November 27, 2015

Stadium Tech Report: World Series set new wireless records at AT&T Park

AT&T Park during the World Series. Photo: SF Giants (click on any photo for a larger image)

AT&T Park during the World Series. Photo: SF Giants (click on any photo for a larger image)

The most-connected park in all of baseball is still finding ways to serve more people more data, as proven by the wireless consumption records set by the San Francisco Giants during last year’s World Series.

The traffic generated at the three games at AT&T Park was “definitely more than anything we had ever experienced before,” said Bill Schlough, senior vice president and chief information officer for the Giants. The combined download and upload numbers for both the park’s Wi-Fi network and AT&T traffic on its DAS network averaged 2.08 terabytes per game, Schlough said, with a high of 2.14 TB of total traffic for Game 4.

Since AT&T Park has had Wi-Fi longer than any sports stadium in the U.S. – this season will be its 12th with stadium-wide Wi-Fi – and since last year was the Giants’ third World Series in five years – Schlough’s team was perhaps a bit more prepared than most IT staffs for the expected demands.

“The traffic followed the standard trend, where each round [of the playoffs] saw successively higher demand,” Schlough said. Upload totals also increase as the team progresses through the playoffs, he said, perhaps more so now that fans of all types are getting more adept at adding multimedia to their messaging.

“You don’t just send a text anymore,” Schlough said. “The expectation is that you will send a picture and or a video.”

Replacing Jay Z and Beyonce at the top

Editor’s note: This story is reprinted from our latest Stadium Tech Report, the BASEBALL (and Soccer!) ISSUE, which is available now for free download from our site. The report includes a focus on baseball and soccer stadium technology deployments, and team-by-team coverage of technology deployments for all 30 MLS teams — AND all 20 MLS teams. DOWNLOAD THE REPORT now and read for yourself!

The spoils of victory. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

The spoils of victory. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Prior to last year’s games with the Kansas City Royals, the top Wi-Fi traffic event at AT&T Park had been a couple concerts earlier in the sum- mer starring Jay Z and Beyonce, where Schlough and his staff saw upload totals of 410 GB on the second night of the show. The World Series games blew by that previous record total with an average of 700 GB uploaded per game, with a high of 750 GB for Game 5.

Wi-Fi download numbers for the three series games averaged 890 GB, Schlough said, with a max of 940 GB during Game 3. For the AT&T customers on the park’s DAS, download num- bers for the Series averaged 320 GB per game with a maximum of 350 GB for Game 4. DAS upload totals were an average of 170 GB per game.

Not even knowing you’re on Wi-Fi

What amazed or satisfied Schlough even more than the raw data numbers was the Wi-Fi take rate, or the number of fans connected to the network. For the Series it hovered right around 50 percent, meaning that every other fan in the 42,000-seat venue was using the network.

The view from left field corner. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

The view from left field corner. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Regular-season Wi-Fi take rates, he said, were usually in the 30-percent range, climbing to 40 percent as the playoffs progressed. One thing that helps people connect to the Wi-Fi network at AT&T Park is the overall ubiquity of AT&T hotspots – “If you’ve accessed another AT&T hotspot anywhere else, you get automatically activated when you’re here [at AT&T Park],” Schlough said.

Fan surveys, he said, showed that many people didn’t even know they were connected to the Wi-Fi network instead of the cellular networks. “I think that’s cool,” Schlough said. “Fans should come to an event and be universally connected, without having to think about it. They should just be able to turn on their phones and share.”

More APs for the upper deck

For 2015, Schlough and his team will finish off the latest Wi-Fi upgrade with the installation of another 400 under-seat APs for the stadium’s upper decks, which will bring the park’s AP total to almost 1,700 when it’s finished. Already this year Schlough said that fans at Giants games are using more data than last year – an average of 1.1 TB per game over the first 10 games of the 2015 season, compared to an average of 650 GB per game over the same time period in 2014.

Giants fans check out the three WS trophies, at a 2015 season game. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Giants fans check out the three WS trophies, at a 2015 season game. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Though he didn’t want to dive into details, since last year Schlough said the network is seeing “a lot more photos and a lot more videos.” He also said his team is on the lookout for use of livestreaming apps like Periscope and Meerkat,
which he expects might happen at AT&T Park before it happens anywhere else, perhaps due to the overall technological bent of the local populace.

“We feel we have a relatively unique fan base,” Schlough said. “If anyone is going to do it [livestream during games] it’ll probably happen first in this region.”

Stadium Tech Report: Kauffman Stadium gets a Royal Wi-Fi Upgrade

Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium, during last year's World Series. Photo: MLB Photos

Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium, during last year’s World Series. Photo: MLB Photos (click on any picture for a larger image)

In addition to being good at baseball last fall, the Kansas City Royals were a little bit lucky, too – especially when their park’s new Wi-Fi network got installed just before the Royals began their historic postseason run.

While no team knows for sure if it can plan ahead for postseason play, the fact that Major League Baseball was able to complete its install of a Wi-Fi network at Kauffman Stadium last August ensured that the playoff and World Series crowds in Kansas City had high-bandwidth connectivity, finishing the season with a night that saw more than 2 terabytes of wireless traffic inside the stadium’s famed curved structures.

“The timing [of the installation] was somewhat fortuitous,” said Brian Himstedt, the Kansas City Royals’ senior director for information systems, who confirmed that plans for Wi-Fi were in motion long before the Royals gained their wild- card spot. According to Himstedt, the Royals had already been scheduled for one of the first deployments in the Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) plan to bring Wi-Fi to every team in the league, with actual installation taking place in midsummer.

“The idea was to have it up and running during our last three homestands, and use that as a test- bed for the 2015 season,” Himstedt said. Instead, the Royals found themselves with perhaps the ultimate test of any new network deployment, repeat sellout crowds for baseball’s ultimate bucket-list event. Even though it wasn’t expected, as Himstedt said, having to maintain a network because your team got all the way to Game 7 of the World Series “is a good problem to have.”

Wi-Fi antennas pointing down at Kauffman Stadium seating. Photo: MLB Photos

Wi-Fi antennas pointing down at Kauffman Stadium seating. Photo: MLB Photos

Worth the wait for MLBAM deployment

Editor’s note: This story is reprinted from our latest Stadium Tech Report, the BASEBALL (and Soccer!) ISSUE, which is available now for free download from our site. The report includes a focus on baseball and soccer stadium technology deployments, and team-by-team coverage of technology deployments for all 30 MLS teams — AND all 20 MLS teams. DOWNLOAD THE REPORT now and read for yourself!

While MLBAM’s decision to pay for a major part of the league-wide deployments no doubt sped up the Wi-Fi timetable for many participants, Himstedt said that the rollout plan (which began in earnest last year) actually delayed an original timetable to bring Wi-Fi to Kauffman.

According to Himstedt, the Royals had investigated putting Wi-Fi into the stadium before the 2012 season, when Kansas City hosted the All- Star Game. But MLBAM convinced the team to wait until its connectivity-everywhere plan became reality, in no small part due to the technical, political and most-expenses-paid attributes that became part of MLB’s Wi-Fi and DAS push.

“When we investigated it [Wi-Fi] for 2012, BAM was already talking about their plan, and we saw the comprehensiveness of what they were talking about,” Himstedt said. “In some ways it slowed us down, but when it happened, it happened right.”

Perhaps one of the biggest attributes of the MLB plan was the league’s ability to work in concert with all four of the major cellular carriers in the U.S., not just in herding the cats together so that DAS deployments would include all carriers, but in also getting the carriers to agree to foot a significant portion of the overall deployment costs.

Royals fans cheering on the blue team during the playoffs. Photo: Chris Vlesides/Kansas City Royals

Royals fans cheering on the blue team during the playoffs. Photo: Chris Vlesides/Kansas City Royals

“Dealing with the complexity of politics that exists [between] the carriers, we wouldn’t have had what the league was able to do,” Himstedt said. “Back in September of 2012, I felt disappointed that we missed an opportunity to have it [Wi-Fi] for the All-Star Game. But looking back, I see all the mistakes we could have made. I’d have to say it was worth the wait.”

Learning the curves

Opened in 1973, Kauffman Stadium has long been one of MLB’s more attractive parks, with its signature outfield fountains and its open, curved design. In 2009, the stadium underwent a $250 million renovation, which while it did not include wireless deployments it did help pave the way for Wi-Fi to come later, Himstedt said, with additions of more cable pathways and a “more robust” overall IT infrastructure.

Before the 2014 season started, Himstedt and the Kauffman Stadium IT team dug into the Wi-Fi design process, mapping out the resources and schedule for the in-season install that started in the summer.

“We knew it would take about 12 to 13 weeks [to install the network] after we said ‘go,’ “ Himstedt said. “When things began to flow we got a little but lucky with the weather and tried to plan [to do most of the work] around home stands. But we still did a lot of work on game days, right up until game time.”

Like in many other stadium retrofits, Himstedt said the biggest challenges for deploying Wi-Fi in Kauffman Stadium were “coverage and aesthetics.” Both came into play together due to the stadium’s circle-like design, which Himstedt noted means “there are no straight aisles” in the building, making it harder to deploy and tune antenna coverage.

While managing the gaps caused by the curved architecture was challenging, Himstedt said that new antenna technology from MLB supplier Cisco proved up to the task. “The [new] Cisco technology and its ability to shape signals definitely worked to our advantage, especially versus technology that was available 3 years ago,” Himstedt said.

More new Cisco technology that supports longer distances between an access point and a user also helped the Kauffman deployment, since the stadium has many long, open bowl areas with no close overhangs and no seating-section railings, two places that are popular in many other venues for Wi-Fi AP locations.

The classic curved lines of Kauffman. Photo: Chris Vlesides/Kansas City Royals

The classic curved lines of Kauffman. Photo: Chris Vlesides/Kansas City Royals

“We put antennas at the front of aisles, and in the back of the bowl, pointing down,” Himstedt said. The new antenna technology, he said, supported connectivity from 50 to 60 feet away, which he called a “huge win” for helping keep sight lines and aesthetic views uncluttered with antenna gear. When it was finished, the Wi-Fi deployment used 576 APs, Himstedt said.

The quickly discovered ‘secret’

When the Wi-Fi network finally went live for an Aug. 25 night game, Himstedt and the Royals used what we here at MSR like to call the “Fight Club” method of non-promotion: First rule of Wi-Fi, is don’t talk about the Wi-Fi.

“We were 100 percent quiet – we didn’t mention it to anybody publicly,” said Himstedt of the network availability. The theory was, by not telling anyone the IT team could test and tune a live network over a few home stands, with only about 1,000 media members and internal staff using the Wi-Fi.

But a couple hours after turning the network on, the IT staff saw 3,000 users on the network, meaning that at least 2,000 or more fans had found and connected to the unannounced Wi-Fi. While outsiders might not think Kansas City is a place where citizens are always looking for an SSID, Himstedt said the locals are “probably the most unexpectedly tech savvy” group around, perhaps thanks to the nearby location of Sprint’s corporate headquarters, as well as the fact that Google Fiber brought its first services to Kansas City, spurring some local startup activity.

Throughout the end of the regular season and through the Royals’ extended playoff run, Himstedt and the Kauffman staff kept publicly silent about the Wi-Fi (“it was completely word-of-mouth”), though Major League Baseball did make a national-press announcement and some highly sophisticated stadium technology media outlets (meaning us) did publish stories about the Wi-Fi network’s availability.

Old Glory on the field. Photo: Chris Vlesides/Kansas City Royals

Old Glory on the field. Photo: Chris Vlesides/Kansas City Royals

Himstedt, who had wanted Wi-Fi for the All-Star Game, finally got to provide wireless services to the 600+ national media members who became regular attendees at playoff games. And by the time Game 7 of the World Series rolled around – and ended heartbreakingly for Royals fans, with the potential tying run 90 feet from home plate – the Kauffman IT staff saw 16,000 users on the Wi-Fi network, with more than 2 terabytes of total traffic used during the last game of the baseball season.

“We enjoyed it [Wi-Fi] as being a pleasant surprise, an unexpected surprise for our fans,” Himstedt said.

Positioned for the future

For the 2015 season, the Kauffman Stadium IT crew is neither shy nor silent about its Wi-Fi network.

“This year we’re promoting it clear and direct, and we want fans to use it to its fullest extent,” said Himstedt. Along with promoting use of MLBAM’s signature Ballpark app for at-the-game needs, Himstedt said one of the team’s primary pushes is to encourage digital ticketing, a feature he said is already being used by all of the team’s primary season ticket holders.

Since the Kauffman Stadium complex also has all ticketed parking, those fees can also be paid via digital, a feature that went from hundreds of users to thousands this year, Himstedt said.

“The learning curve is fast – it’s pretty amazing how quickly fans adapt,” he said.

In the very near future, overall connectivity should improve by another factor as the stadium’s DAS upgrade is completed. Himstedt and his team are also just at the beginning phase of deploying and using beacons, the low-power sensing devices that can communicate with devices in close vicinity. While beacons are currently only being used for social media “check-in” purposes, Himstedt can see a future where the technology might be used for things like concession promotions, or to provide directions to areas like the venue’s Hall of Fame exhibits.

Himstedt is also interested in using the technology to take “check-ins” even further, with the network being able to automatically check a device for ticket purchases as the fan walks in the gates.

It’d be cool for the network to take the tickets out of my pocket for me,” Himstedt said. “The app is the magic. You just have to enable it.”

MLB Stadium Tech Reports — NL West

Editor’s note: The following team-by-team capsule reports of MLB stadium technology deployments are an excerpt from our most recent Stadium Tech Report, THE BASEBALL (And Soccer!) 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.

NL West

Reporting by Paul Kapustka

San Francisco Giants
AT&T Park
Seating Capacity: 41,503
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

atp7AT&T Park is nearing the completion of its latest Wi-Fi upgrade, which will see installation of under-the-seat access points in the upper decks. When it’s done, Giants fans will have use of almost 1,700 Wi-Fi APs throughout the stadium. On the DAS side, T-Mobile is finally in the system, giving the park all of the four major wireless carriers on its AT&T neutral-host DAS, which uses gear from CommScope. We said it before and we will keep saying it: When it comes to baseball stadium connectivity, the San Francisco Giants set the standard.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Dodger Stadium
Seating Capacity: 56,000
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

A $100 million renovation two years ago and help from MLBAM last year should mean a solid Wi-Fi experience for fans at Dodger Stadium.

San Diego Padres
Petco Park
Seating Capacity: 42,455
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

Petco Park’s existing Wi-Fi underwent upgrades over the offseason which should result in an even better experience for fans this year. Fans can now use the MLB At the Ballpark app to manage tickets, and to store e-cash for in-stadium purchases.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Chase Field
Seating Capacity: 49,003
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

One of the venues that has had Wi-Fi the longest, Chase Field is due to have its network upgraded this year as part of the MLB Wi-Fi program. That means even better service for Diamondbacks fans.

Colorado Rockies
Coors Field
Seating Capacity: 50,455
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

Fans at Coors Field are among the earliest beneficiaries of MLB’s Wi-Fi everywhere program, as the install started last season is now complete.

AT&T sees almost double DAS traffic for MLB’s season-opening series

Head-end room cabling at AT&T Park. Credit: AT&T/San Francisco Giants

Head-end room cabling at AT&T Park. Credit: AT&T/San Francisco Giants

According to AT&T, the season-opening series for Major League Baseball saw fans use almost twice as much cellular data as the year before, across the 19 ballparks where AT&T has in-stadium cellular networks in place.

Remember, these numbers represent only cellular traffic and only for AT&T customers on the AT&T stadium-specific networks, which are almost all of the distrubuted antenna system (DAS) type. Though some stadiums saw much more traffic than others, the average series-long total of 215 gigabytes per venue was almost double the same statistic from the 2014 season-opening series, where AT&T saw an average of 111 GB per venue. And if AT&T’s traffic is doubling you can probably safely bet that all other metrics — Wi-Fi, and traffic for other carriers — has increased as well.

Thanks to our friends at AT&T, here is the full list for series-long DAS traffic at MLB venues where AT&T has stadium-specific networks. Stay tuned to MSR for our Q2 Stadium Tech Report later this spring, when we’ll take a team-by-team look at MLB technology deployments, specifically focusing on Wi-Fi and DAS. So far, it looks like fans are already in mid-season selfie form.

OPENING SERIES DAS TOTALS (AT&T customer traffic only, on AT&T stadium-specific networks)

1. Arlington, TX (Rangers): 655GB

2. St. Louis (Cardinals): 466GB

3. Los Angeles (Dodgers): 396GB

4. Atlanta (Braves): 375GB

5. Anaheim (Angels): 270GB

6. Denver (Rockies): 251GB

7. Philadelphia (Phillies): 250GB

8. Chicago (Cubs): 227GB

9. New York (Yankees): 189GB

10. Cincinnati (Reds): 185GB

11. Miami (Marlins): 183GB

12. Boston (Red Sox): 162GB

13. San Francisco (Giants): 158GB

14. Oakland (A’s): 149GB

15. Seattle (Mariners): 139GB

16. Washington, D.C. (Nationals): 132GB

17. Milwaukee (Brewers): 129GB

18. Houston (Astros): 102GB

19. Minnesota (Twins): 86GB

20. Phoenix (Diamondbacks): 85GB

21. New York (Mets): 80GB

22. San Diego (Padres): 58GB

AT&T: DAS network also set traffic records for 2014 World Series games at AT&T Park

Giants CIO Bill Schlough (left) talks with workers in the park's main DAS head end facility.

Giants CIO Bill Schlough (left) talks with workers in the park’s main DAS head end facility.

In addition to the over-the-top Wi-Fi usage numbers, it turns out that the in-stadium AT&T cellular network also experienced record usage during the recent World Series games at AT&T Park, with Saturday night’s crowd using 477 Gigabytes of data, according to AT&T.

In case you’re not familiar with the DAS acronym, it stands for distributed antenna system, and basically is a network of small antennas that bring cellular service to the tightly packed fans inside stadiums or other large public venues. At AT&T Park, AT&T runs the network as a neutral host, meaning that Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile customers can also use the DAS to connect. If you’re in the park and you haven’t enabled your device to connect via Wi-Fi, you’re probably connected via the DAS. However, the stats provided here are only for AT&T customers on the DAS, since AT&T doesn’t have visibility into the other carriers’ metrics. Since the Wi-Fi network is open to all, the Wi-Fi numbers we reported earlier are for all customers, no matter who their provider is.

But even just the AT&T cellular numbers are pretty impressive, perhaps not surprisingly so since a good-weather World Series game is a bucket-list event for most attendees, meaning that texts, tweets, selfies and Vines were likely flowing freely at all three games in San Francisco. Here’s a breakdown from AT&T about how much more data was used during the games last weekend:

– Fans used an average of approximately 447GB of data per game over the weekend on the AT&T cellular network. This is equivalent to more than 1.27M social media post with photos.

– The numbers represent an increase of approximately 29 percent in cellular data usage compared to the average game during the League Championship series vs. St. Louis.

– It’s an increase of approximately 109 percent in cellular data usage compared to the average game during the final home series of the regular season vs. San Diego (9/25-9/28).

– The peak hour of data usage during three home games was on 10/25 was from 5-6pm PT, the hour in which the first pitch occurred. In this hour more than 83GB of data crossed the AT&T venue-specific cellular network.

According to AT&T, the total combined Wi-Fi and AT&T DAS traffic hit a record high of 2.09 Terabytes on Oct. 25, the highest single-game total in AT&T Park network history. What would be even more interesting would be if we could get DAS statistics from Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile to get the total-total number for wireless data consumed during the biggest games of the year.

Half a stadium using Wi-Fi? 2014 World Series games set Wi-Fi records at AT&T Park

Though this year’s World Series still isn’t over, the three games this past weekend in San Francisco set new local records for fan Wi-Fi use, arguably cementing AT&T Park’s title as baseball’s best-connected stadium.

One of the more stunning numbers provided to us by Bill Schlough, the senior vice president and CIO for the Giants, was that nearly half the crowd in AT&T Park for Sunday’s Game 5 used the Wi-Fi network — a “take rate” we’ve never heard of before at any sporting event of any kind. According to Schlough the Giants’ Wi-Fi network had 20,638 unique users during Game 5, a take rate of 49.7 percent. (According to the official box score, the attendance that night was 43,087, give or take a Panda or four.) The game also set an AT&T Park record for Wi-Fi upload traffic with 747 Gigabytes of data being sent by people at the park out to the network.

(Including one special photo tweeted out by a former Giant you may have heard of.)

A record for downloaded Wi-Fi traffic, of 937 GB, was set during Friday night’s Game 3, and the record for a combination of download and upload traffic was set during Game 4, with a total of 1.62 Terabytes. According to Schlough, the total data transferred during the eight games of the 2014 postseason at AT&T Park was 10.3 TB, which is easily the high-water mark for any baseball stadium network we know of. (The total does not include regular cellular traffic carried by the AT&T Park DAS; we will add those numbers in when they become available.)

And while individual games such as Super Bowls or contests down the San Francisco Peninsula at Levi’s Stadium may set higher overall marks (thanks in part to having more fans in the building), we’d be interested to see if any other stadium networks can match AT&T Park’s season-long data number of 59.3 TB, which according to Schlough represents total traffic over 2014′s 91 games (regular and postseason) at AT&T Park.

One more fun number from Schlough: Since the park turned on its fan-facing Wi-Fi network in 2004, there have been 4,085,518 Wi-Fi connections during the 946 game days. Kansas City’s Kaufmann Stadium, which just got its Wi-Fi network installed recently, has one or two more games this season to start trying to catch the Giants from a networking perspective.

UPDATE: Looks like the Royals are claiming some already-decent usage of their Wi-Fi network: