June 28, 2016

St. Louis Cardinals team with MLBAM for Busch Stadium Wi-Fi

Busch Stadium, St. Louis, home of a new MLBAM Wi-FI network. Credit all photos: St. Louis Cardinals

Busch Stadium, St. Louis, home of a new MLBAM Wi-FI network. Credit all photos: St. Louis Cardinals

Working closely with Major League Baseball’s Advanced Media initiative, the St. Louis Cardinals activated what’s being billed as the league’s largest wireless deployment, at least if you measure by overall square footage. The system went live in a phased introduction the week before Memorial Day, according to Cardinals’ director of IT Perry Yee.

More than 740 Wi-Fi access points were installed to accommodate fans at Busch Stadium, including the AT&T Rooftop, as well the Busch II Infield and the Budweiser Brewhouse rooftop deck across Clark Ave. from the stadium at Ballpark Village, where the Cardinals played til 2005. The Cards’ wireless deployment was part of a $300 million initiative headed by MLBAM to build out Wi-Fi and DAS in all the league’s ballparks, with MLB, wireless carriers and teams all sharing in the costs.

Yee said the Cardinals experienced relatively few engineering issues, in part because of the relative newness of the stadium. He also credited MLBAM, which took the Cardinals’ design and selected a systems integrator and an equipment vendor (Cisco).

“It’s a real turnkey solution where you submit the blueprint [to MLBAM] and they start locating the APs,” Yee said. “Where we come in is we have the background experience to tell the design team where people congregate and how often different spaces get used.”

Putting Wi-Fi in the railings

Editor’s note: This profile is from our most recent STADIUM TECH REPORT, the Q2 issue which contains a feature story on Wi-Fi analytics, and a sneak peek of the Minnesota Vikings’ new US Bank Stadium. DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY today!

Wi-Fi railing enclosure.

Wi-Fi railing enclosure.

Busch Stadium, with a capacity of 46,861, is also blessed with good lines of sight to the field; the only real obstructions are near the foul poles. That’s great for fans, but creates challenges in that there are consequently fewer structures on which to mount antennas. That meant getting inventive in some areas, like installing Wi-Fi antennas in the handrails, and drilling the conduits from underneath seats to keep trip hazards and visual distractions to a minimum.

“Over in Ballpark Village, we had brick on the outside of building so we had to be careful — that was an issue for the electricians to figure out,” Yee said, quickly adding that the electricians on projects like these rarely get the recognition they deserve. “The designer can say where the antennas go, but the electricians have to figure out how to get power to that spot and do it in a manner that fits the building,” he said.

Cardinal fans trying to access the network hit a gated page that asks which cell carrier they use and also to accept terms and conditions; the Cardinals can then track usage and capacity by carrier and take that information back to the three carriers with DAS service in Busch Stadium: AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless. “If Sprint, for example, notices they have lot more customers than anticipated, it might be time for them to review their capacity,” Yee said.

Cards director of IT Perry Yee

Cards director of IT Perry Yee

There’s also an option on the gating page for users to share their email if they want to subscribe to the Cardinal newsletter, Yee added.

MLB app the center of activity focus

The Busch Stadium Wi-Fi network is new enough that MLBAM still is in the process of handing over management and oversight to the Cardinals’ organization; that makes it hard to track certain numbers — like what the budget was the for the project and how much money each entity contributed, numbers which MLBAM has not revealed for any of the many deployments it led throughout the league.

The Cardinals also aren’t releasing any official throughput or usage thresholds yet. Yee said he has seen speeds of 100 Mbps up and down and up on his Samsung S5 phone during more exciting parts of a recent game when fewer users were online. That number dipped to 20-30 Mbps during quieter parts of game. “It was a really good game — for half an hour no one was on the Wi-Fi, then when the score went in one direction I began to see speeds going down as people got online,” Yee said.

Lower level seats are covered with APs that shoot backwards into the stands.

Lower level seats are covered with APs that shoot backwards into the stands.

The Cardinals are looking to use the league’s Ballpark mobile app as the focal point for digital ticketing and inseat ordering plans. One hurdle to inseat ordering isn’t technical; it’s making sure the concessionaire can receive the data. “There’s lots of backend components to establish and flesh out before it becomes a real thing — lots of logistics to make these things happen,” Yee said.

The Cardinals have been using Bluetooth-based beacon technology for a couple years now. “We use it at our gates to greet people and it works via the Ballpark app,” Yee said. For now, the beaconing only works with iPhones; they’ll add support for Android devices at some point. But Yee foresees using beacon technology all around Busch Stadium at points of interest like the Stan Musial statue, providing information about who he was, what he did, to fans in proximity of the monument.

The Cardinals are still considering whether to deploy ambassadors in the stands during games to help people with connectivity issues and other questions. Longer term, they’re looking at geofencing with the concession areas or team store for specials and sale items — “Hot dogs on sale for this inning,” Yee mused. That’s way off in the future, the Cardinals’ IT director added.

In the meantime, the focus will be on “infrastructure that allows fans to see more and do more that makes the games more enjoyable,” Yee said.

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!

Kentucky Derby gets it done with DAS: Podcast No. 5 looks at Mobilitie’s neutral-host solution for 170,000 fans

Epsiode 5 of the STADIUM TECH REPORT PODCAST is off and running, in which hosts Phil Harvey and Paul Kapustka examine why the Kentucky Derby doesn’t need Wi-Fi but instead uses DAS to serve the wireless needs of its 170,000 race-day guests. With more than 12 terabytes of data used on race day and 20-plus TB used over the weekend, the Derby DAS was a winner… listen in and find out why!

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PODCAST:

Here is the link to the podcast on iTunes!

AT&T: Data use growth continues during second rounds of NBA, NHL playoffs

Photo: NBA.com

Photo: NBA.com

As the NHL and NBA playoffs march toward the championship rounds, fans at second-round playoff games continued to use more wireless data than during the regular season, according to figures from AT&T’s cellular networks inside the postseason-hosting venues.

For both leagues the average and overall usage was almost dead even — according to figures sent to us by AT&T, fans on its networks at NHL sites used a total of 5 terabytes of wireless traffic, an average of 210 GB per game. For the NBA, AT&T said it saw a total of 4.1 TB of data used during second-round games, for an average of 211 GB per game.

In the NBA, the leading data use on AT&T networks was at games hosted by the Oklahoma City Thunder, with an average of 422 GB per game at Chesapeake Energy Arena. For hockey the most data was used by fans at games hosted by the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center, where AT&T said it saw and average of 390 GB used per second-round game.

Cellular use tops 12 TB for Kentucky Derby day — 20 TB+ for Derby weekend

Race winner Nyquist. Photo: KentuckDerby.com

Race winner Nyquist. Photo: KentuckDerby.com

Wireless data use at Saturday’s Kentucky Derby broke records all around, as major wireless carriers AT&T and Verizon Wireless both reported new event-usage top totals, with AT&T seeing 6.7 terabytes of data use while Verizon recorded 5.5 TB, for a total of 12.2 TB used during the Run for the Roses day. Last year, AT&T saw 5.1 TB of traffic on the Churchill Downs DAS and some extra infrastructure, while Verizon saw its total increase from 3.8 TB in 2015. Both AT&T and Verizon are on the main Churchill Downs DAS, which is run by neutral-host provider Mobilitie. This number will likely get even bigger if and when we get DAS stats from T-Mobile, which is also on the Churchill Downs DAS.

For the entire “Derby weekend” — a two-day stretch that also includes the Kentucky Oaks race on Friday — the carriers saw a combined 20.15 TB of data, with AT&T hitting 11.4 TB for the weekend and Verizon 8.75. Those totals are pretty stunning, when you realize that just two years ago AT&T only saw 2 TB of traffic on its DAS and associated infrastructure (which includes temporary cell towers on trucks and nearby macro towers), and Verizon customers used just 1.37 TB of data.

More evidence of wireless traffic growth can be found in the AT&T claim that it saw 815 GB of traffic on its network in a single hour last Saturday, easily the high number ever for AT&T at any kind of event. AT&T said that peak hour was from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern time, when the big race was held and favorite Nyquist won. In 2014, that peak hour for AT&T saw 180 GB of traffic, a number that we thought was big then. Verizon, which like AT&T added capacity to its infrastructure at Churchill Downs prior to this year’s race, also said it saw a traffic spike around the time of the big event. By comparison, AT&T said that at this year’s Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium it saw 201 GB of traffic on its DAS network just after kickoff.

When it comes to DAS the Derby now falls just behind the Super Bowl for DAS totals with 12.2 TB to 15.9 TB, though the Derby number could get closer if and when we get numbers from T-Mobile and Sprint. And yes, granted it’s a much bigger crowd (the Derby had its second-highest attendance ever with 167,227 — just a few thousand less than the record of 170,513 set last year. We also don’t have any stats yet for usage of the new Churchill Downs app, but it does appear betting was up this year, maybe due to app integration?

First round of NHL playoffs saw 8.6 TB of data used on AT&T networks

They’re smaller than football stadiums so hockey arenas aren’t going to generate wireless-data numbers as big as we’ve seen at events like the Super Bowl. But according to AT&T, wireless data use by NHL fans at playoff time took a big leap forward in the first round of the Stanley Cup action, with an average 41 percent increase in data use versus regular-season games at the same venues.

In total, AT&T said it saw more than 8.6 terabytes of wireless data used on its cellular networks at venues hosting first-round NHL playoff games, with an average of 191 GB used at each game. Winning the highest-average data contest was the Dallas Stars, whose fans used more than 379 GB per game during the first round games in American Airlines Center. In a statement that clearly needed a copy editor with sense and facts, AT&T said that the second-place Philadelphia Flyers, who play in a city that is “home of the country’s most passionate sports fans,” averaged 267 GB per game. In Chicago, where the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks took their series to a Game 7, THE most passionate sports fans used an average of 270 GB per game.

Remember, these are only AT&T stats for users on AT&T networks. And anytime the Philly-loving AT&T folks want to talk about passionate sports fans, they know where to find me. We can watch tapes of the Blackhawks-Flyers Stanley Cup finals together while we converse.