September 17, 2014

Niners’ home opener tops Super Bowl for Wi-Fi data traffic with 3.3 Terabytes

Fans take pictures of opening kickoff from southwest concourse. Credit, all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Fans take pictures of opening kickoff from southwest concourse. Credit, all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

The first regular-season home game for the San Francisco 49ers in their new home, Levi’s Stadium, produced more Wi-Fi traffic and far more actual fan-to-network connections than the most-recent Super Bowl, according to statistics from the Niners’ tech team.

Dan Williams, vice president of technology for the 49ers, said the Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi network carried 3.3 Terabytes of data during Sunday night’s game between the Niners and the Chicago Bears, topping the 3.2 TB mark reported from Super Bowl XLVIII in February. According to Williams, out of the 70,799 that filled Levi’s Stadium Sunday, more than 30,000 fans connected to the Wi-Fi network at some point, with peak usage of 19,000 fans all connecting at one time occurring just before the 5:30 p.m. local time kickoff. According to the Super Bowl stats, the peak number of fans on Wi-Fi at that game at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey was 13,500.

“We’re pretty excited by Sunday,” said Williams, who said that the Wi-Fi network stood up well even under peak data transfer rates of 3.1 Gbps right before kickoff, and another 2.6 Gbps peak around 7:30 p.m. Around the peaks, network traffic stayed “well over 1 gig per second for three and a half hours,” Williams said.

North scoreboard screen at Levi's Stadium.

North scoreboard screen at Levi’s Stadium.

During the Niners’ first preseason game against the Denver Broncos, the Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi network carried 2.13 TB of data, and during the Aug. 24 preseason game against San Diego there was another 1.96 TB of Wi-Fi data. The figures do not include any reporting from the stadium’s DAS network, which carries cellular traffic from AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile customer. If preseason games are any indication, Williams expects to see numbers in the terabyte range for DAS traffic as well.

The Wi-Fi numbers from Sunday showed that fans quickly figured out a name change in the network name (or SSID). During preseason games, the Wi-Fi network was identified as “Levi’s Stadium” in a device list of available networks; on Sunday the free stadium network used the name “xfinitywifi,” reflecting the brand of Wi-Fi sponsor Comcast. Some fans might have been confused since the “xfinitywifi” SSID is the same one used by Comcast for its public Wi-Fi networks.

“Some folks may have been scratching their heads,” said Williams. “We changed the name last Monday before the opener.”

Replay app gets 7,800 views

As previously reported by MSR, the instant replay feature of the Levi’s Stadium app had its debut Sunday, and according to Williams fans watched 7,800 replays via the app. The top replay view was of the early touchdown pass from Niners QB Colin Kaepernick to Michael Crabtree, which Williams said was viewed more than 1,000 times.

Fans on southwest concourse take photos of live action.

Fans on southwest concourse take photos of live action.

As MSR reported, the replay feature was somewhat limited in functionality, not working at all until late in the first half and then only offering the last two plays plus some scoring highlights for viewing. Previously, team executives had said the replay feature would offer multiple camera angles and multiple replay reviews all at the same time. According to Williams, more features will be added to the replay function in the near future.

“It’s not the finished product, by any means,” Williams said. “You’ll see some more polish on it.”

The most-used feature in the stadium app, Williams said, continues to be the food and beverage features, which allow fans to either purchase concessions for express line pickup, or to have their orders delivered to their seats. Williams said the Niners delivered 2,100 food orders to fans Sunday, the most for the Niners so far.

Perhaps the best news for Williams was the lack of complaints about the wireless network, which the team had asked fans to tweet about if they were experiencing problems. Though some fans with older devices that only work on the 2.4 GHz wireless bands might not see the same speeds as those with newer devices (which use the more roomy 5 GHz bands), Williams said his team only got a couple complaints about network issues, and one of those was solved before they could respond.

“Overall it just was a really good [wireless] experience,” said Williams, who always ends by noting that networks are never completely finished products. But with its Super Bowl-beating performance Sunday, the Levi’s Stadium network appears in midseason form.

“I think we’re close,” Williams said.

View from the north porch

View from the north porch

Instant replay feature debuts as network rocks at Niners’ home opener at Levi’s Stadium

Instant replay feature on Levi's Stadium app. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Instant replay feature on Levi’s Stadium app. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Niners fans may not have liked the final outcome on the scoreboard, but there was no complaining about the wireless network performance for the regular season home opener at Levi’s Stadium.

The somewhat limited debut of the highly anticipated instant replay feature for the Levi’s Stadium app was perhaps the technology highlight, with plays available for viewing seconds after they happened — when the feature finally got going later in the game. Our unofficial speedtests from various points around the stadium showed the Wi-Fi network and DAS network in top form, with solid results in the 20-plus Mbps range at most places for both networks.

We’re still waiting for the official postmortem results stats from the 49ers’ tech crew, but we did get some in-game messages from Niners VP of technology Dan Williams, who said that right before the 5:30 p.m. local time kickoff the usage peak was hit, with more than 19,000 simultaneous users on the Wi-Fi network, using throughput of 3.1 GB per second. Our unofficial guess is that the Niners’ opener may have set new single-game records for data traffic, but we’ll wait until we hear the final totals before we make any such proclamation.

The good news for Niners fans is that everywhere we went in the stadium, including on the top-level cheap-seat decks, the network was strong.

Replay feature sees limited action

If there was any tech downside, it was the limited availability of the instant replay feature. When talking about this feature earlier this year, team officials were adamant that it would be an unbelievable thing, with multiple camera angles and multiple choices of replays to watch. In reality, the feature wasn’t even available for most of the first half, and then when it did start working in the second half it only offered replays of the last two live plays, and two scoring highlights, one of which did not function at first.

Picture of app late in the first half.

Picture of app late in the first half.

Another beef we had with the replay feature was that it wasn’t clearly located on the “Game Center” part of the app; you had to know to click on the down arrow of the screen for the last play replay to appear. We found it only by accident, and would guess that not many fans found it or used it during the Niners’ loss to the Chicago Bears.

When we did watch the replays, however, we were simply amazed by the system’s performance — instant replays were available just seconds after a play had taken place, with a text play by play description as well. But again, there were no options for multiple camera angles, and there were only two “scoring play” highlights available when we last checked, and one (of an early field goal) didn’t have working video.

Other impressions from our stadium visit (which was made possible thanks to a press pass given to MSR by the Niners PR team):

– Concourses are fun places to watch: We watched the national anthem and opening kickoff and drive from the southwest concourse, one of the many places in Levi’s Stadium where you can stand and still see live game action. It was a packed house for the kickoff and first series, with many fans snapping phone pictures of the nearby field. East concourses were also good (though in one section an usher shooed us away from standing two-deep) as long as you kept the setting sun out of your eyes.

Fans take pictures of opening kickoff from southwest concourse.

Fans take pictures of opening kickoff from southwest concourse.

– Food runners were tired on the top deck: We stopped by for a quick chat with some of the food runners on the Pepsi deck on the north end of the stadium, and they looked pretty tired. Again, no official stats here but one runner said he’d been kept busy all game bringing food and drinks to fans who placed their orders via the app. “It’s pretty steep up here,” he said, pointing to the 400-level seating sections. “You get tired going up and down those steps.”

View from the Pepsi seating porch at the north end of Levi's Stadium

View from the Pepsi seating porch at the north end of Levi’s Stadium

– Clubs are the place to be: Several stories about the game noted that club-level seating was often empty, with fans perhaps spending time inside the comfortable beverage/food/gathering areas. Here’s a pregame look inside the United Club, located on the third level of the main building on the stadium’s west side.

United Club during pregame

United Club during pregame

– Signal strength: We also made several phone calls and did speedtests during halftime, when Snoop Dogg surprised us all with a mini-concert on the field. Not once during the game did we see any slowdowns in the network performance; the slowest Wi-Fi speed we found was 11 Mbps on the north concourse, where the team has admitted it didn’t put a lot of antennas (and is working to correct that).

Snoop on da big screen

Snoop on da big screen

– Light rail works fine: Then it was time to go home, and our choice to use the VTA light rail from Mountain View (instead of our press parking pass) was validated, as it took us less than an hour from the start of the line to the end of the line in Mountain View. All in all, an extremely solid home opener for one of the most ambitious stadium technology deployments out there.

Planning a DAS deployment? Check out these AT&T stadium stats from football opening weekend

There’s lots of shared belief out there that fans want to use mobile devices while they are attending sporting events. What we like even more here at Mobile Sports Report are hard numbers that tell us just how much fans are using mobile devices while they are in stadiums and arenas. Though sometimes hard to get, such statistics are great signposts for those who are planning to build their own stadium networks sometime soon, because it gives them a target to shoot for.

Courtesy of our friends over at AT&T, here are some traffic statistics gleaned from AT&T’s distributed antenna system (DAS) deployments in major professional and college football stadiums during last weekend’s games. According to AT&T, the average amount of cellular data used at a pro venue home opener in 2014 was 361 gigabytes, up 59 percent from season-opening games last year. The stats, remember, are only from AT&T DAS networks at the 16 NFL stadiums where AT&T has a DAS network presence.

The top stadium in terms of AT&T DAS traffic was Miami’s Sun Life Stadium with 1,035 GB (or 1.035 TB), followed by AT&T Stadium in Dallas with 889 GB and Atlanta’s Georgia Dome with 696 GB. It will be interesting to see whether or not any of those totals are surpassed by the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium, which hosts its first regular-season home game this Sunday.

On the collegiate side, the average opening-day traffic number was 288 GB, which is huge compared to the 2013 season average of 186 GB per game. The stats are an average taken from 25 Division 1 schools where AT&T has a DAS presence. And in case you were wondering where college football is king, the stats for schools in the South was an average of 343 GB, with the rest of the country checking in at 186 GB. The top three schools in terms of home-opener DAS traffic were Oklahoma with 866 GB, Georgia with 688, and the new stadium at Baylor with 686 GB.

More AT&T DAS stats follow. Remember, this is just a fraction of the actual traffic since many of these venues also have other carriers on DAS networks, as well as Wi-Fi networks in place. Other carriers and stadiums — send us your stats!

AT&T STADIUM DAS STATS

Year-over-Year Professional Mobile Data Increase

o 2014 home opener – 361GB average per venue

o 2013 season average – 227GB average per venue

· 2013 season average to 2014 season opener is a year-over-year increase of more than 59 percent

· 2013 season opener to 2014 season opener is a year-over-year increase of more than 58 percent

Opening Weekend Mobile Data Usage Professional vs. Collegiate

o 2014 professional season opener – 361GB average per venue

o 2014 collegiate season opener – 288GB average per venue

Top 5 Opening Weekend Professional Venues by Total Mobile Data

o Miami, FL – 1035GB

· Equivalent to more than 2.9 million social media post with photos

· Peak hour – 1-2pm ET – 146GB

o Dallas, TX – 889GB

· Equivalent to more than 2.5 million social media post with photos

· Peak hour – 2-3pm CT – 158GB

o Atlanta, GA – 696GB

· Equivalent to nearly 2 million social media post with photos

· Peak hour – 2-3pm ET – 159GB

o Chicago, IL – 452GB

· Equivalent to nearly 1.3 million social media post with photos

· Peak hour – 1-2pm CT – 107GB

o Pittsburgh, PA – 385GB

· Equivalent to more than 1.1 million social media post with photos

· Peak hour – 2-3pm ET – 83GB

Caveats:

· All figures include only data traffic seen on AT&T’s venue-specific mobile network.

· All data metrics come from only venues with a DAS where AT&T’s mobile network is on-air. These metrics are not comprehensive of every game played during the opening weekend for professional or college football.

· This data is compiled from 16 professional football stadiums and 25 division one college football stadiums that had opening week home games where AT&T is on-air on a DAS.

· All 2013 season average data is compiled from only venues with a DAS where AT&T’s mobile network was on-air and games where data was tracked and available.

ADDITIONAL AT&T COLLEGIATE DAS STATS

Regional Breakdown by Mobile Data Usage

o South – 343GB average per venue

o Rest of the US – 186GB average per venue

· Year-over-Year Mobile Data Increase

o 2014 home opener – 288GB average per venue

o 2013 season average – 155GB average per venue

· Top 5 Opening Weekend College Venues by Total Mobile Data

· Norman, OK – 866GB

o Equivalent to more than 2.4 million social media post with photos

· Athens, GA – 688GB

o Equivalent to more than 1.9 million social media post with photos

· Waco, TX – 686GB

o Equivalent to more than 1.9 million social media post with photos

· Auburn, AL – 506GB

o Equivalent to more than 1.4 million social media post with photos

· Los Angeles, CA – 469GB

o Equivalent to more than 1.3 million social media post with photos

Caveats:

· All figures include only data traffic seen on AT&T’s venue-specific mobile network.

· All data metrics come from only venues with a DAS where AT&T’s mobile network is on-air. These metrics are not comprehensive of every game played during the opening weekend for college football.

· This data is compiled from 25 division one college football stadiums that had opening week home games where AT&T is on-air on a DAS.

· All 2013 season average data is compiled from only venues with a DAS where AT&T’s mobile network was on-air and games where data was tracked and available.

· The “South” region is based off how it is qualified by the U.S. Census. It includes the following states: Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.

Stadium Tech Report: DAS Group Professionals makes a name for itself with Levi’s Stadium DAS

DAS antennas hanging from a Levi's Stadium overhang. Credit, all Levi's photos: Paul Kapsutka, MSR

DAS antennas hanging from a Levi’s Stadium overhang. Credit, all Levi’s photos: Paul Kapsutka, MSR

If you look around at the walls, ceilings and overhangs at Levi’s Stadium, it’s hard to miss the small square boxes with the off-white color and a “DGP” logo in one corner. While the wires hanging out the back of each box make it an easy guess that the equipment has something to do with wireless networks, even many industry insiders may not know the company behind the boxes and the three-letter acronym.

Meet DAS Group Professionals, the Bay Area firm in charge of deploying a distributed antenna system (DAS) to make sure your cell phone gets a good signal at San Francisco 49ers games and any other event inside the 68,500-seat Levi’s Stadium. And while you might not be familiar with DGP, rest assured the company is extremely familiar with cellular deployments for large public venues, having installed similar DAS networks for airports, casinos and hotels, and even for San Francisco’s BART train system. Of course, most of that work was done when the company was called Forza Telecom, before changing its name to DGP earlier this year, another reason why “DGP” may not have rung any bells.

“It may appear like we just fell out of the sky, but we’ve actually built quite a few [DAS] systems,” said Steve Dutto, president of DGP, in a recent phone interview. “We’ve got years of experience.”

DAS antennas above a food stand

DAS antennas above a food stand


DAS: The Rodney Dangerfield of stadium connectivity

One thing that keeps firms like DGP in the shadows is the relative obscurity of DAS itself. While most people generally understand how cell phones work — you turn on your phone, and it connects to an antenna somewhere on a tower or rooftop — in crowded public facilities like stadiums, traditional cellular networks with towers several miles apart can’t handle the concentrated capacity. To provide connectivity for areas with large crowds, the latest tactic is to deploy a DAS, a network of lots of smaller antennas. Originally deployed in places like office buildings, hotels and convention centers, DAS is rapidly gaining favor in stadiums and arenas, helping to alleviate the “no signal” problem that has cropped up in many venues the past few years.

And while stadium Wi-Fi gets lots of headlines whenever it gets deployed — probably thanks again to the widespread understanding of how Wi-Fi works — there are already far more DAS deployments in stadiums than Wi-Fi, mainly because cellular carriers will pay almost all the associated costs of a DAS buildout to make sure their customers get a signal. According to our most recent 2014 State of the Stadium survey, 71.4 percent of our respondents said they had a full DAS at their facility, while only 35.7 percent had fan-facing Wi-Fi.

Steve Dutto, president, DGP

Steve Dutto, president, DGP

How does a DAS work? Usually, either a major cellular carrier or a third-party “neutral” host like DGP will build out the antenna infrastructure, which includes many small antennas and then cables to bring the connections back to a wiring room or data center. There, cellular carriers install their own cell-tower back-end gear to authenticate customers and to provide a connection to the company networks and the Internet. Since it’s in the cellular carriers’ interest to keep their customers connected (and using billable minutes and data), carriers will often pay the full cost of a DAS infrastructure by building and running it themselves. In the case like Levi’s, where DGP is the “neutral host,” DGP builds the infrastructure and then charges cellular carriers to use it.

Such deals are rarely publicized, and Dutto would not comment on how much each carrier was being charged to use the Levi’s DAS — though industry gossip has the figure somewhere around $5 million per carrier per year. And just like fight club, for many deployments the first rule of DAS is that you don’t talk about DAS, because no cellular carrier ever wants to admit that its network might need help. So just like Rodney Dangerfield, DAS often doesn’t get a lot of public respect. But at Levi’s Stadium and many other sports and entertainment venues, DAS is a booming business that would be sorely missed if it wasn’t there.

The ‘dream and the nightmare’ of building the Levi’s DAS

Now that DGP’s 700-plus antenna DAS deployment is up and running at Levi’s, Dutto can breathe a small bit easier. While the network is good business for the company and an obvious prominent calling card for the future, the aggressive deployment timeframe probably isn’t something Dutto is eager to repeat.

“Levi’s Stadium was both a dream and a nightmare [for DGP],” Dutto said, due in part both to the Niners’ aggressive performance expectations and the rapid buildout schedule. Of course, DGP was somewhat used to working quickly with the Niners — when the company put a DAS in Candlestick Park back in 2012 to solve that stadium’s legendary lack of connectivity, Dutto said it was deployed “in about 90 days.”

The success of the Candlestick deployment, Dutto said, led to the Niners offering the Levi’s DAS gig to DGP. With it, however, came the need to match the team’s out-front statements about how the stadium was going to be the best ever in terms of wireless connectivity. And with many people not knowing or not bothering to switch their phones to Wi-Fi, the Levi’s DAS, like most stadium DAS deployments, would probably handle most of the wireless connections.

Door sign for head end equipment room at Levi's Stadium (there are many of these)

Door sign for head end equipment room at Levi’s Stadium (there are many of these)

“We knew that it needed to be significantly better than anywhere else, right at the launch,” Dutto said. While the late addition of an early August soccer game at Levi’s pushed deployment schedules ahead even faster, Dutto said in the end it helped DGP overall.

“I wasn’t a big fan of getting ready for that date [the Aug. 2 soccer game was Levi's first event] but it was a blessing in disguise,” Dutto said. “The trouble with a network is that you can’t really test it until everyone shows up. We got some good data from that event.”

After the “daily and nightly” discussions with the Niners’ tech team about antenna placements and other matters, the DAS network performed well when it mattered, during the Niners’ two preseason games on Aug. 17 and 24. According to a traffic report from the stadium tech team, the DAS network carried a combined 1.02 terabytes of wireless traffic for the two preseason games, which is on par with activity seen at big events in the past, like Super Bowls. According to Dutto DGP’s internal tests showed that few, if any, calls were dropped or didn’t connect.

“We’re at 98 percent [network performance] already, without [the network] being fully optimized,” Dutto said.

RF challenges and too many iPhone 4 customers

While many of the stadium’s Wi-Fi antennas are well hidden — including the ones in boxes under seats — the DAS antennas are a bit more prominent, especially if you are near where the first overhang comes close to the seats.

“Unfortunately, with Levi’s exposed steel-beam construction, if you want the DAS to work, you’re going to see it,” Dutto said. “It’s hard to be stealthy in there.”

And in many cases there isn’t just one but instead two DGP antennas side by side, which reflects the company’s decision to actually build two parallel DAS systems to better accomodate more wireless carriers. According to Dutto, AT&T and T-Mobile are based on one system, while Verizon Wireless, Sprint and public safety communications are handled by the other one. Currently, all the carriers are live on the DAS except for Sprint, which is still in the process of installing its back-end equipment.

DAS antenna in "Faithful Mile" area

DAS antenna in “Faithful Mile” area

One of the biggest challenges for DGP, Dutto said, comes from outside the stadium, and not inside. Like other open-air stadiums located in city cores, Levi’s Stadium faces significant interference from cellular antennas on nearby office building rooftops, as well as from the Santa Clara Convention Center right across the street.

“Less than a half mile from Levi’s you can see seven different rooftop cell sites,” said Dutto, who said the flat, open terrain around the stadium increases the ability for those signals to interfere with the stadium DAS deployment. Target Field in Minneapolis had some similar problems with cell antennas on nearby office buildings.

“We’ve done a lot of work with the carriers to adjust their macro networks around the stadium,” Dutto said. “We’ll do more of that as we go, and expect it to get better.”

And while Levi’s Wi-Fi network has shown itself to be incredibly robust, Dutto said that cellular connectivity over the DAS might be even faster than Wi-Fi in many instances, especially if fans have later-model phones with 4G LTE.

Even though Dutto said DGP’s testing recorded download speeds of up to 200 Mbps — and 65 Mbps sustained — he acknowledged that many Levi’s patrons might never see those kinds of numbers unless they snap up some of the new iPhone 6 models introduced by Apple this week. According to network stats collected by DGP during the preseason games, a lot of fans may be ready for an upgrade.

“There’s a lot more iPhone 4 users out there than we thought,” Dutto said.

Bengals tap Extreme for Wi-Fi, TE Connectivity for DAS at Paul Brown Stadium

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 10.42.52 AMEven though the NFL season is barely underway, there’s one organization that already has a multi-win streak going: Extreme Networks said it will provide a Wi-Fi deployment for the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium, the fifth NFL team deal for Extreme and the third announced this year.

The Wi-Fi network at Paul Brown Stadium is scheduled to go live this Sunday for the Bengals’ home opener against the Atlanta Falcons. According to the team and Extreme, the Bengals will also utilize the Extreme Wi-Fi coaches strategy, where knowledgeable network types roam the stands to help fans connect. Prior to this year, Extreme won Wi-Fi deals for the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium and the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field. In addition to Cincinnati, this year Extreme has announced Wi-Fi projects for the Tennessee Titans’ LP Field, and a joint deal with SignalShare to bring Wi-Fi to EverBank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

And while we haven’t seen a press release yet we also know that TE Connectivity is in charge of installing a DAS at Paul Brown Stadium, meaning that cellular reception should improve as well.

We haven’t yet spoken to the folks at Paul Brown Stadium, but here are some prepared quotes from the press release to tell you how happy they are to be joining the NFL Wi-Fi fraternity:

“Our fans are of the utmost importance to our organization, and as technology continues to provide new possibilities, it was crucial that we identify a way to provide fans a truly differentiated in-person game day experience,” said Michael Kayes, Bengals director of technology. “The partnership with Extreme Networks provides the foundation to do just that, affording fans the connectivity they’ve grown to expect. We’re also excited to be able to offer our fans the opportunity to get field-level action through NFL RedZone.”

Here’s a Twitter pic of the press conference today:

Verizon, NFL fumble opening-day live video for NFL Mobile app — for the 2nd year in a row

Screen shot of the message NFL Mobile users are getting used to seeing on opening day. Credit: Paul Kapustka, MSR.

Screen shot of the message NFL Mobile users are getting used to seeing on opening day. Credit: Paul Kapustka, MSR.

It’s not a streak you want to continue, especially if you are the NFL, Verizon Wireless, or one of the frustrated customers who weren’t able to see live video using Verizon’s NFL Mobile application during Sunday’s season-opening games. But just like last year, when activation servers for a new version of the app got overwhelmed, issues arose again on Sunday, making live video — one of the premium features of NFL Mobile that makes the app and service so attractive — unavailable for most of the day, including the large slate of early games.

Verizon executives who spoke with MSR Monday declined to comment on the NFL Mobile issues, instead referring all questions to their partner, the NFL media team. Verizon wireless support was also apparently offline on Sunday, leaving the task of responding to the many irate messages and tweets to the small but valiant NFL Mobile Support team.

Alex Riethmiller, vice president of communications for NFL Media, said the issue once again was due to high traffic overwhelming the authentication servers, which (putting it simply) identify whether or not a customer is a Verizon subscriber, and whether or not that customer has access to the premium content. Some of the additional traffic may have been due to two changes Verizon made in NFL Mobile subscriptions from last season; one was to give free premium access (which lets you see live action) to all customers on a More Everything data plan, and the other was to charge all of those More Everything viewers another $1.99 a month if they wanted to also watch the NFL’s RedZone channel, one of the more attractive features of the app (since RedZone gives you lots of live action, even on games that might otherwise be blacked or not viewable for other reasons). Verizon customers who are not More Everything customers must pay $5 a month for access to the NFL Mobile premium content.

Theoretically, you should be able to order RedZone from this "settings" page of the app. But it didn't work when we tried to click the button.

Theoretically, you should be able to order RedZone from this “settings” page of the app. But it didn’t work when we tried to click the button.

For many NFL Mobile customers, yours truly included, any live video at all was not available for long stretches of Sunday, and after a brief 2-minute “preview” period the RedZone content was also unavailable, and the app was not allowing it to be purchased. As of Monday afternoon, the MSR official testing lab still couldn’t get the RedZone box to work — clicking it kept taking us to a page explaining the charges but not offering a way to add it to our bill.

“NFL Mobile requires a number of backend systems to ensure only Verizon customers can get live NFL video,” said Riethmiller, in a prepared statement. “We experienced issues with one of the systems that validates customers, and it took longer than anticipated to resolve because of tremendous demand. We are confident we have addressed the issue going forward.”

Kristin Rooney, Verizon Wireless director of sponsorships and branded entertainment, would not comment on the NFL Mobile outages in a phone interview Monday morning. However, Rooney was happy to talk about the new features in NFL Mobile this season, including the ability to watch local games live, even if they are out of the traditional prime-time window NFL Mobile has access to. In addition to the local games, NFL Mobile premium customers are supposed to be able to watch live games on Sunday nights, Monday nights and Thursday nights, and also have access to RedZone broadcasts during the day. That is, when the servers are working.

BUY... MORE... SERVERS

BUY… MORE… SERVERS

Another unclear option is what happens to RedZone access when NFL Mobile customers visit NFL stadiums — while Verizon blocks access to RedZone at some stadiums, at others it allows it, usually through a partnership with a team’s stadium app. Rooney, however, did not have a list of stadiums where NFL Mobile customers could watch RedZone broadcasts during a game; most famously, the service was blocked at last year’s Super Bowl in MetLife Stadium.

Rooney also declined to say just how many customers Verizon has for its NFL Mobile app, though the Google Play store says the app has between 10 and 50 million installs. However, since a non-premium version of the app is available to customers with contracts from other carriers, it’s unclear how many “premium” members were overwhelming Verizon’s servers. It’s worth noting that Verizon is no stranger to large numbers of single-day activations, as its systems support more than 100 million wireless subscribers, nation-wide.

In a related note, NFL Mobile wasn’t the only streaming product having issues Sunday. According to a report at TVPredictions.com, the DirecTV streaming service for NFL games also suffered outages Sunday, also for the second straight year.