May 28, 2015

NBA stadium tech reports — NBA West, Southwest Division

Editor’s note: The following team-by-team capsule reports of NBA stadium technology deployments are an excerpt from our most recent Stadium Tech Report, THE HOOPS AND HOCKEY ISSUE. To get all the capsules in one place as well as our featured reports, interviews and analysis, download your free copy of the full report today.

Reporting by Chris Gallo

NBA WEST: Southwest Division

Dallas Mavericks
American Airlines Center
Seating capacity: 19,200
Wi-Fi: Yes, (310 access points)
DAS: Yes

The Dallas Mavericks partnered with Aruba and installed over 310 Wi-Fi access points throughout American Airlines Center over the last year. The upgrades have spelled success with getting fans in their seats, as Dallas sold out their suite plans this season and plans to expand the suites in coming years. The team’s mobile app, available on iPhone and Android, has brought partnerships with services like Uber, allowing fans to enter to win free tickets and rides to the arena all season.

Houston Rockets
Toyota Center
Seating capacity: 18,043
Wi-Fi: Yes
DAS: Yes

Fresh off major upgrades over the last couple years, the Toyota Center remains ahead of most arenas when its comes to connectivity thanks to a Wi-Fi deployment from SignalShare. The Rockets offer a free mobile app, available for Apple and Android devices, with the standard features of promotions, box scores, and ticket information. No confirmation, however, that there is a Wi-Fi AP hidden in James Harden’s beard.

Memphis Grizzlies
FedExForum
Seating capacity: 18,119
Wi-Fi: Yes
DAS: Yes

FedExForum debuted fan-facing Wi-Fi a year ago, and AT&T boosted its Distributed Antenna System last March right in time to host the 2015 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 games.

New Orleans Pelicans
Smoothie King Center
Seating capacity: 16,867
Wi-Fi: Yes
DAS: Yes

Hosting the league’s All-Star game does have its advantages, as the Smoothie King Center received a significant Wi-Fi deployment from Cisco a year ago. The renovations did not stop there. The Pelicans completed more aesthetic changes, including an expanded ticket office area, to greet fans for the home opener this past fall.

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 12.10.15 PMSan Antonio Spurs
AT&T Center
Seating capacity: 18,581
Wi-Fi: Yes
DAS: Yes

The Spurs and Bexar County announced a $101.5 million plan to renovate the AT&T Center. The renovations to the 12-year-old facility are slated to begin this summer, and include a boost in Wi-Fi, better seating, and a new scoreboard. The Spurs already feature mobile apps available on Apple, Android, and Windows devices to keep fans up to date.

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!

NBA stadium tech reports — NBA East, Atlantic Division

Editor’s note: The following team-by-team capsule reports of NBA stadium technology deployments are an excerpt from our most recent Stadium Tech Report, THE HOOPS AND HOCKEY ISSUE. To get all the capsules in one place as well as our featured reports, interviews and analysis, download your free copy of the full report today.

Reporting by Chris Gallo

NBA EAST: Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics
TD Bank Garden
Seating capacity: 18,624
Wi-Fi: Yes DAS:Yes

The “new” TD Garden unveiled the first signs of a 2-year $70 million renovation project this past fall. Renovations include new concessions, touch-screen directory displays on the concourses, and Cisco’s Connected Stadium Wi-Fi and StadiumVision for digital displays. As TD Garden turns 20 years old, it’s maturing to connect fans better than ever before.

The Celtics are co-tenants with the Boston Bruins, and the two storied franchises share over 400 Wi-Fi antennas throughout the Garden. The Bruins are even placing Wi-Fi hot spots in the boards around the ice during hockey games. And Celtics and Bruins fans can easily find food and beverage locations using the TD Garden app. Phase II of the renovation will tip off this summer.

Screen shot 2015-04-14 at 9.41.05 AM
Brooklyn Nets
Barclays Center
Seating capacity: 17,732
Wi-Fi: Yes DAS: Yes

With rumors swirling that majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov plans to sell the team, the Brooklyn Nets still call one of the most connected arenas in all of sports home. With Wi-Fi, DAS, and Cisco’s StadiumVision products (including StadiumVision Mobile, which brings live action to handheld devices), Nets fans are already well connected at home games.

This season Brooklyn is bringing fans even closer, as the Barclays Center is one the first NBA arenas to experiment with beaconing technology. The Barclays Center is using beacons to communicate and keep fans engaged at all times. For example, as fans enter the arena, the beacons can alert them of seat upgrades at discounted rates. In its third year of existence, the Barclays Center continues to make noise in stadium technology.

New York Knicks
Madison Square Garden
Seating capacity: 19,812
Wi-Fi: Yes DAS: Yes

Despite only turning in nine wins by the end of January, the New York Knicks still ranked in the top five in attendance in the NBA. A big reason why is the Knicks’ legendary home, Madison Square Garden. The second oldest arena in basketball knows its will always be an attraction for fans. And fresh off a $1 billion dollar renovation that boosted LTE-DAS and Wi-Fi access, Madison Square Garden was again in the national spotlight, hosting this year’s 64th NBA All-Star Game.

Philadelphia 76ers
Wells Fargo Center
Seating capacity: 20,328
Wi-Fi: Yes DAS: Yes

Entering its 19th year, the Wells Fargo Center is prepared to make renovations to keep Sixers’ and Flyers’ fans happy. As the majority owner of the franchise, Comcast is slated to release boosted Xfinity Wi-Fi signals and hot spots throughout the arena in 2015. More improvements that include a refresh of club and suite levels, and wider concourses are rumored for 2016.

Toronto Raptors
Air Canada Centre
Seating capacity: 19,800
Wi-Fi: Yes DAS: Yes

After being selected to host the 2016 NBA All-Star Game, Air Canada Centre is on tap to get more renovations. Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. group, estimates to spend around $40 million to enhance the Raptors’ and Maple Leafs’ home arena. Upgrades to both Wi-Fi and DAS, plus the third scoreboard since the arena has opened in 1999, are listed as major enhancements. With the Raptors on pace to make the playoffs for the second consecutive year, the improvements will be welcomed.

HP buys Wi-Fi gear maker Aruba Networks for $3 billion

An Aruba AP inside the Moda Center

An Aruba AP inside the Moda Center

The rumors from last week were confirmed Monday, as computing giant Hewlett-Packard (aka “HP”) announced it was acquiring Wi-Fi gear vendor Aruba Networks for $3 billion. After cash and debt are accounted for, the actual value of the transaction is $2.7 billion, but what’s $300 million between friends?

Though the headline of the HP release pegs the reason behind the deal as the desire to “create an industry leader in enterprise mobility,” the acquisition will likely cause a lot of business activity in our corner of the world, namely wireless network deployments for large public venues, like stadiums. Over the past year, Aruba has been making a name for itself with high-profile Wi-Fi deployments in venues like the San Francisco 49ers’ new Levi’s Stadium, Texas A&M University’s Kyle Field, and the Dallas Mavericks’ American Airlines Center, among others. Perhaps the most interesting question from a business perspective is whether being part of HP will help or hurt Aruba when it comes to making stadium deals, and whether or not using HP core networking gear will become a required (or preferred) part of prospective stadium Wi-Fi deals.

On a business-wide view, the second $3 billion acquisition this year in the DAS/Wi-Fi space (following CommScope’s $3 billion purchase of DAS and networking supplier TE Connectivity) is perhaps a signal that consolidation is upon us in the greater Wi-Fi and local networking marketplace. Though we didn’t know exactly how and when such deals would shake out, on one hand it’s not that much of a surprise to us since we have always believed that the stadium networking market is really just a precursor to what will eventually happen in other large public venues as well as in large public places like cities and towns: Wi-Fi, which already carries more wireless data than cellular, will continue to expand and appear in more places, generating new business ideas like Wi-Fi phones and Wi-Fi first wireless plans.

The appearance of IBM as a strong entrant in the stadium wireless space can also be looked at as another signal that bigger players are entering the market, which usually means that smaller players — like the Arubas of the world — get snapped up, like a star player being traded mid-year to a team seeking a championship. Cisco, which is no stranger to acquisitions, has been quiet of late, and we are noticing that telecom gear giant Ericsson is making more moves toward Wi-Fi, especially in the arena of small cells and the idea of bringing LTE to Wi-Fi frequencies. Sounds like the Wi-Fi market is moving up from the $10 tables into the green- and black-chip territory.

Who’s next in the Wi-Fi world as an acquisition target? The easy picks are players like Ruckus Wireless and Aerohive Networks, given their ability to conduct their own IPOs. But we’re also guessing there may be some digesting of other smaller concerns in the Wi-Fi DAS food chain as the bigger players seek to add skills, customers and technology via purchases. Stay tuned for what should be an exciting year in the enterprise and stadium Wi-Fi business arena.

Super Bowl XLIX sets new stadium Wi-Fi record with 6.2 Terabytes of data consumed

University of Phoenix Stadium. Credit: Arizona Cardinals.

University of Phoenix Stadium. Credit: Arizona Cardinals.

The Super Bowl is once again the stadium Wi-Fi champ, as fans at Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz., used 6.23 terabytes of data during the contest, according to the team running the network at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

The 6.23 TB mark blew past the most recent entrant in the “most Wi-Fi used at a single-day single-stadium event” sweepstakes, the 4.93 TB used at the Jan. 12 College Football Playoff championship game at AT&T Stadium. Prior to that, pro football games this past season at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., and at AT&T Stadium had pushed into the 3-plus TB mark to be among the highest totals ever reported.

The live crowd watching the New England Patriots’ 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks also used about as much cellular data as well, with Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint claiming a combined total of 6.56 TB used in and around the stadium on game day. All three carriers were on the in-stadium and outside-the-stadium DAS deployments being run by neutral host Crown Castle. If those figures are correct (more on this later) it would put the total wireless data usage for the event at 12.79 TB, far and away the biggest single day of wireless data use we’ve ever heard of.

Apple OS updates still the application king

Handrails with Wi-Fi antenna enclosures from AmpThink. Credit: Arizona Cardinals.

Handrails with Wi-Fi antenna enclosures from AmpThink. Credit: Arizona Cardinals.

Mark Feller, vice president of information technology for the Arizona Cardinals, and Travis Bugh, senior wireless consultant for CDW, provided Mobile Sports Report with the final Wi-Fi usage numbers, which are pretty stunning for anyone in the stadium networking profession. According to Feller the new CDW-deployed Wi-Fi network with Cisco gear at the UoP Stadium saw 2.499 TB of data downloaded, and 3.714 TB uploaded, for a total of 6.213 TB of Wi-Fi usage. Bugh of CDW said there were 25,936 unique devices connecting to the network on game day, with a peak concurrent usage of 17,322, recorded not surprisingly at halftime.

Peak download usage of 1.3 Gbps was recorded before the game’s start, while peak upload usage of 2.5 Gbps was hit at halftime. The top applications by bandwidth use, Feller said, were Apple (mobile update), Facebook, Dropbox and Snapchat.

DAS numbers also set new record, but clarification needed

The only reason we aren’t yet trumpeting the 6.564 TB of reported DAS use as a verified record is due to the differences in clarity from each of the reporting providers. We also haven’t yet heard any usage totals from T-Mobile, so it’s likely that the final final wireless data use number is somewhere north of 13 TB, if all can be believed.

Parking lot light poles, Westgate entertainment district. Can you spot the DAS?

Parking lot light poles, Westgate entertainment district. Can you spot the DAS?

As reported before, AT&T said it saw 1.7 TB of cellular wireless activity from its customers on game day, with 696 GB of that happening inside the stadium, and the balance coming from the outside areas before and after the game. We’d also like to welcome Sprint to the big-game reporting crew (thanks Sprint!), with its total of 754 GB of all 4G LTE traffic used in and around the stadium on game day. According to Sprint representatives, its Super Bowl coverage efforts included 5 COWs (cell towers on wheels) as well as expanded DAS and macro placements in various Phoenix-area locations. The Sprint coverage included the 2.5 GHz spectrum that uses TDD LTE technology.

As also previously reported, Verizon Wireless claimed 4.1 TB of customer traffic in and around the stadium on game day, which Verizon claims is all cellular traffic and does not reflect any Verizon Wireless customer use of the stadium Wi-Fi network. Verizon also reported some other interesting activity tidbits, which included 46,772 Verizon Wireless devices used at the game, of which just 59.7 percent were smartphones. Verizon also said it saw 10 million emails sent on its networks that day, and 1.9 million websites visited, while also seeing 122.308 videos sent or received over wireless connections.

We’re still waiting to see if we can get usage numbers from the Super Bowl stadium app (we’re especially interested to see if the instant replay feature caught on) but the warning for stadium owners and operators everywhere seems to be clear: If you’re hosting the big game (or any BIG game), make sure your network is ready for 6 TB and beyond!

Stadium Tech Report: AT&T Stadium’s massive antenna deployment delivers solid Wi-Fi, DAS performance

The old saw that says “everything’s bigger in Texas” is not just a stereotype when it comes to wireless networking and AT&T Stadium. Though our visit was brief and we didn’t have the opportunity to do a deep-dive technology tour, the MSR team on hand at the recent College Football Playoff championship game came away convinced that if it’s not the fastest fan-facing stadium network, the Wi-FI and DAS deployments at AT&T Stadium sure are the biggest, at least the largest we’ve ever heard of.

Inside AT&T Stadium at the College Football Playoff championship game. (Click on any photo for larger image) Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Inside AT&T Stadium at the College Football Playoff championship game. (Click on any photo for larger image) Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

And in many ways we found, bigger is better, at least when it comes to staying connected inside one of the world’s truly humongous indoor spaces.

If you’ve not seen the stats, allow us to remind you that during the Jan. 12 championship game between the University of Oregon and THE Ohio State University the AT&T Stadium network carried more than 6 terabytes of wireless data, with almost 5 TB of that over the in-house Wi-Fi network. Another 1.4 TB was recorded being used by AT&T customers on the AT&T-hosted neutral DAS, which almost certainly carried another terabyte or two from other carriers on the system, who did not report any statistics. Any way you add it up, it’s the biggest single-day wireless data figure we’ve ever heard for a sports arena, professional or college, in any sport at any time.

Flooding the zone with more antennas and APs

How do you get such a big data number? One way is to make sure that everyone can connect, and one way to get to that point is to flood the zone with antennas and access points. Already the leader in the number of Wi-Fi access points and DAS antennas, AT&T Stadium got another 280 Wi-Fi antennas installed between Thanksgiving and the college championship game, according to John Winborn, CIO for the Dallas Cowboys. Some of those antennas, the staff said, were housed in new under-the-seat enclosures that AT&T’s Foundry designed somewhat specifically for use in the lower bowl of AT&T Stadium, which like other stadiums had previously had issues getting connectivity to seats close to field level.

According to Winborn, the AT&T Stadium now has more than 1,600 Wi-Fi APs in use for football games, and 1,400 antennas in its DAS network. By comparison, Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., perhaps the newest and one of the most technologically savvy venues out there, has 1,200 Wi-Fi APs and 700 DAS antennas in its deployments. Winborn also said that the antenna/AP number at AT&T can also scale up as necessary, especially for events that use up more of the building’s space, like the Final Four basketball tournament held there last spring.

“We scaled up to 1,825 [Wi-Fi] antennas for the Final Four last year,” said Winborn in a recent email, where he guessed that the venue might deploy up to 2,000 Wi-Fi APs when the Academy of Country Music Awards holds its yearly event at AT&T Stadium on April 19.

Hiding Wi-Fi APs an aesthetic priority

John Winborn, CIO for the Dallas Cowboys, poses next to a picture of two other innovators, Tex Schramm and Gil Brandt

John Winborn, CIO for the Dallas Cowboys, poses next to a picture of two other innovators, Tex Schramm and Gil Brandt

For all the extra numbers, one thing we noticed in walking around the building on Jan. 12 was that seeing an exposed Wi-Fi AP is about as common as seeing an albino deer. When we asked Winborn what the toughest thing was about network deployment in the venue, he responded quickly: “Finding ways to hide the APs so Jerry [Jones] doesn’t see them.”

With the price-is-no-object Jones on one side, and AT&T’s corporate image on the other, it’s clear there aren’t too many budgetary concerns when it comes down to spending more to make the network work, or look, better. Put it this way: You are never likely to have a “no signal” problem in a building that has on its outside an AT&T logo the size of the moon, and where AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson can be found wandering around the suite level during big events.

Though the immense space could probably be covered by fewer antennas, it’s worthwhile to remember that when the building was built and opened in 2009, it wasn’t designed with high-speed networking in mind. That means that almost all of the Wi-Fi and DAS deployments are a retrofit, including the ingenious circle of Wi-Fi antennas halfway up the seating bowl, which are covered by a tented ring of fiberglass designed and built specifically for the stadium.

According to Winborn the Wi-Fi network is supported by its own 2 GB backbone, with separate backbones in place for media networks and stadium application use. Winborn also noted that the stadium network runs 3,500 TVs via the Cisco StadiumVision system. Other records from this season include a peak concurrent Wi-Fi user mark of 27,523 (set at the Lions playoff game) and 38,534 unique Wi-Fi connections, that mark set at the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers.

Performance solid, even at rooftop level

The view from the nosebleed section

The view from the nosebleed section

So how fast are the Wi-Fi and DAS networks? In our limited testing time at the CFP game, we found solid connections almost everywhere we tried, including outside the stadium while we (freezingly) waited for the doors to open. Just outside the main ticket gate, we got a Wi-Fi signal of 23.93 Mbps on the download and 39.67 Mbps on the upload. At the same location a Verizon 4G LTE device got a 5.93 Mbps download speed, and a 2.59 Mbps upload speed, but it’s unclear if that was on the stadium DAS or just on the local macro network.

When the doors finally opened at 5:30 p.m. (no idea why Jerry kept us all out in the cold all afternoon) we went inside and got solid connections inside the foyer of the pro shop — 18.23/21.74 on Wi-Fi, 21.05/14.84 on an AT&T 4G LTE device, and 12.65/4.61 on a Verizon 4G LTE phone. (It’s worthwhile to note that all our Wi-Fi speeds were recorded on the Verizon device, a new iPhone 6 Plus.)

Down in our field-level suite, where we were the guests of AT&T, we got marks of 19.43/25.31 on the Wi-Fi, 7.35/11.04 on AT&T 4G and 5.71/4.05 on Verizon 4G. An interesting note here: When Oregon scored a touchdown on its opening drive, we took another Wi-Fi speedtest right after the play and got readings of 4.38/7.79, suggesting that there were many Ducks fans communicating the good news.

Later during the game we wandered up to the “Star Level” suites (floor 6 on the stadium elevator) and got a Wi-Fi mark of 11.57/30.51, and 19.31/13.46 on AT&T 4G. The only place we didn’t get a good Wi-Fi signal was at the nosebleed-level plaza above the south end zone, where we weren’t surprised by the 1.41/1.98 Wi-Fi mark since we didn’t see any place you could put an AP. We did, however, get an AT&T 4G signal of more than 7 Mbps on the download in the same location, meaning that even fans way up at the top of the stadium were covered by wireless, no small feat in such a huge space.

Bottom line: Network in place for whatever’s next

If there is a place where AT&T falls behind other stadiums, it’s in the synchronization of network and app; since it wasn’t built with food delivery in mind, it’s doubtful that AT&T will match Levi’s Stadium’s innovative delivery-to-any-seat feature anytime soon. And even though AT&T Stadium is dominated by the massive over-the-field TV set, fans at the CFP championship game were left literally in the dark during questionable-call replays, since they weren’t shown on the big screen and aren’t supported in the AT&T Stadium app.

What could be interesting is if the technology demonstrated by AT&T at the big college game – LTE Broadcast, which sends a streaming channel of live video over a dedicated cellular link – becomes part of the AT&T Stadium repertoire. From experience, such a channel could be extremely helpful during pregame events, since many fans at the college championship were wandering around outside the stadium unsure of where to go or where to find will-call windows. A “pre-game info” broadcast over LTE Broadcast could eliminate a lot of pain points of getting to the event, while also introducing fans to the network and app for later interaction.

At the very least, AT&T Stadium’s network alone puts it in at least the top three of most-connected football stadiums, alongside Levi’s Stadium and Sun Life Stadium in Miami. Here’s looking forward to continued competition among the venues, with advancements that will only further improve the already excellent wireless fan experience.

More photos from our visit below. Enjoy!

Fans freezing outside waiting for the CFP game to start

Fans freezing outside waiting for the CFP game to start

Creative OSU fan

Creative OSU fan

Plug for the app

Plug for the app

AT&T Stadium NOC aka "the Fishbowl"

AT&T Stadium NOC aka “the Fishbowl”

Sony Club. Now we know where Levi's Stadium got its "club" ideas

Sony Club. Now we know where Levi’s Stadium got its “club” ideas

Panoramic view (click on this one!)

Panoramic view (click on this one!)

A glass (cup?) of bubbly to celebrate the 6 TB event

A glass (cup?) of bubbly to celebrate the 6 TB event