November 26, 2015

NFL Stadium Tech Reviews — AFC West

Editor’s note: The following team-by-team capsule reports of NFL stadium technology deployments are an excerpt from our most recent Stadium Tech Report, THE PRO FOOTBALL 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.


Reporting by Paul Kapustka

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Kansas City Chiefs
Arrowhead Stadium
Seating Capacity: 76,416
Wi-Fi – Yes

On a quest to challenge the HD experience at home, Chiefs president Mark Donovan delivered Wi-Fi and a mobile app to Arrowhead Stadium in 2013. Kansas City continues to enhance its mobile experience for fans, and now has in-stadium NFL RedZone access, live video feeds during games, as well as video highlights and replays from every drive. New for 2015, the Chiefs added a “Chiefs Kingdom” rewards program that works via the app.

Denver Broncos
Sports Authority Field at Mile High
Seating Capacity: 76,125
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

Connectivity is still kind of a mixed bag in Broncosland, with Wi-Fi in the stadium but still only available for Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon, AT&T and Sprint all have separate DAS deployments, so most fans should be covered in one form or another.

Oakland Raiders
O.Co Coliseum
Seating Capacity: 56,057
Wi-Fi – No
DAS – Yes

With the team’s stay in Oakland still a matter of doubt, fans will have to cheer their team on without Wi-Fi for another year at O.Co Coliseum. Despite being available for A’s fans, when the stadium capacity increases by almost 20,000 people for football, Raiders faithful are left without any access, without any official explanation.

San Diego Chargers
Qualcomm Stadium
Seating Capacity: 70,561
Wi-Fi – No
DAS – Yes

The stadium that’s named after the wireless giant remains a mystery. Because Wi-Fi in Qualcomm Stadium, a facility whose sponsor’s fortunes come mainly from the sale of wireless-phone silicon, is still absent.

The stadium that hosted the Super Bowl over a decade ago does have DAS antennas courtesy of AT&T for improved cell coverage. Perhaps given the Chargers’ public statements about moving to a new stadium or Los Angeles means that they aren’t going to make a Wi-Fi investment at Qualcomm right now.

Arizona Cardinals’ University of Phoenix Stadium beefs up Wi-Fi and DAS ahead of College Football Playoff championship game

University of Phoenix Stadium before Super Bowl XLIX. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

University of Phoenix Stadium before Super Bowl XLIX. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

After just hosting a Super Bowl, one with record wireless traffic numbers, you might not think that the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., needed to upgrade its Wi-Fi and DAS networks. But with many more big events on the way soon, including hosting this season’s College Football Playoff championship game, the UoP Stadium isn’t sitting still, but instead is fine-tuning and expanding its networks to ensure fans stay connected as well as possible.

According to Mark Feller, vice president of technology for the Arizona Cardinals, more Wi-Fi has been added to the stadium networks for this football season, including lawn areas just outside the stadium and the Pat Tillman Plaza area on the north side of the stadium. For the Super Bowl last year the venue had extensive DAS coverage outside from a Crown Castle deployment, but in an email message Feller said adding Wi-Fi to the mix was always part of the plan. Here’s Mark:

“Our plan from the start was to have Wi-Fi outdoors for our fans to use and we are rolling it out as time allows. We have such good weather that there are thousands of people tailgating on game days. In addition, the Cardinals Mobile App (from Yinzcam) provides live Stadium Feeds, Replays, and the Red Zone Channel so our fans can keep up with the early games while they are outside.”

Outside UoP Stadium, where the architecture allows for DAS antenna placement under the fascia as well as behind speaker covers.

Outside UoP Stadium, where the architecture allows for DAS antenna placement under the fascia as well as behind speaker covers.

Inside the stadium, Feller said there are now Gimbal beacons deployed for “selective messaging” alerts that are tied to the stadium app. The team also added a separate Verizon Wireless SSID to its Wi-Fi mix, giving Verizon customers reserved bandwidth as well as the ability to autoconnect. The Wi-Fi network uses Cisco gear and is managed and supported by CDW. At the Cardinals’ most recent home game, a 26-18 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 26, the Wi-Fi network carried 1.445 terabytes of data, with 22,502 unique connections, according to numbers provided by Feller. Out of the 63,500-seat stadium a maximum number of 19,559 concurrent users was seen that day, with the top sites connected to by fans being Apple, Facebook, Google, iCloud, Yahoo, Instagram, Twitter and ESPN, according to Feller.

Getting ready for the playoff championship

For both the biggest college game of the year (scheduled for Jan. 11, 2016) which like last year should be a big network event, as well as a host of other “big events,” like a U.S. Women’s soccer team game vs. China on Dec. 13 and the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day, Feller said the UoP stadium team is continuing to expand the Crown Castle DAS as well, with more sectors in the stadium’s Club and Loft sections, as well as more coverage outside on the lawns. Portable Wi-Fi is also an option, Feller said, as the stadium adds temporary seating to expand for the big game of the collegiate season:

“Having the Super Bowl here did give us some ideas about increasing density in some areas where we put temporary seating. We tested some different WiFi portable enclosure systems that we could put up and take down quickly and figured out how to get cabling to them quickly as well. That will help us get set up for the CFP Championship.”

Texas A&M’s fiber-backed Wi-Fi at Kyle Field records 5.7 TB of data during Alabama game

Scoreboard, Kyle Field. Photos: Texas A&M

Scoreboard, Kyle Field. Photos: Texas A&M

We’ve been hearing rumors about how much data was flowing at the new fiber-based Wi-Fi network at Texas A&M’s Kyle Field this fall, and now we finally have some verified numbers that are sure to pop some eyeballs: According to the networking crew at Corning, fans at Kyle Field used 5.7 terabytes of Wi-Fi data during the Oct. 17 game against Alabama, which the Aggies lost 41-23.

In case you are keeping score the 5.7 TB mark is the second-largest single-game Wi-Fi usage number we’ve seen, trailing only the 6.2 TB recorded at Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz., earlier this year. Before you pin it all on the network, however, be aware that the newly refurbished Kyle Field can hold a whole lotta fans — the announced attendance for the ‘Bama game was 105,733, which is 35,000+ more fans than the 70,288 who attended the Super Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium on Feb. 1. Still, building a network to support basically another baseball stadium’s worth of fans is pretty cool, too.

Other related numbers from the Wi-Fi network are in Super Bowl territory as well, including the 37,823 unique clients recorded during pre-game and game time, as well as the 26,318 peak concurrent user count. We’re not sure why only 10 people tweeted about the Wi-Fi (8 good, 2 bad) but the 3.2 Gbps throughput should also turn some heads.

Corning ONE DAS headend equipment at Texas A&M's Kyle Field deployment

Corning ONE DAS headend equipment at Texas A&M’s Kyle Field deployment

The question this all raises for us is, has the availability of a fiber backbone allowed fans to simply use more traffic? And is the demand for mobile data at big events perhaps even higher than we thought? With a regular-season game at Nebraska hitting 4.2 TB earlier this season, it’s pretty clear that data demands are showing no signs of hitting a plateau. Or maybe we can deduce that the better the network, the more traffic it will carry?

It’s also worthwhile to note that stats this season from AT&T have shown several 1+ TB data totals for games at Kyle Field on the AT&T DAS network, which uses the same fiber backbone as the Wi-Fi. This “fiber to the fan” infrastructure, built by IBM and Corning, will also be at the core of the network being built at the new home of the NFL’s Falcons, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, scheduled to open in 2017.

We’ll have more soon from Kyle Field, as Mobile Sports Report is scheduled to make a visit there for the Nov. 7 game against Auburn. If you plan to be in College Station that weekend give us a holler. Or a yell, right? We are looking forward to seeing the stadium and the network firsthand, to do some speedtests to see how well all areas are covered. With 5.7 TB of Wi-Fi, it’s a good guess the coverage is pretty good.

(Statistics provided by Corning for the Oct. 17 game are below.)

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Report excerpt: Levi’s Stadium gets ready for Super Bowl 50

Niners fans at the Levi's Stadium United Club during a 2014 game. Photos: Paul Kapustka / MSR

Niners fans at the Levi’s Stadium United Club during a 2014 game. Photos: Paul Kapustka / MSR

After a largely successful debut season, Levi’s Stadium and its owners the San Francisco 49ers don’t have much time to rest, as their venue’s hosting of Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7, 2016, looms in the near future.

But before looking ahead to the big game, it’s a worthwhile time to take a look back at the first year of one of the most anticipated new sports venues, to assess what worked, what didn’t, and what the Niners are doing to make Levi’s Stadium even better in its second year on earth.

In an exclusive interview with Niners COO Al Guido, Mobile Sports Report found that overall the team is extremely pleased with both the stadium’s wireless networks and its ground-breaking stadium mobile app, which supported innovative services like in-seat delivery of food and beverage to every seat in the house, as well as electronic ticket access and instant replays of action on the field.

(Editor’s note: This story is an excerpt from our most recent Stadium Tech Report, the PRO FOOTBALL ISSUE, which is available for FREE DOWNLOAD right now from our site. In the report our editorial coverage includes a profile of the new Wi-Fi network at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field, a profile of Wi-Fi concealment techniques at AT&T Stadium, and team-by-team profiles of Wi-Fi and DAS deployments at all 31 NFL stadiums. Get your copy today!)

VenueNext CEO John Paul, left, and Niners COO Al Guido discuss Levi's Stadium at a ticketing conference this past spring.

VenueNext CEO John Paul, left, and Niners COO Al Guido discuss Levi’s Stadium at a ticketing conference this past spring.

Other than a complete overhaul of the stadium’s DAS network, Guido said the plans for the 2015 NFL season and Super Bowl 50 mainly are of the fine-tuning nature, with an emphasis on fan-experience improvements in areas like ticket management, and simply getting in and out of the facility. Here is a feature-by-feature look at Levi’s Stadium performance during its first year, and what immediate improvements and long-term outlooks have in store.

Wi-Fi and DAS: Great, and getting better

Prior to the official opening of Levi’s Stadium, executives from the Niners were blunt and brash in their public statements about how awesome they expected the stadium’s Wi-Fi network to be. But as anyone who’s launched a large public venue network knows, the proof only comes after you fill the house with users who test the system in ways nobody can ever really imagine.

“Lots of people were skeptical about some of the things we had planned, like food ordering to every seat,” Guido said. “We knew the app would perform fine, but a lot of [what was planned] was based on whether the network could pull off the bandwidth needed. The biggest question [before opening] was what the network would look like.”

End of game view from skydeck (2014 season)

End of game view from skydeck (2014 season)

Given the high expectations, it would be easy to fall flat, but the Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi network – with Brocade equipment at its core, Aruba Networks gear for the Wi-Fi infrastructure and Com- cast Xfinity services for bandwidth – was solid from the get-go, recording 3.3 terabytes of data for its regular-season opener, a mark that surpassed the Wi-Fi total from the previous Super Bowl.

Though it wasn’t perfect – the network team originally hadn’t provided enough bandwidth for older devices that only supported Wi-Fi communications at the 2.4 GHz frequency – the Wi-Fi network started strong and remained that way throughout the year. Designed and deployed by former vice president of technology Dan Williams – and overseen by Chuck Lukaszewski, very high density architect in the CTO Office of Aruba Networks – the Wi-Fi network allowed the Levi’s Stadium app to shine, particularly in the high-bandwidth areas of Internet application access, in-stadium video replays, and the all-important food and beverage ordering.

Over the course of the football season and a bunch of other events that followed, including concerts, the WrestleMania 31 event and an outdoor hockey game, the Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi network recorded around 415,000 unique users, who consumed more than 45 TB of data, according to the team.

“Dan and his team did a hell of a job” on the network, Guido said. “We felt very good about the performance of the network – we’re able to do things with data and video that no other teams could do.”

On the DAS side, deployment partner DAS Group Professionals said that the cellular network inside the stadium also performed as designed, hitting goals for near-perfect availability the first game out and not dipping below that mark during subsequent events. Because of higher than expected traffic increases for the upcoming Super Bowl, the carriers using the DAS asked for (and paid for) a complete overhaul of the DAS system, which is expected to be completed during the first part of the 2015 NFL season.

On-field APs and more APs for concourses

One twist to the Wi-Fi network added during the course of the first 12 months is the deployment of a temporary on-field Wi-Fi network for concerts and other events that have seating on the stadium floor, where the football turf is.

“We didn’t think about the field at first because there’s not a lot of tech allowed on the field by the NFL,” said Guido, referring to the league’s exclusive control of on-field wireless technology on game days. By placing APs under the temporary field flooring and adding others to temporary-seat railings, the network team was able to deliver connectivity to the premium seating there, a key hurdle that will allow Levi’s Stadium to continue to attract marquee events that demand such features.

The temporary-network lessons learned during concerts will also be applied during the Super Bowl, when the stadium will add a couple thousand temporary seats in the large open concourse areas in the stadium’s corners. Other small tweaks to the Wi-Fi network include more APs installed this offseason in and around the corner concourse concession stands, structures that were added to the design after the stadium opened; and more overhead APs in the standing-room-only areas of the lower concourses above each sideline, where lots of human bodies last year blocked signals coming from APs pointing up from the last row of seats.

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.

Unlike other stadiums, which have needed massive Wi-Fi upgrades before hosting the Super Bowl, Levi’s Stadium appears to be ready for game day right now, at least when it comes to Wi-Fi.

(See part 2 of this excerpt tomorrow)

New Report: Green Bay’s Lambeau Field leads new NFL Wi-Fi deployments

Wave the flag, Wi-Fi has come to Lambeau Field! Photo: Green Bay Packers

Wave the flag, Wi-Fi has come to Lambeau Field! Photo: Green Bay Packers

When most NFL fans think of the Green Bay Packers and Lambeau Field, they think of frozen tundra — of Vince Lombardi roaming the sideline in his thick glasses and peaked hat, with visible breath coming through the face masks of behemoth linemen on the field. In the stands, they see the venerable fans braving the cold of northern Wisconsin in their snowmobile suits, with mittens wrapped around a bratwurst and a beer.

But do they think of those same Packers fans pulling out their iPhones and Samsungs to take selfies, and posting them to Instagram or Facebook? Maybe not so much.

The reality of 2015, however, finds us with fans in Green Bay being just like fans anywhere else — meaning, they want to be able to use their mobile devices while at the game. As the cover story of our most recent Stadium Tech Report series, we explore the details of bringing Wi-Fi to historic Lambeau Field, where late-season texting might carry the threat of frostbitten fingers.

Our PRO FOOTBALL ISSUE has 50-plus pages of insight and how-to explanations that in addition to Green Bay’s work also cover some interesting Wi-Fi access point hiding tricks practiced by the IT folks at AT&T Stadium, and a recap of Levi’s Stadium plans as it gets ready to host Super Bowl 50. Plus team-by-team capsule descriptions of stadium tech deployments for all 32 NFL franchises. It’s all free to you, so download your copy today!

The NFL haves and have-nots when it comes to Wi-Fi

PRO_FB_ThumbWas it really three long years ago that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued an edict calling for Wi-Fi in all 31 NFL stadiums? While we’re almost there, it’s not quite everywhere yet and during the course of preparing this year’s PRO FOOTBALL ISSUE we found ourselves wondering how many of the current NFL stadium Wi-Fi networks are really up to snuff. Sure, there are leaders in the networking space, as teams with lots of money or recent Super Bowl hostings seem to be in a bit of an arms war when it comes to installing robust wireless networks. Teams like the Dallas Cowboys, the San Francisco 49ers, the Miami Dolphins, the New England Patriots and a few others come to mind when you are making a list of top networks, and you can probably add Green Bay’s 1,000-plus AP deployment to that tally.

But what about the balance of the league, which now has some kind of fan-facing Wi-Fi in 25 of its 31 venues? While those that don’t have any Wi-Fi at all are somewhat understandable (mainly due to questions about imminent franchise relocation), what about the stadiums that put in Wi-Fi a few years ago, or only put in a limited amount of technology? With no end in sight to the increasing demands for wireless bandwidth, how soon will the older networks need revamping? Including the DAS deployments? Those are questions we’ll keep asking and looking to answer, as we’ve already seen some public reports about Wi-Fi networks falling down on the job. The best place to start, of course, is with the report, so DOWNLOAD YOUR COPY right now!

Thank the sponsors, who let you read for free

Reporting, writing, editing and producing all this content has a cost, but thanks to our generous (and increasing!) list of sponsors, our editorially objective content remains free for you, the reader. We’d like to take a quick moment to thank the sponsors of the Q3 issue of Stadium Tech Report, which include Mobilitie, Crown Castle, SOLiD, CommScope, TE Connectivity, Aruba Networks, JMA Wireless, Corning, 5 Bars, Extreme Networks, ExteNet Systems. and partners Edgewater Wireless and Zinwave. We’d also like to thank you, our readers for your interest and continued support.

As always, we are here to hear what you have to say: Send me an email to kaps at and let us know what you think of our STADIUM TECH REPORT series, and whether or not the Wi-Fi at your local NFL stadium is a division winner.

Husker Wi-Fi: Nebraska fans use 4.2 TB of Wi-Fi data during Sept. 12 home game

It looks like we have an early leader in the (unofficial) college football Wi-Fi usage race, as the University of Nebraska folks are claiming that fans at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., used 4.2 terabytes of Wi-Fi data during the Huskers’ Sept. 12 victory over South Alabama.

Thanks to Chad Chisea, IT operations manager for the Huskers and Dan Floyd, Nebraska’s director of IT for athletics, we’ve got some stats and tweets to share — of the 4.2 TB, approximately 3.0 TB was downloaded data and 1.2 was uploaded, according to network stats sent to us via email. But if you look at the embedded tweet below, the numbers that really jump out at us are the 34,439 unique connected devices and the 28,290 peak connections at a single time — those are numbers that rival anything we’ve seen in NFL stadiums, and are dwarfed only by Super Bowl or college playoff championship game numbers.

With 89,822 in attendance to watch Nebraska whup up on South Alabama 48-9, it’s perhaps no surprise that there are pro-type numbers being put up on the Wi-Fi scoreboard. With a top deployment from Cisco and CDW put in last year, the Memorial Stadium Wi-Fi should be on par with any other large football stadium, and so far the numbers from Nebraska look to be proof of that idea. The Huskers also seem to have a good handle on promoting the Wi-Fi network, as witnessed by the two tweets below that direct fans to the network and let them know they also have game-day help available.

We’re looking forward to getting some hard stats from other top college venues — so far we’ve heard anecdotal evidence that the fiber-based network at Texas A&M’s Kyle Field is rocking, but no numbers yet — so send them our way, and let’s see how the stadium networks stack up. Right now it’s Big Red in the lead, but if DAS numbers from AT&T are any indication, there is lots more data being used this year in stadiums so let’s start adding up the scores.