AT&T: Super Bowl Crowd Breaks Wireless Data-Sending Records

It was expected to be one of the biggest wireless-data events ever, and according to AT&T the folks attending Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis Sunday didn’t disappoint, with AT&T’s customers breaking company records for wireless communications from the big game.

According to statistics provided by AT&T, customers using AT&T smartphones, tablets and other devices inside Lucas Oil Stadium accounted for a total of 215 GB of wireless data traffic, an increase of almost 40 GB from Super Bowl XLV, even though there were almost 35,000 fewer fans at the game this year. Customers also uploaded more data to the network than they downloaded by a wide margin Sunday, 125 GB to 90 GB, likely signifying that AT&T users were busy sending photos, videos and messages out from the stadium to Internet sites or to friends who weren’t in attendance.

The surge in data traffic doesn’t even include any data sent over the Wi-Fi or DAS networks AT&T put in place in downtown Indy outside the stadium to ensure that fans had access to a good connection no matter where they were in the vicinty of the game. According to AT&T’s math the data represent an 82 percent increase in data use per person in attendance, a staggering amount of growth for a practice that even just a couple years ago was basically unheard of.

Given the data surge it’s perhaps no surprise that voice calls, voice minutes and text message totals all dropped from the previous year’s game, perhaps also due to the fact that Cowboys Stadium had 103,219 in attendance for Super Bowl XLV while there were just 68,658 in attendance at the smaller Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday. According to AT&T there were only 722,296 text messages sent by its customers Sunday, down from 2,090,099 sent the previous year. Voice calls and voice minutes were down 59 percent and 57 percent respectively, from 183,216 calls to 75,204 calls and 181,606 minutes to 78,133 minutes. The stats here are only for AT&T’s 2G, 3G and LTE networks inside the stadium itself, over a 7-hour window around the actual game.

In addition to the wide array of technical enhancements AT&T made in and around the stadium over the past year AT&T said it also had an on-site “command center” as well as street-team employees helping customers find the best way to connect. Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile also beefed up their cellular operations in and around the stadium, and so far no reports of bad service have surfaced so all the preparations must have been enough to handle the game-day wireless crush, which was probably at least three times AT&T’s total if not more. AT&T’s Super Bowl enhancements are just part of a wide-ranging strategy from Ma Bell to cover stadiums with additional wireless assets.

AT&T’s stats from the game, however, should give pause to stadium operators, teams, schools and other big-event area hosts, because it’s almost guaranteed that wireless tsunamis of demand are coming your way next. As AT&T senior executive vice president of technology and network operations John Donovan notes in a blog post, mobile devices have become “integral to our lives,” and even more so for special sporting activities that we will want to share with friends not present via the Internet. Provided the wireless network allows it.

While the Super Bowl is a special case where providers will send extra resources to ensure performance, not every event can expect such an influx of assets. The question for game hosts then becomes how will you ensure that your customers get the wireless coverage they expect? For the answers, keep following Mobile Sports Report as we cover the news and provide the business analysis for this interesting intersection of mobile, social and sport.


  1. Interesting to see that British businesses are being warned that the Olympics could crash the Internet services there this summer:


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