Friday links: More Wi-Fi spectrum, Apple SE has Wi-Fi 6 and CBRS

Apple’s new $399 iPhone SE supports both Wi-Fi 6 and CBRS. Credit: Apple

If you need some pointers on things to catch up on this weekend here are some links to recent news that will likely have future impact on the stadium technology world, including new Wi-Fi spectrum, Apple’s support for Wi-Fi 6 and CBRS in its new phone, and Apple and Google working together on contact tracing.

FCC ready to clear 6 GHz band for unlicensed Wi-Fi

This surfaced a couple weeks ago but it’s worth revisiting as venues plan their Wi-Fi networks of the future. In a vote expected to take place next week, the FCC looks ready to approve pretty much the entire 6 GHz band for unlicensed use, a big win for the Wi-Fi industry. Monica Alleven over at FierceWireless has a good recap, we will of course follow up as this moves along to see how venues and equipment providers plan to take advantage of the roughly 1,200 MHz of new spectrum. Can you say bigger channel sizes? Yes you can. The new spectrum will be extremely powerful when combined with the technical advances of Wi-Fi 6 — which you can read about in the report we put out last year in partnership with AmpThink.

Apple supports Wi-Fi 6, CBRS in new iPhone SE

Keeping pace with the wireless support it placed in the iPhone 11 line that came out last fall, Apple’s new iPhone SE will have support for both Wi-Fi 6 and for CBRS (LTE band 48), which should mean that our opinion that Apple may hasten acceptance of Wi-Fi 6 gets a turbo boost. At just $399, the new smaller form-factor phone is already being praised as a good value. Since venues regularly still report iOS devices as the majority of in-stadium network users, it’s a good bet the lower-priced iPhone will show up in big numbers in the near future. That also means that venues planning on Wi-Fi 6 networks or CBRS deployments will have more clients sooner rather than later.

Apple, Google partner on COVID-19 contact tracing technology

It’s still very early days for venues trying to figure out which technologies they might need to adopt to help them re-open, but one development that bears close watching is the partnership between Apple and Google to work together on COVID-19 contact tracing technology. Again, no real plans yet on how venues might use this technology, but it’s a smart guess that some kind of tracking application will be needed to ensure people coming into stadiums can feel safe about being part of a crowd. The Markup has a good take on some of the pros and cons of the technology; we’ll be following this closely going forward as well.

How will touch screens work when people are wary of touching things?

As we pay more attention to concessions technology one question we’ve been wondering about is: What happens to touch-screen concessions technology in the era of COVID-19? Our pal Dave Haynes over at 16:9 has a virtual roundtable scheduled for next week Tuesday that will focus on that topic. Registration is free.

Twins to test VR for fans at Target Field

The Minnesota Twins will test virtual reality content for fans at a July 29 game at Target Field. Credit all photos: Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins will test virtual reality content for fans at a July 29 game at Target Field. Credit all photos: Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins are partnering with SuperSphere VR to offer 5,000 fans the chance to “virtually” walk with a Twins player onto Target Field. On the July 29 test run, the Twins plan to distribute Google cardboard style virtual reality (VR) viewers to the first 5,000 attendees of the night’s game against the Chicago White Sox. The VR viewer offers users a low-cost means of experiencing VR by placing their phones inside a foldable cardboard headset shaped like a pair of binoculars.

Chris Iles, Senior Director of Content for the Twins, sees this promotion as an excellent way to engage with fans. “It’s giving fans the opportunity to do something they’ve never done before, and we think it will enhance their ball park visit.” Iles went on to explain that enhancing fan engagement is a major, organization-wide goal for the Twins.

Demo spurs another demo

According to Iles, the Twins began exploring VR after seeing a demonstration of the technology at a spring training showcase with Major League Baseball Advanced Media.

Panoramic views are possible with VR technology

Panoramic views are possible with VR technology

Iles and the Twins “saw some potential for using virtual reality to bring fans closer to the game.” After seeing the demo and experimenting with the tech themselves, the Twins got in touch with SuperSphere VR to develop the upcoming VR experiment for Twins fans. SuperSphere VR specializes in VR content production for many applications, including sporting events.

The Twins’ VR content will be distributed to fans at the game only, using a geofencing feature within the MLB Ballpark app. Once fans check in through the Ballpark app they will be able to access the VR content on their phones. Iles expects the content will be made available to all fans, inside or outside the park, through the app later on.

The VR experience will be prerecorded on this first go-around in order to reduce the technical complexity of content delivery. “For this first foray,” Iies said, “we wanted something a little more controlled. That way we can confidently deliver that great experience.”

The Twins VR deployment may be the beginning of broader VR use for the organization. However, it’s still tough to say how VR is going to fit into a broader fan engagement strategy. For now, the Twins are among the first MLB franchises to explore the possibilities presented by VR for fan engagement on the day of the game.

Christopher Meier is an intern for Mobile Sports Report.

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.”

All-Star Game has DAS Grand Slam: Four different DAS systems online at Great American Ball Park

Google Map screenshot of Cincinnati riverfront area, showing Paul Brown Stadium and the Great American Ball Park. Somewhere in between is a DAS headend.

Google Map screenshot of Cincinnati riverfront area, showing Paul Brown Stadium and the Great American Ball Park. Somewhere in between is a DAS headend.

Call it the DAS grand slam — to cover wireless customer demand, the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati has four separate DAS deployments, one for each of the major U.S. wireless carriers, which are probably all getting a workout at tonight’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

Brian Keys, vice president of technology for the Cincinnati Reds, confirmed Tuesday that there are four separate DAS (distributed antenna system) networks in the ballpark, one each for AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile. Through several interviews Mobile Sports Report was able to confirm that Solid is providing the gear for the Verizon DAS, and another source said that ADRF is providing the DAS for Sprint.

We also had a long interview with the folks at TE Connectivity, who initially installed a 2G/3G/4G DAS in the venue in 2011, and recently upgraded that DAS, adding support for the 2100 MHz AWS spectrum. And while TE Connectivity was not at liberty to name the carrier for which it provides the DAS, by process of elimination we are fairly confident that their customer is AT&T. T-Mobile, which is also on its own DAS in the park, is also believed to be a Solid customer but we haven’t yet confirmed that fact.

Why are there four systems in Cincinnati? We haven’t yet had a chance to talk to Brian Keys (he’s been a little bit busy this week) but it’s fairly likely that it was just a fairly normal occurrence in the DAS world — one big carrier doesn’t want to join a DAS already installed by another big carrier, so it just funds its own. At the Great American Ball Park, Verizon’s decision to build its own DAS may have been in part because the carrier already has a DAS headend facility nearby, serving Paul Brown Stadium, the GABP’s riverfront neighbor. In fact, the Solid folks told us Tuesday that both the baseball DAS and the football DAS for Verizon are served out of the same facility, which makes sense.

The TE Connectivity DAS, for the client it couldn’t name (AT&T!), was also recently upgraded to cover areas outside the stadium, including the parking lots, a trend we are seeing more of as venues realize that fans want connectivity the moment they arrive, not just when they’re in their seats. We’ll try to get more details on this somewhat unique DAS situation — which was also apparently approved by the technical and business folks at MLBAM, which helped bring a Wi-Fi upgrade to the park this past offseason — but for the meantime, let’s just be glad that customers of all four of the major U.S. carriers had DAS support at Tuesday’s All-Star Game — in their own private and separate ways.

Levi’s Stadium update: Wi-Fi traffic steady at 2.3+ TB per game, Amazon and Google lead apps use

Scoreboard promo for the Levi's Wi-Fi network

Scoreboard promo for the Levi’s Wi-Fi network

Usage of the Wi-Fi network at the San Francisco 49ers’ new Levi’s Stadium continues to hold steady at 2.3-plus Terabytes of data offloaded per game, according to the most recent statistics provided by the Niners’ network staff.

Though he’s no longer the team’s vice president of technology, former Levi’s network guru Dan Williams remains as a game-day consultant to the team, and he shared some recent network statistics with MSR, including some app usage marks that show Amazon Cloud Drive and Google APIs being among the top two applications being used over the Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi network.

According to Williams’ numbers, for the Niners’ Nov. 23 day home game against Washington, the Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi network had 22,095 unique users, 35 percent of the total attendance; the peak number of concurrent users was 14,700, reached at 2:50 p.m. (near halftime), and the total data used was 2.31 TB, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

During the Thanksgiving day game against the Seahawks, the network had 23,371 users (36 percent of attendees) who used 2.38 TB of data, with a peak of 16,800 concurrent users at 7:15 p.m.

Video-replay statistics from the Levi’s Stadium app apparently do better when there are more home-team highlights to watch. During the victory over Washington, 1,074 fans watched 4,885 replays, with the 30-yard TD pass from Colin Kaepernick to Anquan Boldin racking up 953 total views from 398 unique users — meaning many users are watching the same replay more than once (maybe showing it to people sitting around them?). For the Seahawks game, 1,407 fans watched 3,875 replays, with a Kaepernick pass to Michael Crabtree accounting for the most views, 487 total from 180 unique users.

The top 4 apps used by fans on the network varied a bit from the two close games, but according to Williams Amazon Cloud Drive was the top app for both recent games. For the Seahawks game, the next three top apps were Google APIs, Facebook and SnapChat, while for the Washington game the next three top apps used were stadium video, Google APIs and Apple iTunes.

Philadelphia Eagles will test CrowdOptic’s Google Glass tech at Lincoln Financial Field

Indiana Pacers cheerleaders wearing Google Glass. Credit: Indiana Pacers.

Indiana Pacers cheerleaders wearing Google Glass. Credit: Indiana Pacers.

After successfully convincing several NBA teams to use its Google Glass infrastructure technology, San Francisco startup CrowdOptic has scored an NFL deal, with the Philadelphia Eagles agreeing to test the company’s wearable-device apps at their home stadium, Lincoln Financial Field.

According to a press release out today, CrowdOptic will work with the Eagles’ infrastructure provider, Extreme Networks, which brought high-quality Wi-Fi to the stadium last year.

So far, the CrowdOptic technology has been used by the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic to provide Google Glass views to stadium jumbotrons. While having such an intimate, new point of view is interesting, CrowdOptic’s technology actually goes much deeper than simple broadcast enhancement; it can also provide a “heat map” of what an aggregate of Google Glass wearers are looking at, a feature that has many possible future applications. However, it’s unclear how stadiums and arenas might eventually regulate or administer Google Glass wearing by fans, and whether or not fans will ever be able to “broadcast” their own Google Glass video views.

“We are looking forward to testing this technology and finding ways to incorporate it into our gameday presentation,” said Brian Papson, Eagles Vice President of Marketing, in a prepared statement. “Our goal is always to provide our fans with unique and behind-the-scenes perspectives through a variety of different sources and we’re excited about the potential of using Google Glass technology through CrowdOptic.”