Cellular use tops 12 TB for Kentucky Derby day — 20 TB+ for Derby weekend

Race winner Nyquist. Photo: KentuckDerby.com

Race winner Nyquist. Photo: KentuckDerby.com

Wireless data use at Saturday’s Kentucky Derby broke records all around, as major wireless carriers AT&T and Verizon Wireless both reported new event-usage top totals, with AT&T seeing 6.7 terabytes of data use while Verizon recorded 5.5 TB, for a total of 12.2 TB used during the Run for the Roses day. Last year, AT&T saw 5.1 TB of traffic on the Churchill Downs DAS and some extra infrastructure, while Verizon saw its total increase from 3.8 TB in 2015. Both AT&T and Verizon are on the main Churchill Downs DAS, which is run by neutral-host provider Mobilitie. This number will likely get even bigger if and when we get DAS stats from T-Mobile, which is also on the Churchill Downs DAS.

For the entire “Derby weekend” — a two-day stretch that also includes the Kentucky Oaks race on Friday — the carriers saw a combined 20.15 TB of data, with AT&T hitting 11.4 TB for the weekend and Verizon 8.75. Those totals are pretty stunning, when you realize that just two years ago AT&T only saw 2 TB of traffic on its DAS and associated infrastructure (which includes temporary cell towers on trucks and nearby macro towers), and Verizon customers used just 1.37 TB of data.

More evidence of wireless traffic growth can be found in the AT&T claim that it saw 815 GB of traffic on its network in a single hour last Saturday, easily the high number ever for AT&T at any kind of event. AT&T said that peak hour was from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern time, when the big race was held and favorite Nyquist won. In 2014, that peak hour for AT&T saw 180 GB of traffic, a number that we thought was big then. Verizon, which like AT&T added capacity to its infrastructure at Churchill Downs prior to this year’s race, also said it saw a traffic spike around the time of the big event. By comparison, AT&T said that at this year’s Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium it saw 201 GB of traffic on its DAS network just after kickoff.

When it comes to DAS the Derby now falls just behind the Super Bowl for DAS totals with 12.2 TB to 15.9 TB, though the Derby number could get closer if and when we get numbers from T-Mobile and Sprint. And yes, granted it’s a much bigger crowd (the Derby had its second-highest attendance ever with 167,227 — just a few thousand less than the record of 170,513 set last year. We also don’t have any stats yet for usage of the new Churchill Downs app, but it does appear betting was up this year, maybe due to app integration?


  1. The data usage at KY Derby is somewhat “old news.” As your article clearly states, all these companies had significant usage last year, and as your would expect, that increases year-over-year (thanks mostly to phones that are increasingly-capable of capturing higher-quality images/videos.)

    What you FAILED to capture/mention, is that the Derby was broadcast to a new type of mobile device this year — VR headsets!

    It was pretty awesome! It allowed people with VR headsets to feel as if they were trackside, or standing in the owner’s box.

    Between races, a magical large-screen TV would appear, playing the typical TV feed of interviews and such. It would then disappear as the racing resumed.

    There were 180-degree cameras strategically placed around the entire track, as well as in the paddock area.

    Sure, there were a few (minor) hiccups (as there are with ANY live-broadcast event.)
    The rain periodically caused some visibility issues.
    The paddock cam was at eye-level, which was periodically obscured by people standing right in front of the camera (awkward!)
    But, for the most part, it was way, WAY better than watching it on the ol’ traditional bube-tube.

    Sure, the quality of the VR headsets was still a bit too grainy. Personally, however, I’d rather see the 180-degree or 360-degree grainy image, than a “flat” UHD image.

    The world isn’t flat. Much like the ships that sailed over the horizon in history, to discover new lands and frontiers — VR is proving that media isn’t flat, either — and new horizons await us!

  2. I agree VR is cool but our reports are primarily about in-venue experiences. 170,000 horse racing, hat-gawking and julep-guzzling fans who showed up in person can’t be wrong, and every time the number goes up it’s still news. When it goes down it will be news. Maybe you need to visit our site more often? Data numbers are always big news to our readers.

    VR is news too, we’re trying to keep up on that front as well (see recent Cleveland Cavaliers story about VR headsets being given away at Quicken Loans Arena). But supporting folks who need and want Internet connectivity at events is going to surpass VR usage by a looooong shot for the foreseeable future. Bet on it.

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