AT&T turns on Wi-Fi at Miami Dolphins’ Sun Life Stadium

We knew that AT&T had put in a new DAS at Miami’s Sun Life Stadium earlier this year, so we were a bit surprised when we saw the Dolphins announce a new Wi-Fi network for their season opener a couple Sundays ago. A quick phone chat with Chad Townes, VP of AT&T’s antenna solutions group, set us straight: Turns out that AT&T had installed a Wi-Fi network alongside the DAS, but hadn’t planned to turn it up until the NFL season started.

For those of us who were lucky enough to be at the SEAT Conference in August, however, the questions couldn’t stop there. At SEAT, Townes made one of the bolder statements of the gathering, proclaiming that AT&T wasn’t going to fund stadium Wi-Fi developments anymore. So why was AT&T building Wi-Fi at Sun Life?

The Wi-Fi at Sun Life, Townes said, was built via a model AT&T was comfortable with — mainly, it was a financial model where the team and venue participated in the deployment costs. “Our position on Wi-Fi remains clear,” Townes said — mainly, that AT&T isn’t going to fully fund a network that it doesn’t reap benefits from. Since stadium Wi-Fi is or will be mainly used for high-bandwidth apps like video replays, it will generate wireless traffic that “doesn’t leave the stadium,” Townes said. AT&T is more interested in building and paying for DAS, or distributed antenna systems, which bring better cellular connectivity for fans at stadiums.

Traffic that leaves the stadium, to connect fans to the outside Internet, is of interest to AT&T since it is something the company can make money on, by providing the service to customers. OK, but then what about the recent deal AT&T signed with the Pac-12, which called for DAS builds in all conference stadiums, but may also call for AT&T to build… stadium Wi-Fi networks?

Again, it’s all about the economics, which in the Pac-12 case involved a big content carriage deal between the conference and AT&T’s home Internet and video service, U-verse. From what we’ve heard and read the deal involves a lot of stadium-intensive content agreements, so to make it all run right, AT&T wants to build the networks itself. In the case of that deal, Townes said networks would be built to “support the value of our brand” in those stadiums. So the bottom line is — AT&T isn’t going to simply pay for a Wi-Fi network in your stadium. Unless there’s more to the deal than that.


  1. […] a company that claimed it wasn’t doing Wi-Fi networks in stadiums anymore, AT&T has sure been busy launching them. I guess we can alter the “no Wi-Fi” plan to “we’ll put in Wi-Fi if we get […]

  2. […] them of shorter wait times on the concourse. Plus, AT&T upgraded the stadium with more than 1,100 Wi-Fi access points and DAS antennas a year ago. All of this has the Dolphins delivering one of the better wireless game day […]

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