October 30, 2014

Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi update: Usage down from record, but still strong — 2.4 TB for Eagles game

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

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

With three NFL games and now one collegiate contest under its belt, the Wi-Fi network at Levi’s Stadium is still handling big loads of data traffic, though not quite at the Super Bowl-beating level of 3.3 Terabytes recorded at the Niners’ home opener.

According to statistics provided by Niners vice president for technology Dan Williams, the Levi’s Wi-Fi network carried 2.4 TB of data during the Sept. 28 game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and another 2 TB during the Oct. 5 contest with the Kansas City Chiefs, both sellouts with reported attendance of 70,799 fans. And at an Oct. 24 college game between Cal and Oregon with 55,575 fans in attendance, the network carried 1.5 TB of traffic.

As you might be able to guess from the bandwidth numbers, the Sept. 28 game also had more users on the network, with 22,942 unique users, compared to 21,133 at the Oct. 5 game. For Cal-Oregon the unique user count was 13,508. At the Niners’ regular-season home opener on Sept. 14, there were more than 30,000 fans using the Wi-Fi network, with a peak of 19,000 simultaneous connections. The peak numbers for the later dates were 15,500 for the Sept. 28 game, 14,500 for the Oct. 5 game, and 8,400 for the college game.

In-seat and express food orders stay strong

Screen grab from Levi's Stadium app showing in-seat food delivery option. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, Mobile Sports Report.

Screen grab from Levi’s Stadium app showing in-seat food delivery option.

Food and beverage orders via the Levi’s Stadium app appear to be holding between the 1,500-2,000 order level for both the express pickup option as well as the in-seat delivery, with both features available to every seat in the house. According to Williams, for the Eagles game there were 1,144 express pick-up orders and 1,652 in-seat deliveries, while at the Kansas City game there were 1,162 express and 1,712 in-seat orders. At the Cal-Oregon game, where many fans were probably not as aware of the Levi’s app functionality, there were 551 express orders and 308 in-seat deliveries.

The video-replay feature of the Levi’s app also continues to attract solid interest, with 1,297 unique users watching 5,089 replays at the Eagles game and 1,111 unique users watching 4,986 replays at the Kansas City game. At the college game 234 fans used the replay feature, watching 1,059 replays.

One more interesting stat provided by Williams — the Apple iPhone is the overwhelming favorite device for connecting to the Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi, with 62 percent share for the Sept. 28 game, and 60 percent share for both the Oct. 5 and Oct. 24 games. Android devices represented 24 percent (Sept. 28), 26 percent (Oct. 5) and 25 percent of all devices, while Apple iPads accounted for 2 percent, 3 percent and 1 percent of devices for the respective Sept. 28, Oct. 5 and Oct. 24 games.

DAS usage also remains strong, but not tops in NFL

On the DAS side of the Levi’s Stadium network we have some stats from AT&T to share (but none from any other carriers). According to AT&T, for the Oct. 5 game AT&T customers used 549 GB of data, which was only the fourth-highest AT&T DAS total for that weekend. Dallas (827 GB), San Diego (716 GB) and New Orleans (598 GB) all had higher AT&T DAS traffic totals for that weekend’s games. (Remember, these are results for stadiums with AT&T DAS networks only, not for all stadiums.) For the Sept. 14 game, the Levi’s Stadium AT&T DAS recorded 673 GB of traffic, according to AT&T.

Seahawks, Verizon tap Extreme for CenturyLink Field Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi access point antennas visible on poles. All photos, credit: Extreme Networks/Seattle Seahawks.

Wi-Fi access point antennas visible on poles. All photos, credit: Extreme Networks/Seattle Seahawks.

Ending one of the bigger stadium Wi-Fi mysteries of 2014, the Seattle Seahawks and Verizon announced today that they are using Extreme Networks Wi-Fi gear and analytics software to power the new Wi-Fi network at CenturyLink field in Seattle, home of the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

While the network has (reportedly) been live since the start of the NFL regular season, today’s press release is the first official confirmation that the network exists from Verizon or the Seahawks. Previously, Mobile Sports Report had confirmed the network’s existence in an exclusive interview with the NFL’s CIO, Michelle McKenna-Doyle, where McKenna-Doyle said she had helped set up the connection between Verizon and CenturyLink. But no specifics on gear suppliers or breadth and depth of network were available until today.

According to Norman Rice, senior vice president of corporate development at Extreme Networks, CenturyLink Field is the sixth NFL stadium to use Extreme’s IndentFi high-density Wi-Fi gear for its Wi-Fi network, joining deployments by the New England Patriots, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Tennessee Titans and the Cincinnati Bengals. All six franchises including Seattle will also use Extreme’s Purview analytics software, which helps provide Wi-Fi usage patterns and connectivity information that allows network administrators to fine tune the network.

We are scheduled to speak with some of the CenturyLink Field IT folks today so we will update this post with more info, including (we hope) a Wi-Fi access point count and some more details about the Seahawks app, which apparently has some nifty live video and replay features. Verizon has also said it has installed a DAS at CenturyLink, but there is no information on whether or not it is a neutral DAS and if so whether or not other carriers are on it.

Below are some more photos of the Wi-Fi install, including a railing antenna… more info soon.

Railing AP

Railing AP

More pole-mounted Wi-Fi gear.

More pole-mounted Wi-Fi gear.

N.Y. Giants tap Ruckus for team headquarters Wi-Fi

It’s not a stadium deal but it is a win in the NFL Wi-Fi market — according to a press release out today, the New York Giants of the NFL are using Ruckus Wireless Wi-Fi gear to provide wireless connectivity at the team’s practice facility and administrative headquarters.

Unlike your average corporate office building, the Giants’ Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, N.J., has some characteristics common to football stadiums — mainly outdoor practice fields with bleachers, where fans attended preseason workouts. According to the news release, Ruckus channel partner Goodman Networks installed more than 90 Ruckus ZoneFlex indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi access points this summer to bring connectivity to the practice fields, as well as to all the inside meeting and office spaces. The Wi-Fi network, Ruckus said, was available to fans this past July.

“First and foremost, we wanted to provide reliable Wi-Fi access to our fans during training camp, even though it’s a short timeframe, because the team’s fans are so important to the franchise,” said Justin Warren, vice president of Information Technology for the New York Football Giants, in a prepared statement. “Offering Wi-Fi on the practice fields during training camp is intended to be as fan-friendly as it is important to the team’s football operations.”

According to the release, the Giants’ administrative and executive staff are able to cut cellular data costs by using the headquarters Wi-Fi instead; the network is also available for working media who are at the facility on weekdays.

Wi-Fi Whispers: Standing fans and marching band interference; NFL sideline Wi-Fi fixed?

Baylor students standing at football game. Photo credit: Rod Aydelotte, WacoTrib.com

Baylor students standing at football game. Photo credit: Rod Aydelotte, WacoTrib.com

Welcome back to another posting of Wi-Fi Whispers, our once-active “notes” column that I think makes sense to start back up again. What I like most about this feature is that it gives me a chance to comment and “move the ball forward” on other stadium Wi-Fi (and DAS) stories I’ve seen out there, or to correct/comment/criticize as needs be.

STAND UP FOR WI-FI: First up is a story about the Wi-Fi network at Baylor University’s new McLane Stadium, and how it ran into some unexpected interference — namely, the fact that a lot of Baylor students like to stay standing during the game, something that messed with the initial access point and antenna deployment.

According to a story by Regina Dennis at WacoTrib.com, Baylor will be tweaking the Wi-Fi antennas to compensate for the standing fans, which is apparently a Baylor tradition (and something we’ve seen at other schools). One of the more interesting quirks of Wi-Fi reception is the fact that water is a big blocker of signals in the unlicensed bands used by Wi-Fi; and since human bodies are mostly water, a standing fan could become a sort of Wi-Fi shield. Here’s a quote from the story that tells more:

“There’s really no issue with the design, it works absolutely perfect — as long as people are either sitting in their seats or standing on the ground,” said Pattie Orr, Baylor’s vice president of information technology. “It doesn’t ruin the reception, but it makes the angles of the antenna not the best option.”

The story also notes that the Wi-Fi signals were degraded in the area where the Baylor band sits, in part because of the large instruments used. Extreme Networks, supplier of the Wi-Fi gear in McLane Stadium, will help Baylor fine-tune the system, according to the story. And we are sure we’ll hear some interesting stories about “tuba interference” at next year’s SEAT conference.

SIDELINE WI-FI IS FINE, SAYS NFL: While it’s a little tough getting tech information out of the NFL these days due to the public-relations siege the league is facing, we did get a source to comment on background about an article saying that the league’s sideline Wi-Fi isn’t working well. The article is basically a late follow-up to an issue that “surfaced” early in the season, when New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick complained that the new system of Microsoft Surface tablets and league-provided Wi-Fi wasn’t up to snuff.

The follow-on article at TechTarget’s SearchNetworking site says in its headline that “NFL’s Cisco-based stadium Wi-Fi frustrates tablet-toting coaches,” but it only has one coach, Belichick, complaining, and it doesn’t have any new reactions or information other than the original Boston Globe story. What it does have is confirmation that Cisco equipment is used in the sideline Wi-Fi deployment, then several reactions from industry analysts — none of whom have any actual information about the system or any actual, proven or reported failures.

While it’s possible that there have been more glitches, our question is, why write an article about it if you can’t find more than the single episode, from someone you haven’t really talked to in order to find out what really happened? Our league source, who would only comment on background, said there were issues with network interference during the preseason, but that now the systems are working in all stadiums. Of course, if any coaching staff types beg to differ you can always let us know here at MSR, but our guess is that if the systems were failing you’d hear complaints since NFL head coaches aren’t the silent type.

Why can’t the sideline networks just tap into the stadium Wi-Fi, especially in places where the new networks are powerful? According to Dan Williams, the vice president of technology for the San Francisco 49ers, the sideline networks need to be separate for security and objectivity reasons — meaning, so you can’t accuse the home team of screwing up the network to gain advantage. As soon as we can, we’ll get a more thorough report together on the deployments, which we think are pretty interesting — and probably a lot better than running photos down a wire from the press box, like they used to in the old days.

LEVI’S STADIUM ANNOUNCES JMA AS DAS GEAR SUPPLIER: You may have read our feature about Levi’s Stadium DAS deployer DAS Group Professionals, but for a little deeper inside-baseball dive there is a press release from the Niners today announcing that JMA Wireless is one of the gear suppliers behind the DGP DAS. JMA, also known inside the industry for the Teko Telecom products it uses, is behind other stadium DAS deployments, including at the Anaheim Angels’ ballpark.

Stadium Tech Report: Wi-Fi + advanced stadium app helps Philadelphia Eagles ‘Linc’ with fans

Wi-Fi gear on the exterior of Lincoln Financial Field. Credit all photos: Philadelphia Eagles

Wi-Fi gear on the exterior of Lincoln Financial Field. Credit all photos: Philadelphia Eagles

With victories in their first three games, the Philadelphia Eagles are off to a fast start this NFL season. And from a networking standpoint, Eagles fans are keeping pace, with Wi-Fi connections at Lincoln Financial Field already surpassing last year’s totals.

Now in the second season of having full-stadium Wi-Fi available for fans, the Eagles’ technology team is pushing the needle forward, much like the high-powered offense head coach Chip Kelly runs on the field. An already advanced stadium app will soon get even more video features, including instant replay, to further enhance the game experience for the 69,176 fans who fill the “Linc” on home-game Sundays.

According to Anne Gordon, the Eagles’ senior vice president for media and communications, there were more than 21,000 fans using the in-stadium Wi-Fi network at the team’s Sept. 7 opening game, a total that surpasssed the 19,671 users on the network at the Eagles’ final game last season, a 26-24 loss to the New Orleans Saints in a wild card game on Jan. 4, 2014.

Anne Gordon, SVP Media and Communications, Philadelphia Eagles

Anne Gordon, SVP Media and Communications, Philadelphia Eagles

Along with the growth in user numbers is an even greater jump in the amount of data being used; according to Gordon, the Eagles’ Extreme Networks-powered Wi-Fi network carried 946 Gigabytes of data in the Sept. 7 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, up from around 400 GB used during the playoff game in January. Unlike some other stadiums with Wi-Fi networks, Gordon said that the Linc network regularly sees fans download more data than they upload — a reflection of the team’s strategy to provide a wide range of custom content for fans to help improve the game-day experience.

“We want to help them become better fans, and improve their enjoyment of the game,” said Gordon in a recent phone interview. “That was our vision from the beginning.”

But to get to that vision, the Eagles first had to give fans a way to get the content. That meant using some of the $125 million in recent renovation fees to build out the stadium-wide Wi-Fi network, which Gordon said eliminated past connectivity headaches for Philadelphia fans.

Build it, and show them how to use it

Screen shot of Eagles' stadium app

Screen shot of Eagles’ stadium app

“Prior to the 2013 season, there were real issues trying to connect mobile devices in the stadium,” Gordon said. “You might get a signal, but then walk 20 steps and lose it. When we talked to fans, improving the wireless network [in the stadium] was high on their list.”

Working with partner Extreme Networks, which now runs Wi-Fi networks in four other NFL stadiums, the Eagles had stadium-wide coverage ready to go before the 2013 season kicked off. But unlike some venues, which do little to promote their in-stadium networks, the Eagles and Extreme brought some more NFL flavor to their wireless experience in the form of “Wi-Fi coaches,” network-savvy people who roamed the stands in readily identifiable clothing, offering personal assistance to fans trying to connect.

“We put notes in the cup holders the first few games of last season, and then had the coaches with jackets that said ‘ask me’ on them,” Gordon said. That little bit of assistance, she said, spreads quickly.

“If you connect one person, that fan shows six more people in the row [how to connect],” Gordon said. “Our fans took to the network immediately.”

And just in case fans need a refresher, the team’s website has perhaps the league’s best help pages, with simple screen shots showing how to install, open and use the most popular features on the team app.

Out front with app features

As we found out in our recent report on NFL stadium technology deployments, there are many teams with stadium Wi-Fi networks, but the level of application and content delivery varies from team to team. With a feature lineup that includes in-stadium access to the NFL’s popular RedZone channel alongside a live feed from the stadium’s large video boards, the Eagles’ app was clearly among the league leaders when it launched last year. And soon, Gordon said the Eagles will add more live camera views and replay choices to the menu, developments made possible in part by the team’s close relationship with app designer YinzCam Inc.

“We have a unique relationship with YinzCam, and work hand in hand with them [on new developments],” Gordon said. “We’re blessed in that we get a lot of things in our app first.” The Pittsburgh-based YinzCam, which has designed team and stadium apps for a long list of sports-team customers, is a preferred team-app partner of the NFL, which was an early investor in the company.

Can you find the Wi-Fi access point?

Can you find the Wi-Fi access point?

With a long history of full houses, Gordon said the team doesn’t need to use its network or app strategy to try to put people in seats.

“We are continuously sold out, so thankfully we don’t have to sell tickets [with the app],” said Gordon, noting that some fans have had season tickets in their families for several generations. That fact allows the Eagles’ tech team to make their digital strategy “100 percent about improving the game experience,” Gordon said. “We’re giving them a reason to download and consume.”

Not possible without the network

With more than 700,000 downloads of the stadium app so far, it appears as if the Eagles have a winning digital strategy to match the team’s recent on-field successes. Now the biggest challenge may be finding enough Internet bandwidth to keep the fans supplied with the in-game content.

“We are definitely bumping up against our [bandwidth] pipe threshold,” Gordon said. So far, it looks like the campaign to use content to improve the experience at the Linc is working — along with the network that links it all.

“If the [Wi-Fi] network doesn’t work, people get frustrated and don’t use the app,” Gordon said. “The network is what had to happen to make this vision possible.”

Stadium Tech Report: THE FOOTBALL ISSUE arrives, with extensive coverage of Levi’s Stadium launch and tech reports on all 31 NFL stadiums

STR3_ThumbMobile Sports Report is pleased to announce the arrival of THE FOOTBALL ISSUE, our third Stadium Tech Report for 2014. As the title suggests this long-form report focuses on technology deployments at U.S. football stadiums, with an extensive inside look at the technology inside Levi’s Stadium, the new facility for the San Francisco 49ers. The report is available for free download from our site.

In addition to our Levi’s coverage, the Q3 issue of Stadium Tech Report also includes team-by-team reports on all 31 NFL stadiums, with a focus on Wi-Fi and DAS deployments. Our research found that while there are still 10 stadiums without fan-facing Wi-Fi, there is a lot of innovation going around league-wide, including big new digital displays in Jacksonville and Dallas, and new Wi-Fi and app deployments in other facilities.

Included in the report is an exclusive MSR interview with Michelle McKenna-Doyle, the NFL’s chief information officer, who talks about how the league office acts as a guide to helping teams with their tech deployments. We also have additional insight, analysis, and more tech profiles, and the good news is it is all free to read! Simply head to our report download page and get your free copy today!

We’d like to take a quick moment to thank our report sponsors, without whom we wouldn’t be able to offer such extensive original reporting and analysis free of charge. Our list for the Q3 2014 report includes SOLiD, Crown Castle, TE Connectivity, Extreme Networks, Aruba Networks, Mobilitie and DAS Group Professionals.