July 28, 2015

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.

Super Bowl XLIX sets new stadium Wi-Fi record with 6.2 Terabytes of data consumed

University of Phoenix Stadium. Credit: Arizona Cardinals.

University of Phoenix Stadium. Credit: Arizona Cardinals.

The Super Bowl is once again the stadium Wi-Fi champ, as fans at Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz., used 6.23 terabytes of data during the contest, according to the team running the network at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

The 6.23 TB mark blew past the most recent entrant in the “most Wi-Fi used at a single-day single-stadium event” sweepstakes, the 4.93 TB used at the Jan. 12 College Football Playoff championship game at AT&T Stadium. Prior to that, pro football games this past season at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., and at AT&T Stadium had pushed into the 3-plus TB mark to be among the highest totals ever reported.

The live crowd watching the New England Patriots’ 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks also used about as much cellular data as well, with Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint claiming a combined total of 6.56 TB used in and around the stadium on game day. All three carriers were on the in-stadium and outside-the-stadium DAS deployments being run by neutral host Crown Castle. If those figures are correct (more on this later) it would put the total wireless data usage for the event at 12.79 TB, far and away the biggest single day of wireless data use we’ve ever heard of.

Apple OS updates still the application king

Handrails with Wi-Fi antenna enclosures from AmpThink. Credit: Arizona Cardinals.

Handrails with Wi-Fi antenna enclosures from AmpThink. Credit: Arizona Cardinals.

Mark Feller, vice president of information technology for the Arizona Cardinals, and Travis Bugh, senior wireless consultant for CDW, provided Mobile Sports Report with the final Wi-Fi usage numbers, which are pretty stunning for anyone in the stadium networking profession. According to Feller the new CDW-deployed Wi-Fi network with Cisco gear at the UoP Stadium saw 2.499 TB of data downloaded, and 3.714 TB uploaded, for a total of 6.213 TB of Wi-Fi usage. Bugh of CDW said there were 25,936 unique devices connecting to the network on game day, with a peak concurrent usage of 17,322, recorded not surprisingly at halftime.

Peak download usage of 1.3 Gbps was recorded before the game’s start, while peak upload usage of 2.5 Gbps was hit at halftime. The top applications by bandwidth use, Feller said, were Apple (mobile update), Facebook, Dropbox and Snapchat.

DAS numbers also set new record, but clarification needed

The only reason we aren’t yet trumpeting the 6.564 TB of reported DAS use as a verified record is due to the differences in clarity from each of the reporting providers. We also haven’t yet heard any usage totals from T-Mobile, so it’s likely that the final final wireless data use number is somewhere north of 13 TB, if all can be believed.

Parking lot light poles, Westgate entertainment district. Can you spot the DAS?

Parking lot light poles, Westgate entertainment district. Can you spot the DAS?

As reported before, AT&T said it saw 1.7 TB of cellular wireless activity from its customers on game day, with 696 GB of that happening inside the stadium, and the balance coming from the outside areas before and after the game. We’d also like to welcome Sprint to the big-game reporting crew (thanks Sprint!), with its total of 754 GB of all 4G LTE traffic used in and around the stadium on game day. According to Sprint representatives, its Super Bowl coverage efforts included 5 COWs (cell towers on wheels) as well as expanded DAS and macro placements in various Phoenix-area locations. The Sprint coverage included the 2.5 GHz spectrum that uses TDD LTE technology.

As also previously reported, Verizon Wireless claimed 4.1 TB of customer traffic in and around the stadium on game day, which Verizon claims is all cellular traffic and does not reflect any Verizon Wireless customer use of the stadium Wi-Fi network. Verizon also reported some other interesting activity tidbits, which included 46,772 Verizon Wireless devices used at the game, of which just 59.7 percent were smartphones. Verizon also said it saw 10 million emails sent on its networks that day, and 1.9 million websites visited, while also seeing 122.308 videos sent or received over wireless connections.

We’re still waiting to see if we can get usage numbers from the Super Bowl stadium app (we’re especially interested to see if the instant replay feature caught on) but the warning for stadium owners and operators everywhere seems to be clear: If you’re hosting the big game (or any BIG game), make sure your network is ready for 6 TB and beyond!

AT&T sets new DAS traffic records for Super Bowl with 1.7 Terabyte mark

University of Phoenix Stadium

University of Phoenix Stadium

AT&T said its customers set new records for Super Bowl and professional football game wireless data consumption, with a total of 1.7 terabytes of traffic used in and around the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., Sunday night.

In a blog post from AT&T senior executive vice president John Donovan AT&T said it saw 696 gigabytes of wireless data used on its in-stadium DAS Sunday night, with an additional 1 TB used in and around the stadium in the surrounding parking lots and the Westgate entertainment district, a mall/restaurant complex that is connected to the UoP stadium area. The 1.7 TB mark surpasses the 1.4 TB DAS mark AT&T saw at the recent College Football Playoff championship game in Arlington, Texas, on Jan. 12.

Donovan’s blog post contains some interesting looks back — with a peak usage of 125 GB per hour Sunday, AT&T saw another new high mark, one that seems to say that usage of wireless data at stadiums is still climbing with no roof (retractable or not) in sight. Here’s a couple quotes:

Since 2011 – inclusive of the last five Big Games – the total data usage on AT&T’s in-stadium network has increased from 177GB to 696GB and peak hour data usage has increased from 30GB to 125GB.

And:

These numbers don’t come as a total shock as we experienced several high marks this season. In total, from 253 games at 31 stadiums, our customers have used more than 85.7TB of mobile data on our venue-specific cellular networks. That’s equivalent to more than 245M social media posts with photos from 253 games (an average of almost 1M social media posts per game).

We are still waiting for results from the stadium Wi-Fi network… will the total break the 6 TB mark set at the CFP championship game? Stay tuned! More AT&T infographic fun below.

click on photo for larger image

click on photo for larger image

ATT_Super_Bowl_Football_GraphicTwitter_R1V4-2-2-2015

Super DAS: AT&T, Verizon beefed up Phoenix area with mobile cell towers and more DAS

AT&T Cell on Wheels (COW) deployment outside the ESPNZone in Phoenix. Credit all photos: AT&T (click on any photo for a larger image)

AT&T Cell on Wheels (COW) deployment outside the ESPNZone in Phoenix. Credit all photos: AT&T (click on any photo for a larger image)

While we wait for the traffic stats from the incredibly exciting Super Bowl XLIX, here’s the final installment of our Super DAS series — in which the two major U.S. wireless carriers, AT&T and Verizon Wireless, provide some details about how they beefed up coverage in and around Phoenix to handle the expected Super Bowl communications crush.

The lengths to which AT&T and Verizon went to ensure no signals were dropped are interesting from several business points of view; to be sure, no major carrier wants Twitter to erupt with reports of dropped calls from a major event. (AT&T folks still grimace when you bring up the historical benchmark for this type of problem, SXSW and Twitter.)

The flood-the-zone type of temporary enhancements now brought in on a regular basis for big events also point out the ongoing need for distributed antenna system (DAS) deployments: the basic fact of our ever more connected lives simply means that for large public venues, or places where lots of people gather at once, the legacy cellular network designs simply can’t keep up.

ESPNZone DAS gear in underground garage

ESPNZone DAS gear in underground garage

To make sure it could, AT&T said it deployed 10 cell towers on wheels (aka “COWS”) to the Phoenix area in advance of the weekend, while also upgrading its equipment at DAS installations like the one Crown Castle had at the University of Phoenix Stadium as well as at other points around town. AT&T folks were kind enough to supply us with plenty of photos of the deployments — we especially like the DAS built in an underground garage near the ESPNZone outlet in Phoenix.

Verizon also said it deployed 13 COWs and upgraded many DAS deployments in the Phoenix area prior to the Super Bowl, and even said it had a team of network technicians on hand to make sure traffic kept running smoothly.

How did it all work out? So far, we haven’t seen any reports of missed cellular connections during Super Bowl weekend (which also included the Waste Management golf tournament in the area, further adding to cellular pressure). What it does make us wonder about is the economic solution in the future to big-crowd wireless traffic concerns, which clearly aren’t limited to inside the event venue anymore. Are more portable deployments the way forward, or will we see more DAS installations that can be upgraded quickly on the fly?

More photos below!

AT&T COW with box on roof

AT&T COW with box on roof

Another AT&T COW

Another AT&T COW

AT&T COW at Wild Horse Pass

AT&T COW at Wild Horse Pass

AT&T COW deployment in downtown Phoenix

AT&T COW deployment in downtown Phoenix

Downtown COW on a roof

Downtown COW on a roof

ESPNZone DAS cabling run

ESPNZone DAS cabling run

Hyatt Gainey Ranch COW

Hyatt Gainey Ranch COW

Sonim’s rugged LTE phones get public-safety trials at Super Bowl, World Ski Championships

Sonim XP7 handset

Sonim XP7 handset

The new XP7 ruggedized LTE smartphone from Sonim Technologies will get some on-the-scene testing by public safety professionals at both the Super Bowl as well as the upcoming World Ski Championships in Vail, Colo., according to Sonim, a San Mateo, Calif.-based maker of ruggedized devices.

Expected to be publicly announced Friday, the news that Sonim’s newest ruggedized LTE handset will be tested by firefighters from the Phoenix Fire Department during their Super Bowl deployments is significant for those concerned with public-safety operations around large public venues, since it offers a new way for industry-standard applications to be shared in a potentially “extreme” environment. With support for both standard wireless-carrier LTE networks as well as the emerging “FirstNet” public safety LTE frequency, the Sonim XP7 also offers one potential path toward the long-desired goal of having communication devices that can allow different first-responder agencies to communicate with each other, or to more simply share information from different devices, applications or networks.

While the Phoenix test deployment of XP7 handsets will use AT&T LTE airwaves, a similar test process scheduled to take place in Vail and Beaver Creek at the Feb. 2-15 FIS World Ski Championships will use a demonstration version of the Band Class 14 LTE public safety broadband network, according to a release from FirstNet Colorado.

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 3.15.18 PMThe Vail demonstration will make use of a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) that was built for the town of Vail by neutral host provider Crown Castle, as well as the Sonim phones, among other devices and services.

While it has the first-glance look of a regular smartphone, the Sonim XP7 has a host of ruggedized features including long battery life, an extra-loud speaker, protection against drops and weather, a touchscreen accessible with gloves, and a screen viewable in bright sunlight. In a recent interview with Sonim CEO Bob Plaschke, MSR got to see and hold Plashcke’s XP7, a bulky device that certainly feels like it could stand up to extreme weather and rough handling. In addition to its obvious target market of first responders and other extreme-condition businesses, the XP7 is also being targeted at extreme athletes and outdoor-lifestyle customers, who should be able to purchase the device from major U.S. wireless carriers later this year.

In Phoenix, the Sonim phone will be compared to consumer-grade smartphones in a test using a custom-built firehouse alert app, according to Sonim. The Phoenix firefighters will also test the XP7′s ability to act as a Wi-Fi hotspot, and will also test its compatibility and interoperability with other mobile devices.

Super DAS: Crown Castle’s neutral host infrastructure aims to keep Super Bowl XLIX fans connected, inside and outside the stadium

Editor’s note: This story is part 1 of a series of profiles of the providers of the extensive Distributed Antenna System (DAS) deployment for Super Bowl XLIX at and around the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. and other parts of the Phoenix city area as well. Stay tuned all week as we highlight how DAS will keep Super Bowl fans connected, no matter where they roam in and around Phoenix and Glendale this week and weekend.

University of Phoenix Stadium getting its Super Bowl on. (Click any photo for a larger image) Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

University of Phoenix Stadium getting its Super Bowl on. (Click any photo for a larger image) Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

When is a big air-fan vent not an air-fan vent? When it’s a fake vent covering a hidden cellular antenna, put there to keep people from noticing the technology that’s keeping their cell phones connected. Before kickoff at Super Bowl XLIX Feb. 1 in Glendale, Ariz., many fans outside the University of Phoenix Stadium will walk right by a faux vent and its sheltered equipment, never knowing the attention to detail that goes into a major-venue Distributed Antenna System (DAS) deployment.

But to stadium technology connectivity professionals, such leaps of aesthetic deception are just part of a day’s, or perhaps month’s, DAS deployment work. For neutral host DAS provider Crown Castle, the fake vents on the shell of the University of Phoenix Stadium — and the powerful antennas behind — are just one part of a massive project to ensure there is excellent mobile-device connectivity both inside and outside the Super Bowl stadium, so that fans never get a dropped signal anywhere between the parking lot and their prized seat.

During a recent press tour, a small team of Crown Castle employees showed off some of the upgraded DAS network deployed at the University of Phoenix Stadium as well as in the surrounding Westgate Sports and Entertainment District, a sort of open-air mall that stretches from the UoP Stadium past numerous attached restaurants and stores, also encompassing the Gila River Arena, home of the Phoenix Coyotes of the NHL. Over the past year or so, Crown Castle has been upgrading the DAS inside and outside the arena, throughout the mall areas as well as into the huge parking lots that surround it and the football stadium, bringing connectivity to phones being used by customers from all the four major U.S. wireless carriers.

Since the mall and all its food outlets are conveniently located a short stroll from the stadium, it’s a good bet that a large portion of the Super Bowl crowd will spend time wandering around the Westgate area before and after the big game. Thanks to Crown Castle’s efforts, there shouldn’t be many connectivity problems, as antenna deployments on light poles, building rooftops and — yes, even behind fake vents — should be able to keep devices on the cellular networks without a glitch.

Game day connectivity starts in the parking lot

Since we couldn’t actually spend much time wandering around the stadium itself — even three weeks before the big game, the facility was already on NFL security lockdown — most of the Crown Castle tour consisted of walking around the Westgate mall/neighborhood, hearing about the various methods Crown Castle used to locate the necessary DAS antennas. In all, there are five separate DAS networks Crown Castle is responsible for in the area around the stadium: The football stadium itself; the Gila River Arena (which we will profile in an upcoming feature on hockey stadiums); the Westgate shops and restaurants; the nearby Renaissance Hotel; and the surrounding parking lots.

Parking lot light poles, Westgate entertainment district. Can you spot the DAS?

Parking lot light poles, Westgate entertainment district. Can you spot the DAS?

The curious start of the tour in a far-flung parking lot made sense when we found ourselves next to a small DAS equipment box and a light pole with multiple antennas (which had not yet been covered with their final aesthetic sheaths). Aaron Lamoureux, program manager for Crown Castle’s small cell solutions, served as tour guide, and said that for the Westgate area alone there were 18 individual node locations, with about 52 antennas total. Some were located on light poles, some on rooftops, and some along walkways between buildings, to conquer the unique RF characteristics of the open-air/large building outdoor mallish area that is Westgate. (See photos for DAS geek views)

For the University of Phoenix Stadium itself, Crown Castle deployed 228 DAS antennas inside (more on this in an upcoming profile) and at 21 different locations outside the stadium, 13 of those on parking lot poles and 8 mounted on the building itself. Why building-mounted antennas? If you’ve never been there, the University of Phoenix Stadium has a large plaza area on one side, which is used for pre-game activities like rallies, bands and other walk-up amenities where fans gather before entering. The challenge for Crown Castle was finding places to deploy antennas at a low enough height to cover crowds of people standing in one location. While some parts of the building allowed for regular antenna placements, a big part of the plaza faces part of the stadium wall that is a sheer sheet, with no aesthetic place to mount a DAS antenna — unless you add a fake vent or two to the existing design, that is.

Keeping everyone happy is part of the neutral host job

See the big air vents? Nobody would tell us which ones were 'faux vents,' there to hide DAS antennas

See the big air vents? Nobody would tell us which ones were ‘faux vents,’ there to hide DAS antennas

To people outside the industry it might seem silly to go to such lengths just to keep folks from noticing antennas, but anyone who’s deployed a network for a detail-oriented building owner knows why aesthetics are important. That’s why you paint antenna enclosures to match the surrounding walls, or build sheaths to keep wires and other obvious gear out of main sight. It’s part of the art of wireless network deployment, and not as simple as it sounds. Experience counts.

The complex owner and operator relationships involved in the stadium and surrounding-area DAS also seem tailor-made for a big, experienced provider like Crown Castle, which has a long history of deploying and operating multiple-tenant networks. With five different landlords and four different carriers, being the neutral DAS host for this year’s Super Bowl is a task with many moving parts; but, as Mike Kavanagh, president of sales for Crown Castle’s small cell solutions, said, “We understand how to run networks, how to manage them and deal with carriers. It’s high touch and very fluid. But we know that business.”

COMING UP NEXT: What’s inside the network inside the stadium.

MORE PICTURES BELOW! (Click on any picture for a larger image.)

Sky Harbor Airport: Ready for Super XLIX

Sky Harbor Airport: Ready for Super XLIX

Verizon's NFL Mobile ads were in airport walkways well before the Big Game

Verizon’s NFL Mobile ads were in airport walkways well before the Big Game

If you stumble off the escalator, Bud Light is there to catch you

If you stumble off the escalator, Bud Light is there to catch you

The Westgate uber-mall should see a lot of fan activity (and connectivity) on game day

The Westgate uber-mall should see a lot of fan activity (and connectivity) on game day

Here's the official Super Bowl replay HQ (actually a place with DAS antennas on the roof that you can't see)

Here’s the official Super Bowl replay HQ (actually a place with DAS antennas on the roof that you can’t see)

Mama Gina's will offer you pizza and DAS on the roof

Mama Gina’s will offer you pizza and DAS on the roof

More DAS antennas, on a Westgate walkway

More DAS antennas, on a Westgate walkway

Outside UoP Stadium, where the architecture allows for DAS antenna placement

Outside UoP Stadium, where the architecture allows for DAS antenna placement

Close-up of that placement. Still pretty well hidden.

Close-up of that placement. Still pretty well hidden.

Parking lot light mounts. These will have sheaths by Super Sunday.

Parking lot light mounts. These will have sheaths by Super Sunday.

Here's the remote equipment box that powers the light pole antennas. Also scheduled for more concealment.

Here’s the remote equipment box that powers the light pole antennas. Also scheduled for more concealment.

Every artist leaves a signature...

Every artist leaves a signature…