Extreme Networks to provide Wi-Fi 6 to 16 Major League Baseball stadiums

Extreme Wi-Fi gear (small white box in center) at Wrigley Field. Credit: Paul Kapustka, STR

In one of the biggest sports-venue Wi-Fi deals ever, Major League Baseball said it has selected Extreme Networks as its new “official Wi-Fi solutions provider,” a deal that will see Extreme Wi-Fi 6 gear being deployed in at least 16 MLB venues, beginning with the Boston Red Sox’s Fenway Park.

In an announcement today, Extreme and MLB said the deal would bring in-stadium Wi-Fi gear as well as Extreme’s network analytics software to at least 16 stadiums by 2026.

According to Major League Baseball, the Extreme deal represents the latest step for the league’s “technology consortium,” a plan started in 2014 where the league brought together a consortium of technology and service providers to more quickly bring better connectivity to MLB venues through pre-arranged and shared pricing structures. (In the first version of the consortium plan, Cisco was the preferred Wi-Fi gear supplier.)

Truman Boyes, MLB’s senior vice president for technology infrastructure, said that adding Wi-Fi 6 technology to the consortium offerings was driven by the continued increase in network data consumption by fans at ballparks.

“We’ve seen growth [in network usage] ramp up year after year,” Boyes said.

And while an earlier version of the Wi-Fi 6 rollout plan was set to start last spring, Boyes said that the Covid pandemic and its subsequent closing of almost all venues to fans in 2020 actually helped MLB solidify its plans.

More Extreme Wi-Fi gear underneath the roof at Wrigley Field. Credit: Paul Kapustka, STR

“We did have some delays [due to the pandemic] but because there still wasn’t an actual standardized approach to Wi-Fi 6 at this time last year, it became a good time to wait it out,” Boyes said. And after evaluating all the equipment providers in the Wi-Fi space, Boyes said Extreme’s experience in large-venue Wi-Fi networks helped make Extreme MLB’s choice based on technical merit.

“When it comes to networks of 20,000 to 40,000 [users], it’s a totally different landscape,” Boyes said. With Extreme’s experience in NFL-size venues, he said, “they know how to make it scale.”

According to Boyes, 10 of the network deployments are expected to be completed by the end of the year, with Fenway’s deployment scheduled to be live by opening day. (See full list at bottom of story)

MLB deal follows NFL deal

The “official” Wi-Fi deal adds another win to Extreme’s sports-industry ledger, following the company’s current similar deal with the NFL. Next year will be Extreme’s ninth season as the official Wi-Fi supplier to the NFL, where 10 of the 30 venues use Extreme gear exclusively for Wi-Fi, with two other NFL venues having a mix of gear with some Extreme included. Extreme’s current deal with the NFL lasts until March of 2022, according to the NFL.

Like its NFL deal, Extreme’s contract with MLB does not require venues to use Extreme equipment; it simply provides teams with a league-approved deal that most likely has economics that are potentially more favorable than those available outside the consortium pricing, given that Extreme is both a supplier and a sponsor to the league.

“Teams can join if they want to share in the benefits of centralized management,” said Boyes of MLB’s consortium efforts. While 16 MLB teams have committed to the Wi-Fi 6 deal with Extreme, Boyes said there is “interest from other teams” as well. Currently, Boyes said 20 of MLB’s 30 teams have used consortium deals for connectivity in the past.

Extreme currently has two existing MLB customers for stadium Wi-Fi, the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field and the Baltimore Orioles’ home, Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles’ deal with Extreme had not been previously reported, other than that Verizon had paid for Wi-Fi at the park.

While Extreme has gotten big visibility out of its NFL deal — one which allows Extreme to control the announcement of network-usage results from the Super Bowl each year, even if Extreme gear is not used at the venue — it has also not won any recent deals for new NFL Wi-Fi networks. The two newest NFL venues, SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles and Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, both chose Cisco as their Wi-Fi 6 gear supplier.

However, some long-standing Extreme customers in the NFL have recently stuck with Extreme for renovations, including updates at the last two Super Bowl venues, Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium and Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium. Extreme and the Seattle Seahawks were also set to announce a Wi-Fi 6 upgrade to the network at Lumen Field this past year, but that announcement was delayed by the team due to the Covid pandemic.

Wes Durow, chief marketing officer for Extreme, said in a phone interview that Extreme’s focus on analytics makes it a great fit with Major League Baseball, which he said has been out in front of the entire sports world when it comes to emphasizing new statistics as a way to engage fans more closely.

And while acknowledging that a sponsorship with MLB was part of the equation, he said “that’s not what drove this deal. They [MLB] needeed to make a technology decision first.”

Consortium focusing on Wi-Fi

Unlike the past version of the consortium efforts, which included cellular distributed antenna network (DAS) systems as well as Wi-Fi, Boyes said the MLB consortium would “focus on Wi-Fi” going forward.

Part of MLB’s stance of “keeping DAS a little bit at arm’s length for now,” Boyes said, has to do with the complexity of 5G cellular deployments. Unlike 4G LTE cellular, where the top U.S. carriers all used similar spectrum spaces, the early 5G deployments from the top carriers all use different spectrum bands, which doesn’t work with a shared-antenna system.

MLB Stadiums that will get Extreme Wi-Fi 6:

Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox)
Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Guaranteed Rate Field (Chicago White Sox)
Great American Ballpark (Cincinnati Reds)
Progressive Field (Cleveland Indians)
Comerica Park (Detroit Tigers)
Minute Maid Park (Houston Astros)
Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City Royals)
Marlins Park (Miami Marlins)
Citi Field (New York Mets)
Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia Phillies)
PNC Park (Pittsburgh Pirates)
Petco Park (San Diego Padres)
T-Mobile Park (Seattle Mariners)
Busch Stadium (St. Louis Cardinals)
Nationals Park (Washington Nationals)

AT&T sees 9 TB of wireless data use at World Series

The latest statistic showing that wireless data use at sports venues continues to grow comes from AT&T, which said that it saw 9 terabytes of wireless data use on its networks at this year’s World Series games, an 80 percent increase from last year’s total of 5 TB.

According to AT&T, the biggest single-game use of this year’s series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros came during Game 2 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, where fans on AT&T networks used 1.5 TB of data. An AT&T blog post about the series has some interesting statistics about when data use surged, mainly right after dramatic events took place on the field.

Last year, AT&T said it saw 5 TB of data used on its networks at Wrigley Field and Progressive Field during the seven-game series between the Cubs and the Indians. We don’t have any Wi-Fi data yet from either park this year but it will be interesting to see what happened on the network at Minute Maid Park in Houston during the phenomenal Game 5, a contest that kept many baseball fans up late at night.

Verizon Wireless said it didn’t keep track of DAS statistics for this year’s World Series games.

Cubs fans on AT&T networks use 1.4 TB of cellular on opening night, more than World Series games

Bleacher fans at Wrigley Field use their mobile devices to record the team’s World Series banner celebration. Credit: Screen shot of ESPN broadcast

As we found out last fall, having a World Series game at your venue can generate large amounts of wireless traffic, on both cellular and Wi-Fi networks. But as it turns out, celebrating a World Series victory can generate even more traffic, especially when the celebration includes an on-field ceremony made for fan photos from the seats.

According to AT&T, Cubs fans at Wrigley Field for Monday night’s home opener used 1.4 terabytes of wireless data on AT&T’s cellular and DAS (distributed antenna system) in and around the Friendly Confines. That was almost 400 GB more than the biggest AT&T usage report from last fall’s World Series, when Wrigley Field saw 1.006 TB of data used on AT&T networks for Game 3, the first game in Chicago.

Before the Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers played on Monday night, there was a lengthy rain delay where a packed house of fans was waiting for the Cubs to unveil their World Series and National League pennant banners.

The flags, which were mounted on four poles at the back of the centerfield bleachers, became the center of attention when the entire Cubs roster still with the team from last season climbed up into the stands to each take a pull at hoisting the World Series champion banner aloft. As you can tell by the pictures we snapped off the ESPN broadcast, it was a made-for-mobile-device moment, with some lucky fans able to get up close and personal photos of the Cubs players.

After hoisting the banners the Cubs players emerged from the tunnels behind the outfield walls with the World Series trophy and paraded it onto the field, again no doubt attracting more of the photos that eventually were sent over the AT&T networks. It’s a lot of wireless traffic, but no doubt a problem any team in Major League Baseball would be willing to tackle each spring.

Verizon: Series fans used 5.3 TB of cellular data at Wrigley Field, 15.4 TB at Progressive Field

Cubs victory celebration in Chicago's Grant Park. Credit: KIICHIRO SATO/AP from Cubs.com.

Cubs victory celebration in Chicago’s Grant Park. Credit: KIICHIRO SATO/AP from Cubs.com.

We now have the Verizon Wireless stats for cellular usage by fans at Chicago’s Wrigley Field during the recent World Series, and according to Verizon fans on its cellular network in the stadium used a total of 5.3 terabytes of data for the three games at the Friendly Confines. Verizon also said that for the four games at the Cleveland Indians’ Progressive Field, Verizon saw a combined 15.4 TB of wireless data on its cellular network.

Combined with AT&T’s previously announced total of 3 TB on its network over the three games gives us a total of 8.3 TB of DAS usage for the top two wireless carriers for the three Chicago Cubs home games during the Fall Classic. For the Cleveland games, the 15.4 TB on Verizon and 2 TB on AT&T comes to 14.4 TB combined.

Outside the games, Verizon added that Chicagoans used another 6.5 TB of data along the World Series celebration parade route last Friday. According to a published report, AT&T’s network in Chicago saw 10.5 TB of traffic during the parade; we haven’t been able to confirm that number with AT&T directly but with 5 million fans estimated taking place in the celebration, 17 TB of combined data usage sounds about right.

Cubs see 3 TB of cellular data on AT&T network during World Series games at Wrigley

Screen Shot 2016-11-03 at 12.08.20 PMAs expected, the just-concluded 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians saw big totals for in-stadium wireless data use, with AT&T customers using almost 5 terabytes of total data, with 3 TB recorded during the three games at Chicago’s Wrigley Field and another 2 TB in the four games at Cleveland’s Progressive Field.

According to statistics of traffic on AT&T’s DAS (distributed antenna system) cellular networks in and around the stadiums, the biggest single-game total was a mark of 1+ TB at Wrigley Field for Game 3. While there was less overall traffic on the AT&T DAS at Progressive Field, some of the fan data in Cleveland most likely was carried by the stadium’s Wi-Fi network; Wrigley’s new Wi-Fi network is still under construction and was not available to fans for this season.

Thanks to AT&T, here is a game-by-game breakdown of the DAS traffic totals. Remember, this is for AT&T customers only on AT&T networks. Any other carriers out there who want to add their totals to this mix, you know where to find us!

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World Series fans will have Wi-Fi + DAS at Cleveland’s Progressive Field; cellular only at Wrigley

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 11.00.32 AMIf you are lucky, loaded or devoted enough to have tickets to any of this year’s World Series games, you will have more connectivity choices at Cleveland’s Progressive Field than at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Thanks to a Verizon-built Wi-Fi and a separate DAS network that both came online in 2014, the home of the AL champion Indians should be ready for the bucket-list traffic pressures that come with hosting World Series games.

When the series moves to Chicago later this week, the Wrigley cell network will need to carry the full load, as renovations that are bringing new Wi-Fi and DAS systems to the Friendly Confines are not yet in place (and may not be finished until 2018, according to the Cubs).

However, the cellular networks at Wrigley Field seem to be working just fine — according to AT&T, during the three league championship series games in Chicago, fans who are AT&T customers used 2.6 terabytes of data on the AT&T networks at the ballpark. For the three games at Dodger Stadium, AT&T said it saw a total of 2.0 TB used on its networks. Fans at Progressive Field, meanwhile, used a total of 340 GB during games 1 and 2 of the ALCS on AT&T networks. Expect that number to grow this week.

For fans attending the games in Cleveland (Game 1 is Oct. 25 and Game 2 is Oct. 26; games 6 and 7, if necessary, will also be in Cleveland) there should be plenty of local cellular capacity thanks to the beefing-up brought by carriers ahead of this summer’s Republican convention; we are also guessing that all the big wireless providers are doing their usual big-event preparations, which usually means portable cellular equipment for placement around the stadiums and in other fan areas. Anyone attending the games, send us a speedtest… so we can keep score on the networks!