August 28, 2015

Wi-Fi for the Frozen Tundra: Extreme, Verizon bring Wi-Fi to Green Bay Packers’ Lambeau Field

Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, now has Wi-Fi for fans. All photos: Green Bay Packers (click on any photo for a larger image)

Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, now has Wi-Fi for fans. All photos: Green Bay Packers (click on any photo for a larger image)

Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers’ historic home, now has full fan-facing Wi-Fi services thanks to a deployment led by the Packers, Extreme Networks and Verizon Wireless.

Much like the deployment last year at the Seattle Seahawks’ CenturyLink Field, the Lambeau network will be ready for this season’s games and will feature separate Wi-Fi SSIDs for Verizon customers and for all other subscribers, according to the Packers and Extreme. The network, which was installed earlier this year, has approximately 1,000 access points in and around the venue, many on handrail enclosures to provide service to the large bowl seating areas where there are no adjacent overhangs.

Lambeau bench seating with railing-mounted Wi-Fi APs

Lambeau bench seating with railing-mounted Wi-Fi APs

According to the Packers, the network was live in a “testing” mode for some pre-football season events this summer, including a Kenny Chesney concert and the Brett Favre Packers Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Wayne Wichlacz, director of IT for the Packers, said the network wasn’t advertised at those events but was still found and used by fans in attendance.

Like at other Extreme deployments, the Packers will put together a group of “Wi-Fi coaches,” network-savvy people who will roam the stands on game days to help fans connect. According to the Packers they will partner with and help train local high school children to be the “coaches,” a unique twist.

Green Bay is the second NFL franchise to announce a new network built by Extreme for the upcoming season, following the news of an Extreme network being installed at the Baltimore Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium. By our unofficial count this is the eighth NFL stadium to get an Extreme Wi-Fi deployment.

Wi-Fi APs visible on press box structure

Wi-Fi APs visible on press box structure

Verizon, which does not comment publicly on its Wi-Fi deployments, has also backed Wi-Fi networks for NFL stadiums in Seattle and Detroit, as well as at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. If the Green Bay network is like Seattle’s, Verizon customers can set their devices to automatically connect to the Wi-Fi network when it is detected. There will be no extra charge for non-Verizon users at Lambeau, and again if the network works like Seattle’s there won’t be any difference in performance between Verizon and non-Verizon customers on the Wi-Fi network. Verizon also built the DAS at Lambeau, which was already operational prior to this season. It’s not known if other carriers are on the Verizon DAS or not.

The deployment at Lambeau was no doubt a special challenge, given the historic nature of the venue and the lack of overhang space for APs for much of the bowl seating. Look for a more detailed profile of the network deployment in our upcoming Stadium Tech Report next month!

Baltimore Ravens pick Extreme Networks for M&T Bank Stadium Wi-Fi

M&T Bank Stadium. All photos: Baltimore Ravens (click on any photo for a larger image)

M&T Bank Stadium. All photos: Baltimore Ravens (click on any photo for a larger image)

The NFL regular season hasn’t started yet, but Extreme Networks picked up another NFL win this week, being selected to provide the Wi-Fi network gear for the Baltimore Ravens M&T Bank Stadium.

According to press releases from the team and Extreme, Extreme will install approximately 800 Wi-Fi APs to provide wireless service to the seating and concourse areas of the stadium. The $6.5 million network will be designed and deployed by integrator PCM Inc. of El Segundo, Calif., and the team app will be developed by YinzCam. According to the Ravens M&T Bank Stadium has a seating capacity of 71,000 for football.

The Ravens are also unveiling a new 3-D video system called freeD that the team said shows replays from every possible angle, like the replays seen on newscasts that can circle around the field of view.

Team coming onto the field at M&T Bank Stadium

Team coming onto the field at M&T Bank Stadium

The first preseason game for the Ravens is against the New Orleans Saints on Aug. 13 and according to a video accompanying the announcement the Wi-Fi and the freeD TV will be available then. (Any Ravens fans who can confirm next week, please feel free to do so here!)

We’ll try to get more details on the deployment but by our count this is the seventh NFL team to use Extreme Wi-Fi gear for stadium Wi-Fi, joining the New England Patriots, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Seattle Seahawks, the Tennessee Titans, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Cincinnati Bengals. Like in other deployments, the Ravens plan to use Wi-Fi coaches to help fans connect to the network. Extreme Networks is a preferred supplier of Wi-Fi technology to the NFL, a deal that does not guarantee that teams have to use Extreme but one that does provide preferential pricing if they do. Extreme is also the official Wi-Fi analytics provider to the NFL, and its Purview analytics software will be used in Baltimore, according to Extreme and the team.

Wi-Fi deal at Houston’s NRG Stadium looks like it’s going to 5 Bars… is Ruckus involved as well?

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 11.43.48 PMWe knew the Houston Texans were getting Wi-Fi put in at NRG Stadium this year, but until we saw this report on HoustonChronicle.com by reporter David Barron we didn’t know that integrator 5 Bars will be leading the deployment, with stadium management firm SMG chipping in for some of the projected $2.9 million cost, according to the story.

The report from Houston, which apparently got its information from a meeting of the directors of the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp., says that the deal for 5 Bars still has to be ratified in August, so we may not be at the end of this story yet. Industry sources recently interviewed by Mobile Sports Report have tabbed Ruckus Wireless as the main Wi-Fi gear supplier for the 71,500-seat NRG Stadium deployment, which makes sense since Ruckus and 5 Bars worked together for the recent Wi-Fi deployment at Angels Stadium in Anaheim. Neither Ruckus nor 5 Bars would confirm any details, however (like the cost — does $2.9 million for Wi-Fi sound low to anyone?), so the Ruckus part of the story remains a rumor until we hear more.

We’ll try to round up more details on this story after we recover from a whirlwind couple days at the recent SEAT 2015 conference in San Francisco — according to another Houston Chronicle report, Verizon has installed a new DAS at the stadium, which will be the host venue for Super Bowl LI in February of 2017.

UPDATE: IBM: Sorry! No IPTV deal yet for new Atlanta NFL stadium

Artist's overhead view of new Atlanta NFL stadium

Artist’s overhead view of new Atlanta NFL stadium

Update, 7/9/15, 5 p.m. PT: Sports app developer YinzCam has apparently not yet won the deal to provide IPTV technology for the new NFL stadium being built for the Atlanta Falcons, two days after an IBM exec said that they had.

According to Jim Rushton, global leader and partner in IBM’s sports and entertainment practice, he made some “factually incorrect” statements during a panel presentation Tuesday at the Association of Luxury Suite Directors (ALSD) conference in San Francisco. During his talk Rushton provided some high-level details of IBM’s plans to provide wireless networks and other technologies inside the 71,000-seat, $1.4 billion stadium that is scheduled to open in 2017, and both in his talk and presentation said that app developer YinzCam would be the IPTV technology provider for the new stadium.

However, in a subsequent phone call Thursday evening, Rushton said his statements about YinzCam were “factually incorrect,” and that in fact no contract has yet been awarded for the IPTV technology to be used at the Atlanta stadium. Hence this update to a previous version of the story which led with the YinzCam news, which was mainly new to us since Rushton didn’t name any other potential subcontractors, including the vendors who will be supplying gear for the passive optical network (PON) at the heart of the network or the provider of the Wi-Fi and/or DAS gear that will provide the stadium’s planned wireless connectivity.

However, we will stick with our original speculation, which pegs the leading candidates for optical gear and Wi-Fi equipment as likely Corning and Aruba Networks, who respectively supplied those same technologies for the IBM-led network deployment at Texas A&M University’s Kyle Field, where YinzCam also provided IPTV technology as well as technology for the stadium app. (Daktronics has already been announced as the supplier of the new planned Halo Screen video board.) So if YinzCam hasn’t actually inked a deal for IPTV in Atlanta yet, we will still keep them at the “most likely to win the contract” status.

During his talk Rushton said that network technologies still hadn’t been picked for Atlanta, with “proof of concept” testing still taking place in labs on site at the already-active construction zone. He also would not say whether YinzCam would also be part of the Atlanta Stadium app. YinzCam CEO Priya Narasimhan did not respond to email inquiries about the Atlanta deal (and maybe now we know why). On the Wi-Fi side it will be interesting to see if IBM still chooses to work with Aruba now that Aruba is part of HP after a $3 billion acquisition earlier this year.

Like at Texas A&M, IBM came late to the Atlanta stadium development process, but is claiming that its plan to build an internal fiber backbone for both Wi-Fi and DAS deployments has already saved space, time and money. Rushton said that in Atlanta the DAS headend will be located off the stadium site, a switch that opened up 10,000 square feet of stadium space.

Levi’s Stadium, AT&T Stadium tops for stadium Wi-Fi usage

Niners' Flickr promotion on scoreboard at Levi's Stadium. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Niners’ Flickr promotion on scoreboard at Levi’s Stadium. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

There’s no competition and no wagering, but if you wanted to find the sports stadium that handles the most Wi-Fi traffic, two of your top finalists would no doubt be Levi’s Stadium and AT&T Stadium, which both recently released some season-long Wi-Fi statistics to Mobile Sports Report, including year-long totals in excess of 40 terabytes for both facilities.

Levi’s Stadium, the brand-new home of the San Francisco 49ers located in Santa Clara, Calif., has carried more than 45 TB of traffic on its Wi-Fi network through 20 events, according to Chuck Lukaszewski, very high density architect in the CTO Office of Aruba Networks, an HP Company (Aruba is the Wi-Fi gear suppler to Levi’s Stadium). During those events — 10 of which were NFL games, the other 10 a list including college games, concerts, a hockey game and a wrestling event — the Levi’s Stadium network saw approximately 415,000 unique users, Lukaszewski said.

Down in Texas, the home of the Dallas Cowboys reported some similar Wi-Fi statistics, with a total tonnage mark of 42.87 TB across 11 NFL games and six college games, according to John Winborn, chief information officer for the Dallas Cowboys Football Club. During those games the AT&T Stadium Wi-Fi network saw more than 500,000 unique connections, Winborn said.

AT&T Stadium at College Football Playoff championship game. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

AT&T Stadium at College Football Playoff championship game. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

For comparison, for football games Levi’s Stadium has a normal capacity of 68,500, with additional seating available (including on-field seats for concerts and other events) that can bring capacity to nearly 80,000. AT&T Stadium has a listed football capacity of 85,000, but that number can also be expanded with standing-room only numbers; according to Wikipedia AT&T Stadium had a record 105,121 fans in attendance for a Cowboys football game on Sept. 21, 2009, and had 108,713 fans in the stadium for the NBA All-Star game on Feb. 14, 2010.

Single-day connections for both pass Super Bowl marks

And while the most recent Super Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., still holds what we believe to be the highest single-game data mark for Wi-Fi traffic at 6.2 TB, both Levi’s Stadium and AT&T Stadium have had events with Wi-Fi usage totals exceeding 4 TB, with March’s WrestleMania 31 hitting 4.5 TB at Levi’s Stadium and the January College Football Playoff championship game recording 4.93 TB of traffic at AT&T Stadium.

Scoreboard promo for the Levi's Wi-Fi network

Scoreboard promo for the Levi’s Wi-Fi network

Both AT&T Stadium and Levi’s Stadium surpassed the Super Bowl when it came to high-water marks for single-game connected user totals; somewhat ironically, AT&T Stadium set what is probably the highest-ever Wi-Fi connection total of 38,534 unique users (out of 91,174 in attendance) during last season’s home opener against the visiting 49ers. According to Winborn, the total was reached “largely due to heavy in-game promotion around the Wi-Fi upgrades and new stadium app.”

At Levi’s Stadium, the season home opener against the Chicago Bears saw 29,429 unique users on the Wi-Fi network, which was more than the 25,936 unique devices connected to the network at Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona. Levi’s Stadium also saw the highest number of concurrently connected users, 18,900, at the Bears game, compared to a high of 17,322 at the Super Bowl. At AT&T Stadium, Winborn said the season high for concurrently connected users was 27,523, recorded during the Cowboys’ home playoff game against the Detroit Lions.

Looking ahead to Super Bowl 50

According to Aruba’s Lukaszewski, the Wi-Fi network at Levi’s Stadium “did what it was supposed to do” last season, carrying high loads of wireless traffic. One stat the Levi’s team invented for its own network was “amount of time the network spent carrying more than 1 Gbps” — a total that Lukaszewski said reached 21 hours and 30 minutes across the 10 NFL events, and 31 hours 40 minutes across all 20 events.

For the upcoming football season and the hosting of Super Bowl 50 next February, the Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi network will get some strategic Wi-Fi AP upgrades, specifically along some of the concourse areas where groups of standing fans had effectively blocked signals from under-the-seat APs near the tops of seating rows. Lukaszewski said the stadium team would add additional APs in areas where fans are spending time standing, as well as in concourse and plaza bar areas, where some structures were added during the season. Levi’s Stadium is also planning to deploy temporary under-the-seat APs when additional bleacher seats are added for the Super Bowl, Lukaszewski said.

New Atlanta football stadium picks IBM as lead technology integrator

New Atlanta football stadium under construction. Credit all images: New Atlanta Stadium

New Atlanta football stadium under construction. Credit all images: New Atlanta Stadium

The yet-to-be named new football stadium under construction in Atlanta has selected IBM as its lead technology integrator, somewhat officially welcoming the new 800-pound gorilla to the stadium technology marketplace.

While computing giant IBM has dabbled in sports deployments before — mainly contributing technology as part of its corporate sponsorship of events like The Masters in golf and the U.S. Open for tennis — only recently has Big Blue gotten into the large-venue technology integration game. And while IBM’s recent deal as technology integrator for the revamp of Texas A&M’s Kyle Field was probably its true debut, for the new Atlanta stadium IBM will lead the selection, design and deployment of a wide range of technologies, including but not limited to the core Wi-Fi and DAS networks that will provide in-venue wireless connectivity.

Due to open in March of 2017, the new $1.4 billion stadium is expected to hold 71,000 fans for football, and up to 83,000 fans for other events like basketball or concerts. And while soccer and concerts and basketball will certainly be part of its events schedule, the NFL Atlanta Falcons and owner Arthur Blank are driving the bus on the new building, picking IBM in part to help satisfy a desire to build a venue that will be second to none when it comes to fan experience.

IBM’s size and experience a draw for Atlanta

Interior stadium design rendering

Interior stadium design rendering

In addition to Wi-Fi and DAS network buildouts, IBM will design systems to control the expected 2,000-plus digital displays in the planned stadium and will also oversee other technology-related parts of the stadium, including video security, physical door controls and a video intercom system, according to an announcement made today. IBM will also partner with the stadium owners to develop as yet-undetermined applications to “leverage the power of mobility to create a highly contextual, more personalized game day experience for fans, all through the integration of analytics, mobile, social, security and cloud technologies.”

In a phone interview Thursday, Jared Miller, chief technology officer for Blank’s namesake AMB Sports and Entertainment (AMBSE) group, said IBM’s depth and breadth in technology, applications and design made it a somewhat easy choice as lead technology partner.

Miller said the stadium developers looked at the number of different technology systems that would exist within the building, and ideally wanted to identify a single partner to help build and control them all, instead of multiple providers who might just have a single “silo” of expertise.

Proposed stadium exterior

Proposed stadium exterior

“IBM is unique with its span of technology footprint,” Miller said. He also cited IBM’s ability to not just deploy technology but to also help determine what the technology could be used for, with analytics and application design.

“They’ve looked at the [stadium] opportunity in a different manner, thinking about what we could do with the network once it’s built,” Miller said.

IBM, which also has a sizable consulting business, created a group targeting “interactive experiences” about two years ago, according to Shannon Miller, the North America Fan Experience Lead for the IBM Interactive Experience group. Miller (no relation to Jared Miller), also interviewed by phone Thursday, said IBM had been working with Arthur Blank and the Falcons for more than a year to determine how to make the new stadium “the best fan experience in the world.”

And while IBM is somewhat of a newcomer to the stadium-technology integration game, IBM’s Miller said the company not only understands “how to make digital and physical work together,” but also has resources in areas including innovation, technology development and design that smaller firms may not have. And while the Kyle Field project was ambitious, IBM’s Miller said the Atlanta operation will be much bigger.

“The size and scale of what we’re going to do [in Atlanta] will be unique,” he said.

No suppliers picked yet for Wi-Fi or DAS

For industry watchers, IBM and the Falcons team have not yet picked technology suppliers for discrete parts of the coming wireless network, such as Wi-Fi access points and DAS gear. (Daktronics has already been announced as the supplier of the new planned Halo Screen video board.) But those vendor decisions will likely be coming soon, since the stadium is under a hard deadline to open for the first game of the Major League Soccer season in March of 2017.

“We’re working fast and furious on design, and we want to identify [the gear suppliers] as early as possible,” said AMBSE’s Miller.

IBM and AMBSE did announce that the stadium’s network will be fiber-based, and will probably use Corning as a fiber and Passive Optical Network (PON) technology provider, though that choice was not announced or confirmed. IBM and Corning partnered to install a fiber network core for Wi-Fi and DAS at Texas A&M’s Kyle Field, believed to be the first large fiber network in a large stadium anywhere.

The Atlanta deal puts IBM solidly into the rapidly expanding field of stadium technology integration, which includes companies like CDW (which led network deployments at the University of Nebraska and the University of Phoenix Stadium) as well as stadium ownership groups, like the San Francisco 49ers, and technology name sponsors like AT&T, which has partnered with owners for technology and network deployments at venues like AT&T Park and AT&T Stadium.

Overhead view

Overhead view