September 30, 2016

New Report: Carolina Panthers build new Wi-Fi and DAS; Mercedes-Benz Stadium update, and more!

Q3thumbMobile Sports Report is pleased to announce the Q3 issue of our STADIUM TECH REPORT series, the ONLY in-depth publication created specifically for the stadium technology professional and the stadium technology marketplace.

In addition to our historical in-depth profiles of successful stadium technology deployments, our Q3 issue for 2016 has additional news and analysis, including a look at Wi-Fi analytics at the Mall of America, and a story about how the Cleveland Browns found $1 million in ROI using new analytics software from YinzCam. Download your FREE copy today!

Inside the report our editorial coverage also includes:

— Bank of America Stadium profile: An in-depth look at the Carolina Panthers’ decision to bring new Wi-Fi and DAS networks in-house;
— Mercedes-Benz Stadium profile: An early look at the technology being built into the new home of the Atlanta Falcons, with an emphasis on fiber;
— T-Mobile Arena photo essay: A first look at the newest venue on the famed Las Vegas Strip;
— Avaya Stadium profile: How the stadium’s Wi-Fi network became the star of the MLS All-Star game.

We’d like to take a quick moment to thank our sponsors, which for this issue include Mobilitie, Crown Castle, SOLiD, CommScope, JMA Wireless, Corning, Samsung Business, Xirrus, Huber+Suhner, ExteNet Systems, DAS Group Professionals and Boingo Wireless. Their generous sponsorship makes it possible for us to offer this content free of charge to our readers. We’d also like to thank you for your interest and support.

Jaguars get out of SignalShare deal, turn to PCM for EverBank Field Wi-Fi management

Pregame activity at EverBank Field last weekend. Credit: Jaguars.com.

Pregame activity at EverBank Field last weekend. Credit: Jaguars.com.

When Wi-Fi design and implementation firm SignalShare legally imploded earlier this year, one of the biggest questions that surfaced was — what would happen to teams and stadiums who had contracted with SignalShare to run their Wi-Fi networks? The Jacksonville Jaguars, who a couple years ago announced big plans with SignalShare, have gotten out of their contract with the now-bankrupt SignalShare and have turned to integrator PCM to manage the Wi-Fi network at EverBank Field, team officials said.

Mike Webb, director of IT with the Jaguars, said in a phone interview that the team was “able to terminate” its 3-year deal with SignalShare with help from Wi-Fi gear provider Extreme, which was part of the original deal. PCM has also teamed up with Extreme to run the Wi-Fi network at the Tennessee Titans’ Nissan Stadium. Neither SignalShare nor NFS Leasing has responded to any queries about the legal actions; Extreme Networks has also refused to comment on any specifics of any SignalShare-related deals.

While the original deal called for big plans to bring exclusive content to fans at EverBank Field via SignalShare’s portal software, Webb said that currently there is no stadium-specific or game-day app for Jaguars fans. He also said that Comcast sponsors the Wi-Fi connection (as it does at many other stadiums), with fans logging on by connecting to the xfintitywifi SSID.

Adding more APs for patios, new construction

Currently, EverBank Field has 650 Extreme Wi-Fi APs in the venue, with approximately 450 of those in the seating bowl, Webb said. Over the past offseason, the stadium added Wi-Fi coverage to five new areas, mainly patios outside club areas as well as to the South end zone tunnel, which will eventually connect to the theater that is being built outside the stadium.

For the lower level of seating, Webb said Wi-Fi APs are installed in railing enclosures, while higher-level seats are served by overhead mounts. While Webb said the network initially “had some issues” with 2.4 GHz band activity, the addition of more 5 GHz capacity helped to “vastly increase performance.” The Wi-Fi network now regularly sees 14,000 connections per game, Webb said.

More cellular capacity is also on the way to EverBank Field, as Webb said that two (unnamed) wireless carriers have agreed on a plan to build a DAS in the facility for outside seating coverage.

‘Super Bowl’ atmosphere produces 4.32 TB of Wi-Fi use at Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium regular-season opener

Overhead photo of the Vikings' regular-season opener at U.S. Bank Stadium. Credit all photos: Vikings.com.

Overhead photo of the Vikings’ regular-season opener at U.S. Bank Stadium. Credit all photos: Vikings.com.

A “Super Bowl” atmosphere with plenty of built-in social media sharing moments helped push the NFL regular-season opener at U.S. Bank Stadium to a total of 4.32 terabytes of data used on the Wi-Fi network, according to Minnesota Vikings networking officials.

The Vikings’ 17-14 win over the rival Green Bay Packers on Sept. 18 christened the stadium in fine fashion, with 66,800 fans packing the new arena. Even without any promotion for the network or the accompanying team app, almost 32,000 of the fans present logged on to the Wi-Fi network at some point of the game day, according to Tod Caflisch, vice president and chief technical officer for Minnesota Vikings Football. The network also saw a peak concurrent-user mark of 17,500, according to Caflisch.

In addition to the exciting game, the first regular season NFL game at U.S. Bank Stadium saw extensive pregame activities, including historic Vikings player introductions, a mock Viking ship with a fire-breathing dragon, and former Vikings coach Bud Grant blowing the Gjallarhorn. The day also included a halftime show with an orchestra and a Prince tribute, a list of events that no doubt produced multiple selfies, photos and videos shared quickly over social media via the in-stadium network.

No promotion for Wi-Fi, app or food ordering

“I’m not surprised [at the data and connection numbers],” said Caflisch, citing all the festive happenings. Adding to the network usage was also the fact that many fans may have been visiting the stadium for the first time, and recording those moments, a process that had Caflisch worried beforehand about Wi-Fi coverage near the main entry.

Fans gathering outside U.S. Bank Stadium before the game.

Fans gathering outside U.S. Bank Stadium before the game.

“My biggest concern was the huge crowds waiting outside the security area before the start of the game,” Caflisch said. As part of their deal with team app provider VenueNext, U.S. Bank Stadium is also using the firm’s ticket scanners, which run on Wi-Fi.

“We have Wi-Fi there for the ticket scanning, but I was a little concerned about how the sheer density of people would affect the scanning,” Caflisch said. As it turned out, all systems were go, even with the big number of fans coming in the large glass-door gateways.

“It was a non-factor,” Caflisch said.

Other than a few small issues with specific Wi-Fi APs, Caflisch said the Cisco gear-based Wi-Fi and IPTV networks “really worked well” for the home opener, perhaps the sternest test yet for the new deployment from network design and deployment firm AmpThink. Caflisch, who joined the Vikings’ tech team this past summer from the Detroit Red Wings’ Joe Louis Arena, said he initially “had my reservations” about the stadium’s use of railing-mounted APs as the main delivery system in the seating bowl.

Hall of Fame head coach Bud Grant blows the Gjallarhorn.

Hall of Fame head coach Bud Grant blows the Gjallarhorn.

“I had not heard of a railing solution being the main plan — mostly I’d seen it as a retrofit,” said Caflisch. “But the numbers we’ve seen shows it’s working very well.”

While he didn’t provide a number, Caflisch also said that use of the express food ordering service in the team app doubled from preseason totals, again without any external promotion. Right now, the service, which lets fans order and pay for concessions via their phone and then pick up the food and drink at an express window, is only available to certain parts of the stadium.

“We haven’t promoted the app, the ordering or the Wi-Fi to wait and see what the stress loads were,” Caflisch said. “We’re definitely planning to promote all three now.”

Niners fans use 2.76 TB of Wi-Fi for season opener at Levi’s Stadium

Niners fans celebrate a touchdown in the season opener. Credit: LevisStadium.com.

Niners fans celebrate a touchdown in the season opener. Credit: LevisStadium.com.

Fans at the San Francisco 49ers’ home opener used 2.76 terabytes of data on the Wi-Fi network at Levi’s Stadium, according to statistics provided by the Niners’ network team.

The Sept. 12 Monday Night Football game, a 28-0 win for the Niners over the visiting Los Angeles Rams, was well below the 10.1-TB mark recorded during Super Bowl 50, held at Levi’s Stadium back in February. Still, the 2.76 TB is a healthy regular-season game mark, with 16,681 unique users of the Wi-Fi network as well as a maximum concurrent number of users of 11,987.

The Niners also added some interesting new social twists to the Levi’s Stadium experience this year, including the ability for fans to use the stadium app to respond to poll questions (like voting on the next song to be played during timeouts) posted on the stadium’s large digital displays. While it’s not known if the feature was used during the regular season opener, according to the network team 30,000 fans participated in big-board polls during the Niners’ preseason game on Aug. 26 versus the Green Bay Packers. Full stats from the Niners networking team below.

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Patriots upgrade Wi-Fi at Gillette Stadium for 2016 season

Gillette Stadium before the Sept. 18 game vs. the Miami Dolphins. Credit: Steve Milne, AP, via Patriots.com

Gillette Stadium before the Sept. 18 game vs. the Miami Dolphins. Credit: Steve Milne, AP, via Patriots.com

Gillette Stadium, one of the first NFL arenas to have fan-facing Wi-Fi, more than doubled the number of access points in the venue this past offseason, according to team executives.

Fred Kirsch, who goes by the curious title of publisher & vice president of content at Kraft Sports Productions, is well known in stadium tech circles as the overseer of all things technology for the New England Patriots operation. In a recent phone interview, Kirsch said “the timing was right” for a Wi-Fi upgrade at Gillette, a venue that has had fan-facing Wi-Fi since 2012. The team’s first full-stadium network was installed by Enterasys Networks, which was later acquired by Extreme; prior to that, Gillette Stadium had Wi-Fi for luxury suites and clubs provided by gear from Xirrus.

“The [Wi-Fi] overall technology has changed, so we can really improve it now,” said Kirsch about the team’s decision to beef up its wireless network. With new Wi-Fi standards now in most equipment, Kirsch said it was possible to “put in a lot more APs without channel bleed. All over the stadium, we have better coverage.”

Going under-seat in the bowl

According to Kirsch, Gillette Stadium had previously had about 400 Wi-Fi APs in the original design. After the upgrade was over, Kirsch said the stadium now has more than 1,000 APs, with most of the new devices deployed under seats in the bowl seating areas, the latest team to join this growing deployment trend.

In most of the bowl, Kirsch said his team was able to core through the concrete to install the APs; however, some parts of the stadium sit directly upon granite, leading Kirsch and his crew to improvise a cable-and-tray system to get cabling to the APs under the seats. This procedure necessitated custom-designed enclosures, which introduced a small delay in construction procedures, according to Kirsch.

On the game-day application side of things, Kirsch said that the team’s YinzCam-developed app will support faster access to instant replays, and will also add in a third-party option for fans to take a picture of something that might seem astray (like, perhaps, a broken pipe in a restroom) and send it in via the app. Kirsch said the app will be able to geo-locate where the picture came from, giving the team a precise location of the problem.

Twitter’s NFL streaming debut fails on Tweet front; will AT&T and Verizon eventually dominate mobile device NFL streaming?

Twitter’s debut in live-streaming NFL games had good video, but the accompanying Twitter feed — which users couldn’t configure — left many observers wanting more. Will Twitter ever be able to deliver, or will physics keep Twitter from being able to add anything special to mobile-device sports streaming? In the latest STADIUM TECH REPORT PODCAST, co-hosts Phil Harvey and Paul Kapustka dissect Twitter’s streaming issues, and wonder when people will realize that AT&T and Verizon may be the eventual winners in the NFL streaming battle with their Sunday Ticket and NFL Mobile platforms. Listen now!

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Here is the link to the podcast on iTunes!