from the scene, it’s doubtful that parties with vested interests — like cellular providers or owners of the stadium network — are going to honestly and quickly talk about breakdowns or failures. Yet it’s always the lessons learned from problem times that help the most; my worry is that with more “sponsored” or in-house statistics flooding the zone, the more valuable objective data will get lost or devalued.

How can this be fixed? For starters, teams and leagues that spend an inordinate amount of time and money promoting technical features of stadiums should at the very least credential some reporters who are interested in following up to see how said deployments perform. While we’re grateful for the few forward-thinking organizations that have given us the same access that sports reporters get, more often than not our requests for media access to events are denied.

Since we can’t be at every stadium, we also rely on teams, venues and network operators to provide stats when possible, and we encourage more participants to join the growing list who do provide us with network performance figures, like the IT teams at Nebraska and Texas A&M, among others. While we have also drawn some industry criticism for our headline focus on such stats, our response is that the more data we get and the more opinions on which data matter, the better we will get over time. We also encourage any and all interested parties to attend the SEAT Conference this summer in Las Vegas, where you can be sure we will have discussions about this topic and how to make stats reporting more useful for those to whom it matters most — the professionals who install and operate these networks so that fans can stay connected at events.

MSR on the scene at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in January

MSR on the scene at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in January

Niners: All (tech) systems go at Levi’s Stadium for Super Bowl 50

Levi's Stadium, ready for the Super Bowl. All stadium photos: Levi's Stadium (click on any photo for a larger image)

Levi’s Stadium, ready for the Super Bowl. All stadium photos: Levi’s Stadium (click on any photo for a larger image)

As far as the technology at Levi’s Stadium is concerned, it’s all systems go for Sunday’s Super Bowl 50, according to San Francisco 49ers chief operating officer Al Guido.

In a phone interview with Mobile Sports Report, Guido said the 2-year-old stadium’s vaunted technology underpinnings — especially the wireless connectivity for fans — is ready to go for the NFL’s biggest yearly event, after a second season spent mainly fine-tuning the different components.

“We couldn’t feel more confident, hosting the game,” said Guido, speaking specifically about the technology infrastructure at Levi’s Stadium. As he stated before the regular season began, the Niners didn’t do anything radical to the stadium’s Wi-Fi network, which uses gear from Aruba, an HP Enterprise company, to bring the main wireless bandwidth to fans.

And while the stadium’s distributed antenna system (DAS) got a complete replacement over the summer, the new capabilities including under-seat DAS antennas for Verizon Wireless should only lead to better reception than the year before. According to Guido, representatives from Aruba as well as from “all the carriers” will be on hand Super Sunday just in case anything needs close attention.

“Everybody’s going to be at a high tech [support] level” on game day, Guido said.

Drink delivery order page on Super Bowl stadium app, including the $13 Bud Light.

Drink delivery order page on Super Bowl stadium app, including the $13 Bud Light.


No food, but in-seat beverage delivery as part of stadium app

The Super Bowl 50 stadium app, designed for the NFL by the Niners’ in-house app development company VenueNext, will have some but not all of the features Niners fans have available during the regular season. The most obvious omission is the lack of food delivery to all seats, something that makes Levi’s Stadium stand apart from any other large public sporting venue. Instead, the stadium app will only allow fans to order beverages for in-seat delivery, with the option to order food, beverage and merchandise that can be claimed at “express pickup” concession windows.

According to Guido, the decision to only have beverage deliveries at Super Bowl 50 was one reached jointly by the NFL, the Niners and VenueNext, and the catering company for the stadium, Centerplate. Guido said that the potential “amount of education” for all the fans new to the stadium and new to the app led the league, the Niners and the caterers toward a path of greater simplicity, namely just having beverages available for in-seat delivery.

“It was a risk-reward decision about the amount of fan education needed,” Guido said. “There’s so much going on at a Super Bowl and so many people new to the stadium that it didn’t seem worth it to us to risk someone not getting an order delivered because of their error, or our error.” Guido added that with all the extra breaks in action for a Super Bowl, and additional concessions stands, “there’s enough time to get around” to get food.

View of the temporary media towers on the Dignity Health concourse

View of the temporary media towers on the Dignity Health concourse

Michelle McKenna-Doyle, senior vice president and chief information officer for the NFL, told Sports Business Journal that the league was also concerned about game-day delivery traffic patterns being disrupted by the new media towers that have been built for the game in the corner plaza areas of the stadium. “We were worried about having to keep up with demand … and we need to keep the aisles clear, which is important to the security team,” McKenna-Doyle said in a story by SBJ’s Don Muret.

The app will, however, include its normal live wayfinding capabilities, which should prove useful to new visitors to Levi’s Stadium since they can watch themselves walk through a map of the facility as a familiar moving blue dot. Like it does for Niners games, the app will also have instant replays from multiple camera angles available, as well as Super Bowl extras like a “celebrity cam” and the ability to watch Super Bowl commercials right after they are broadcast on TV.

Guido said the Levi’s Stadium app performed well all season, with an average of about “2,000 to 2,500″ in-seat delivery orders per game. What was especially pleasing to the team was the number of fans who used the app’s ability to support digital ticketing, a feature that makes life somewhat simpler for fans but exponentially better for the team, which can gain valuable marketing insight from digital ticket-use statistics. According to Guido almost 35 percent of fans used digital ticketing during the past season.

Media towers save seats for fans

Niners fans watching Sunday’s game on TV might be surprised by the media towers, which Guido said were built in the Intel and Dignity Health concourse areas, which during regular-season games are simply open spaces. Guido said the decision to build temporary facilities for media means that the regular stadium seats will be saved for fans. At many other pro championship or playoff events, the overflow media are often housed in regular seating areas.

“The NFL made a great decision there” to put the media in the pavilions, Guido said.

If there is one thing that can’t really be controlled, it’s the traffic and transportation issues of bringing fans to the game. On Sunday fans coming to the game will confront Levi’s Stadium’s unique location in the middle of many Silicon Valley corporate headquarters buildings, which presents challenges that stadiums like AT&T Stadium in Dallas or the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. — which are surrounded by acres of stadium-controlled parking lots — simply don’t have. To help with Super Bowl traffic the planners are using multiple methods, including using Google employee buses as shuttles as well as signing Uber as a sponsor with its own dedicated pickup and dropoff lot. There is also light rail service which stops right outside the stadium, which intially in the past experienced lengthy delays especially after games, but has improved over time.

“Traffic and transportation is our largest concern,” Guido said.

Bring on the players and fans!

Bring on the players and fans!

Stadium Tech Report: Connectivity soars at Denver Broncos’ Sports Authority Field at Mile High

Panoramic view of Sports Authority Field at Mile High from the top seats. All photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

Panoramic view of Sports Authority Field at Mile High from the top seats. All photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

On most of our stadium visits, we have to wait until we get inside the venue to start testing the network. At Sports Authority Field at Mile High, however, we barely got out of the car before the Wi-Fi auto-connected — at superb speeds. Nothing like a network that announces itself before you get in the door.

The parking-lot connection — at a download speed of 45.48 Mbps and an upload speed of 53.35 — was the first clue that football fan connectivity is taken seriously in Denver, especially so if you have Verizon service. While the stadium’s Wi-Fi network is currently only available to Verizon customers — more on this later — full DAS participation by the three other major U.S. wireless carriers means that pretty much any visitor to the venue is going to have good, if not great, connectivity for their mobile device, no matter which service they use.

Inside the stadium, a trained eye can spot many different types of DAS and Wi-Fi antenna placements, under overhangs, on towers, on ceilings and on walls; and thanks to a first-person stadium tech tour conducted by Russ Trainor, vice president of information systems for the Denver Broncos, we got to learn about a wide range of not-so-noticable antenna deployments, including in railing enclosures and on field-level walls, all part of an ongoing plan to try to stay ahead of the still-growing demand for mobile data from sports fans who come to the games.

The parking lots just outside Sports Authority Field have good Wi-Fi coverage as this light pole shows.

The parking lots just outside Sports Authority Field have good Wi-Fi coverage as this light pole shows.

The day we visited, during the last regular-season game on Jan. 3, was important for the Broncos as a team since their 27-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers gave Denver home-field advantage through the playoffs, an edge that helped the team reach its eighth Super Bowl. But even as he celebrated his team’s win, Trainor was happy for another reason: the bye week gave him and his team more time to light up some new Wi-Fi and DAS antenna placements, to better handle the expected and eventual playoff data crush.

“You can never have enough APs,” Trainor said.

Good Wi-Fi, but still only for Verizon customers

Opened on Aug. 11, 2001, with a concert by the Eagles, the then-named Invesco Field at Mile High replaced the old Mile High Stadium in basically the same spot, sitting at 5,280 feet above sea level. Seen by many on TV when it hosted the 2008 Democratic National Convention and the acceptance speech of then-Sen. Barack Obama, the “new” Mile High has seen more than 12 million fans come through its doors since it opened for a variety of sports and entertainment events.

But true high-speed wireless for fans didn’t take root until 2012, when a revamp led by Verizon Wireless and the Broncos’ IT staff added a Cisco-based Wi-Fi network to the stadium with 500 access points, designed to serve 25,000 concurrent users and also designed to be “open,” allowing any other carrier to provide access to its customers by negotiating a deal with Verizon. While Trainor said the option still remains open and talks with some of the other carriers are underway, none have yet signed on — making the Wi-Fi network a fast playground for Verizon customers, who apparently are in the vast majority in the Denver region.

Sorry, AT&T customer, no soup for you

Sorry, AT&T customer, no soup for you

We don’t have any exact proof of that thinking, but statistics from the recent AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field — a 20-18 Denver victory over the New England Patriots — seem to show Verizon customers in a bit of a majority. According to Verizon, its customers at the game used a total of 2.87 terabytes of data, with 1.7 TB on the Wi-Fi network and another 1.17 TB on the Verizon LTE DAS network. AT&T, by comparison, said its customers used 819 GB on the AT&T DAS network that day. So either there are more Verizon customers at the stadium on game days, or Verizon customers use more data because they have more network options; take your pick.

With our Verizon iPhone 6 Plus in hand, we found great connectivity on Wi-Fi pretty much everywhere we roamed. After finding our way from the parking lot to the press box, we got a signal of 46.46 Mbps down and 46.90 up, this from the regular fan network in the stands and not from the press-only Wi-Fi network.

While roaming through the plush United Club we got a speed test of 33.36/35.19, a figure that Trainor said could change on any given game day — “when it gets cold outside, this place fills up,” he noted — and then later when we walked up to the top, 5th-level concourse, we still got a Wi-Fi signal of 34.96/30.40 on the walkways behind the seats. During second-quarter action we even sneaked up to the nosebleed seats in section 501, one of the ski-slope steep sections near the stadium’s top edge — and still got a Wi-Fi signal of 10.28 Mbps/5.00 Mbps.

According to Trainor, the upper seats are among the toughest challenges for Wi-Fi reception, especially those in the “bulge” areas in the middle of the stadium where on both sides the sections curve upwards, adding more seats. Though the light structures that wind all the way around the stadium do provide good spots for antenna mounts, the bulge areas are harder to reach, and in the near future Trainor and his team will keep experimenting with other methods of deployment, like railing enclosures and row-end mounts they have used successfully for both Wi-Fi and DAS in other areas of the stadium.

Lots of antennas visible in this overhang area

Lots of antennas visible in this overhang area

One interesting architectural quirk of the stadium — its use of metal decking instead of concrete — actually helps the wireless deployment team, Trainor said. Installed to mimic the metal upper deck at the old Mile High Stadium — where Broncos fans would do the “Denver Stomp” to produce thunderous noise — the metal construction acts as a barrier to keep Wi-Fi signals from the bowl from interfering with those from antennas inside suites and concourses, Trainor said.

While most of the stadium has favorable locations for overhead antennas — there are three main levels of seating, providing two expansive overhangs covering about 80 percent of the seating area — some typical problem places like seats near field level and in the no-overhang South stands have required some creative thinking, an excercise that never really ends.

“We started with 500 Wi-Fi APs, and we’re now at 640, and by the time we get it [the current plan] all built out we’ll have about 850 to 900 total,” Trainor said.

DAS deployments a mix of connectivity

On the DAS side, Trainor said that the four major carriers — Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile — are all present inside the stadium, with different antenna placements in different numbers. In some instances, all the carriers use “neutral” antennas, mainly in areas where there isn’t enough room for exclusive deployments. But in other areas, the carriers have installed their own antennas, an arrangement that allows them to replace and upgrade them as necessary at their own discretion, Trainor said.

Field-level Wi-Fi AP (small white box next to right leg of Peyton Manning fan)

Field-level Wi-Fi AP (small white box next to right leg of Peyton Manning fan)

We didn’t have a Sprint or T-Mobile device on hand, but our AT&T Android phone had good connectivity everywhere we measured, including a 4G LTE signal of 27.94 Mbps down and 6.86 up in the press box, and signals of 47.83/6.37 on the same 5th-level concourse area where we tested the Verizon Wi-Fi.

All the carrier back-end gear is housed in a brick building built outside the southeast side of the stadium, Trainor said, since there wasn’t room inside the stadium structure itself. DAS and Wi-Fi antennas also exist in great number in the vast parking lots that directly surround the stadium, as well as in the “fan zone” gathering area outside the South stands.

Like with the Wi-Fi, Trainor and his team are always planning for more DAS capacity, even if contracts aren’t signed yet. On the new railing enclosures they are installing, the Denver IT team builds in enough space for both DAS and Wi-Fi, even if only one network is using the deployment to start with. Again, you can never have enough antennas — or enough places to put them.

YinzCam app and Cisco SportsVision

Rounding out the mobile-device offerings is not one but two YinzCam team apps, one for use at outside the stadium and the other one for live game-day offerings, with a geocache feature that allows the team to provide content it has stadium rights to, like the NFL’s RedZone channel. Both apps have live links to the Broncos radio coverage from KOA Radio, and the in-stadium instant replay feature worked superbly during our visit, showing plays in seconds and often before they appeared on the stadium’s big screens.

In the concourses we recognized the split-screen capabilities of Cisco’s StadiumVision technology, which can direct programming to all the TV screens inside a stadium. Another nice touch in the United Club was a circular charging station, with tabletop space so fans could have a place to put food and drink while waiting for their devices to juice back up. “We are always looking for ways and configurations to allow fans to recharge their devices,” Trainor said.

With all its different parts, the wireless deployment at Sports Authority Field at Mile High adds up to a favorable fan experience, one that clearly has the ability to keep getting better on an incremental basis. But like their Super Bowl team, Denver fans should be happy with what they have right now.

MORE PHOTOS BELOW

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Railing antenna enclosure. Some of these have both Wi-Fi and DAS.

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App promo on the scoreboard

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Panoramic view of the stadium and the city

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South stands have a horse and Wi-Fi antennas on the top of the scoreboard

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Cisco SportsVision in action on 6-panel display

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DAS antennas on end-of-row railing area

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Game on, phones out!

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Antennas covering the concourse area on second level

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More SportsVision and Wi-Fi deployment in the United Club

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Only accept on the scene reporting!

Verizon puts cellular antennas under seats to improve Levi’s Stadium DAS ahead of Super Bowl 50

New Verizon Wireless under-seat DAS antenna placement at Levi's Stadium. Photo: Verizon Wireless

New Verizon Wireless under-seat DAS antenna placement at Levi’s Stadium. Photo: Verizon Wireless

In a first for distributed antenna system (DAS) deployments, Verizon Wireless is using under-seat antenna deployments in Levi’s Stadium to increase capacity for Super Bowl 50, according to a Verizon executive interviewed Wednesday.

Brian Mecum, vice president, network for Verizon Wireless, said in a phone interview that large amounts of wireless traffic at last year’s Super Bowl spurred Verizon to help fund a full replacement of the Levi’s Stadium DAS, which was only a year old, to make sure that this year’s big game would be able to handle the expected usage growth. Mecum said the carrier expects to see as much as 6 terabytes or more of cellular traffic during the Feb. 7 game between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers at the San Francisco 49ers’ home field in Santa Clara, Calif.

To increase capacity in the lower seating bowls, Mecum said that Verizon basically invented its own under-seat DAS antenna system and paid for its deployment, adding about “30 percent more capacity” through the under-seat antennas alone. For its Wi-Fi network, Levi’s Stadium already uses under-seat access points, as do a growing number of large outdoor arenas. While Verizon’s deployment of under-seat antennas for cellular DAS is a first we’ve heard of, it achieves the same goals as under-seat Wi-Fi, basically just getting signals closer to users in a place where there isn’t any overhead or side structures to attach antennas to.

Close-up of under-seat DAS antenna system. Photo: Verizon Wireless

Close-up of under-seat DAS antenna system. Photo: Verizon Wireless

“To get a quality signal you have to get [the antenna] closer to the device,” and the only way to do that in the 100-level sections of Levi’s Stadium is to go under the seats, Mecum said. Though stadium DAS integrator DAS Group Professionals also upgraded most of its other cellular antennas this summer throughout Levi’s Stadium, the under-seat antennas are exclusive to Verizon Wireless, Mecum said. According to DGP vice president and COO Vince Gamick, just more than 50 under-seat DAS antennas were deployed, along with more than 700 other DAS antennas in the stadium and parking lots.

Low power to ease safety concerns

Though some fans might wonder about the white boxes under their seats, Mecum said the Verizon antenna deployment operates at “well below FCC standards” for power output, and should not be a cause for health concerns.

“They use about the same amount of power as a cell phone,” Mecum said. The antennas are also mounted to shoot their signals down to bounce off the concrete flooring, further reducing the power signal toward fans’ bodies.

According to Mecum, the antennas have already been doing a lot of work during the regular season — though he didn’t provide an exact number, Mecum did say that the 49ers’ home game against the rival Seattle Seahawks (which produced a lot of Wi-Fi traffic) also had a total of DAS traffic on the Verizon network that surpassed the 4.1 TB that Verizon recorded at last year’s Super Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

“We’re pretty excited” to see what the eventual Super Bowl DAS traffic number is, Mecum said. “We expect to see at least 1.5 times as much as we saw at the Super Bowl last year.”

San Franicso advertising kiosk where Verizon Wireless installed extra antennas for Super Bowl crowds. Photo: Screen shot from Verizon Wireless video

San Franicso advertising kiosk where Verizon Wireless installed extra antennas for Super Bowl crowds. Photo: Screen shot from Verizon Wireless video


Antennas on kiosks, and engineering for the Lombardi Trophy traffic

The stadium improvements are just part of a Bay area-wide infrastructure improvement blitz from Verizon, a fairly typical thing ahead of big events for almost all the cellular carriers. But some of the pre-game prep for Verizon has a unique flavor for San Francisco, especially the carrier’s decision to put small cells inside San Francisco’s stylish advertising kiosks that dot the downtown area.

With Super Bowl fan activities taking place from San Francisco’s Ferry Building down to the Moscone Convention Center, Mecum said the kiosks became a perfect place to add cellular capacity.

“They were basically empty [at the top] so we ran fiber to them and put in antennas,” Mecum said.

Verizon’s Super Bowl engineering effort also included extra antenna deployments around the areas where the Super Bowl hardware, the Lombardi Trophy and the Super Bowl winning teams’ rings, will be on display.

“The lines to see the trophy and the rings are so long we actually needed to engineer for them and adjust the antenna density [in the display area],” Mecum said. “So you should be able to connect anywhere and everywhere you go for the Super Bowl.”