Stadium Tech Report: Network finishes season strong at Niners’ Levi’s Stadium

Arriving at Levi's Stadium for last 2014 season game

Arriving at Levi’s Stadium for last 2014 season game

While the football season didn’t turn out like 49ers fans wanted, the wireless network at the team’s new Levi’s Stadium closed out the year with strong performances to complete a largely glitch-free stretch of events at what is one of the world’s most technologically advanced stadiums.

With more than 2 Terabytes of data used by fans at each of the last two home games for the San Francisco 49ers, the Wi-Fi and DAS networks at Levi’s Stadium closed out a season of superb connectivity that eventually allowed the team to not just offer in-seat food and beverage delivery, but also ordering and delivery of merchandise like hats and T-shirts, an option that was available for the Dec. 20 game against the San Diego Chargers and the Dec. 28 closer vs. the Arizona Cardinals.

According to the Levi’s Stadium network crew, the Wi-Fi network carried 2.34 TB of data for the Chargers game and another 2.11 TB for the Cardinals game, with 20,096 fans using the network on Dec. 20 and 20,164 on Wi-Fi on Dec. 28. Peak concurrent user numbers were 13,700 for the Chargers game, and 14,400 for the season closer.

All season long, our speed tests in various parts of the stadium showed strong signals for both the Wi-Fi as well as the distrbuted antenna system (DAS) enhanced cellular network. At the final game it was no different; we found Wi-Fi download speeds of 16 Mbps on the rooftop deck, 25 Mbps in a suite and a scorching 39 Mbps in the Levi’s 501 Club seats (no doubt in part because there was a Wi-Fi antenna under the seat next to us).

Both Verizon and AT&T 4G LTE services also worked well, consistently scoring download speeds in the 4-6 Mbps range in most places and much higher in others. In short, we didn’t find any flaws in the network coverage in five games of walking all around the stadium, testing everywhere we went.

CalTrain to VTA a smooth ride

Caltrain crown en route to Arizona game

Caltrain crown en route to Arizona game

At the final game, Mobile Sports Report (me) tested out the full public-transit method of getting to the game, starting from San Mateo on CalTrain at 10:51 a.m. The parking lot at the station was almost completely empty, and free since it was Sunday; it’s possible that crowds were lighter since the Niners had been eliminated from postseason play, but nevertheless the ride to Mountain View went without hitch, a good sign for next year when many fans in town for Super Bowl 50 will no doubt be using CalTrain to get from San Francisco to Levi’s.

At the Mountain View CalTrain/VTA station operations were at their best I’ve seen, with more neon-vested VTA helpers offering clear instructions on why you might want to take an express bus instead of the light rail. Insider tip: If the express bus is available, take it, because in our testing it arrived at Levi’s in about half the time as the train trip (~20 minutes as opposed to almost 40 minutes for the light rail option).

Express bus option at Mountain View

Express bus option at Mountain View

The only thing that still remains to be ironed out is the fare confusion in switching from CalTrain to VTA, which are two different operators. On CalTrain there was advertising for a $6 “combo ticket” that would let you ride VTA and could be purchased at the same time you bought your CalTrain pass. But an online single-day ticket purchased via the VTA app was only $4.50, so it’s not clear why you would buy the CalTrain pass. Especially for the Super Bowl, it’d help fans if there was one price and one place to buy a single “Get to Levi’s” public-transit ticket.

Food order arrives as promised

Another thing I tried at the season closer was the in-seat food ordering feature on the Levi’s Stadium app. Sitting in the Levi’s Club section seats on the third level, I consulted the app to order a cold beer and a warm pretzel, which the app said could be delivered in 10 minutes.

Food runner bringing me my cold beer and warm pretzel

Food runner bringing me my cold beer and warm pretzel

After entering credit-card information into the app and hitting the order button the app updated itself with timely notices about the order being prepared, and that it was on its way. I found that information to be very assuring, a sign that things were indeed happening; there was even a big number associated with my order that appeared, apparently to make it easier for the food runner to confirm the order.

The order arrived exactly in 10 minutes’ time, as predicted by the app — it also arrived in a lot of extra packaging, a separate plastic bag for the steel bottle of beer and a paper sack holding a cellophane wrapper-encircled pretzel. Since there is no way to add a gratuity in the app, I gave the runner a cash tip, which seemed appropriate even though there is a $5 charge added to the order cost for the delivery service. I have to admit it felt a little weird to have someone bring me my food and drink but in the time it took to order and deliver I sat in my seat and watched the Niners’ game-winning TD drive so it’s clearly a fan-friendly option.

Video replays work well, for small amount of viewers

Another part of the Levi’s Stadium technology that was at peak performance by year’s end was the app’s instant replay feature. Though it started slowly and had some hiccups early on, by the final game instant replays were appearing in the app even before the next play had concluded (see our feature on how the VenueNext team gets the replays to the app so quickly).

While it’s an impressive addition to the in-game experience, the replays are a feature that only a small amount of fans are watching. According to the team network stats there were only 1,253 unique users watching replays on Dec. 20, and 1,019 during the Dec. 28 game. Total replays viewed for the Chargers game were 6,285, while 4.310 replays were watched during the season closer.

Why aren’t the replays catching on? Our main guess is that the Levi’s Stadium big screens are so clear and so quick to show replays (they also show live action as it’s happening), fans don’t find it necessary to use their phones to watch replays. It’s also possible that many fans in the stadium who are using the network aren’t using the Levi’s Stadium app. Indeed, according to the team network stats, the team app hasn’t yet cracked the top-four apps being used at any of the games this season; for the Dec. 20 game the top apps being used on the network were Amazon cloud drive, Facebook, Google APIs (probably Gmail) and Apple; for Dec. 28 the list was Amazon, Google, Facebook, then Apple.

We’ll try to get some season-long stats to share for both the network and the app features, but our quick conclusion after five live-game visits to Levi’s Stadium this year is that the wireless network and the app both pretty much lived up to their pre-season billing and hype, delivering a wireless game-day experience that is the standard other large public facilities will be measured against, going forward. More photos from our last visit below.

The Microsoft Surface/sideline Wi-Fi unit

The Microsoft Surface/sideline Wi-Fi unit

close-up of cable connection

close-up of cable connection

Niners' Flickr promotion on scoreboard -- very popular

Niners’ Flickr promotion on scoreboard — very popular

Sideline Surface tablets for Niners players and coaches

Sideline Surface tablets for Niners players and coaches

Colin Kaepernick exchanges his radio helmet for his flat-brimmed hat after throwing a TD pass

Colin Kaepernick exchanges his radio helmet for his flat-brimmed hat after throwing a TD pass

View from the Levi's skydeck out over Santa Clara

View from the Levi’s skydeck out over Santa Clara

If you throw a rooftop party, the cheerleaders might visit

If you throw a rooftop party, the cheerleaders might visit

View from the Levi's 501 Club section seats

View from the Levi’s 501 Club section seats

Wi-Fin antenna right under the seat next to me (probably why my speedtest was 40+ Mbps)

Wi-Fin antenna right under the seat next to me (probably why my speedtest was 40+ Mbps)

In-stadium signing help to get fans to light rail

In-stadium signing help to get fans to light rail

End of game view from skydeck

End of game view from skydeck

A final toast to the season at the BNY Club

A final toast to the season at the BNY Club

VTA train line. Only took 15 minutes from here to get on bus.

VTA train line. Only took 15 minutes from here to get on bus.

Caltrain platform at Mountain View. Extra trains helped make ride home easy

Caltrain platform at Mountain View. Extra trains helped make ride home easy

Nokia delivers tablet as market continues to diversify


Nokia has introduced its Lumia 2520 tablet, a $499 offering that will run Microsoft’s Windows RT 8.1 operating system and is destined for the consumer marketplace, a space that is already saturated by the likes of Google, Amazon, Apple and Samsung.

The Lumia 2520 futures a 10-inch 192 x 1080 display and is powered by Qualcomm’s 2.2GHz Snapdragon 80 processor, 2GB RAM, 32GB of internal storage with an expansion slot that enables the addition of 32GB more.

The tablet has a 6.7 megapixel rear-facing camera ad a 2 MP front-facing camera and an app that it has included called Storyteller that enables users to plot their photos on a map. The tablet is expected to be available later this quarter.

The company has included other technology brought over from its handset division and with that and its use of a different processor is differentiating its offering from the Microsoft Surface 2 that was also introduced this week.

That is an interesting move by the company since Microsoft is in the process of buying Nokia’s handset business for $7.2B and will get the tablet business as well, if and when the deal closes next year. So now it will have two similar, yet slightly different offerings for the same market segment.

I can understand Nokia wanted a product that helps generate revenue in the time between now and the closing of its sale but it seems that both parties would have benefited if it had focused elsewhere, no matter how nice the Lumia 2520 is.

The move by Nokia comes as tablet prices continue to drop and the number of players continues to grow. One of the surprising moments in Apple’s rollout of its new iPads this week was that one of them was actually more expensive than the last generation.

According to market research firm ABI, as reported in Mobile Marketer, tablet prices have been dropping and will continue to do so. Apple had been falling from its premium priced spot and its recent move was an attempt to move back into that space.

The report went on and discussed how the high end is pretty well saturated by existing manufacturers and that most new products in that space simply enhance existing features rather than add bold new capabilities. However it pointed out that there are several market segments that are currently underserved by developers.

Those spaces include the educational and business markets. The business segment is one of the last strongholds of the PC but that dominance is slowly changing, mostly driven initially by the BYOD (bring your own device) movement.

So with these large and relatively unexploited markets available why did the company make a “me too” offering that will compete with Microsoft and others in the heavily competitive consumer space? It will also be competing with them in the business and education markets but since those spaces appear to have the most room for growth it seems that they present the best opportunity for Nokia to establish itself.

Microsoft beats Apple to market with latest generation tablets


Microsoft has unveiled its newest lineup of Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets at the same time as Apple but unlike Apple, which will not ship for several weeks, Microsoft will have its tablets ready for market now.

The Surface 2 (the renamed Surface RT) and the Surface Pro 2 both underwent some major adjustments as second generation products, with many of the alterations shared by both platforms. They both have longer battery life, enhanced display resolution and more processing power.

The Surface 2 features an Nvidia Tegra 4 processor, which has helped it double its battery life to 10 hours. The tablet has an upgraded display that has a 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD display now renders 1080p video.

The USB 2.0 port has been upgraded to USB 3.0, its camera resolution has also increased, with a 3.5-megapixel front camera and 5-megapixel rear camera. The Surface 2 is available in 32GB and 64GB configurations and starts at $449.

It should be noted that the Surface 2 is designed to run a version of Windows 8.1 RT so that older Windows apps will most likely not work on the platform and a user would need to purchase all new apps from the Microsoft Windows Store.

The Surface Pro 2, which runs the standard Windows 8.1 operating system and is generally backwardly compatible with older Windows apps is powered by an Intel Core i5 processor, which along with other changes will provide a longer battery life than the first generation. It has a 10.6-inch 1920 x 1080- display.

The Surface Pro 2 comes in 64GB and 128GB versions with 2GB f RAM starting at $899 and with 4GB of RAM and in 256GB and 512GB configurations with 8GB of RAM for power users.

Microsoft has continued to aim the Surface family at the business professional with the Surface Pro 2 and at the home consumer with the Surface 2, positioning both as more than simply tablets but as full desktop replacements and has expanded the accessories that are available for the tablets so that the needs of both markets are met.

There are keyboard covers for both tablets, as in the past but the neat change is that they are now backlit so that a sure could type in the dark if they wanted. The Touch Cover starts at $120 and the Type Cover at $130. They are sold separately from the tablets. Next year a $200 Power Cover, that includes a built-in battery will also be added to the lineup.

The two tablets also come with some limited time offers as well. Customers who purchase either device will receive one year of free Skype calling to landlines, unlimited Skype Wi-Fi on their Surface 2 or Surface Pro 2 for one year, and 200 GB of free SkyDrive storage for two years.

In the last year Microsoft has made some headway in the tablet space and it seems as the market continues to fracture into additional segments its position as a desktop replacement, with its high capacity storage capabilities, will help create a distinct personality for its products. One question it will face is will its OEMs stay on board if they are competing with Microsoft?

LG ready to ship high-end G Pad tablet

lg gpad

The fall tablet rollout continues as LG delivers the details of its LG G Pad 8.3 as the company seeks to establish itself as a contender in the small to midsized tablet space with an offering that should start hitting stores later this month.

The tablet, originally shown at IFA in Berlin last month, has an 8.3-inch display with 1920 x 1200 resolution but LG worked hard to keep the bezel small enough so that the tablet could be easily used in one hand. It is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.7GHz quad-core processor.

It features 2GB of RAM as well as 16GB of storage that can be expanded to 64GB via a microSD card It has a 5MP rear facing camera and a 1.3MP front facing camera. It runs on the Android 4.2.2 operating system release.

The company plans to release the tablet in the U.S. in the upcoming weeks according to reports and then follow that up with a European launch. It is expected to be first available next week in Korea but pricing for the U.S. model has not yet been announced.

The release of the G Pad 8.3 puts the company directly in competition with the growing number of developers cashing in on the demand for the smaller than 10-inch tablets with high quality smaller form factor offerings.

One of the top complaints against the 10-inch and larger models is that they are too cumbersome to use with one hand and need steady support for use, something that is not an issue with the smaller models.

Apple’s new iPads are expected later this month, the actual date of introduction is still a point of speculation at this time. Others that have refreshed already include leaders such as Amazon and Google.

Then of course there are lower cost models, usually ones with a lower resolution screen, less storage and fewer other bells and whistles, which does not mean that they have no role in this market, just not in a heads-up competition with the top of the line offerings.

There is also the growing corporate space where much larger storage is seen as a must. It will be interesting to see how the market segment breaks out going forward and if one tablet will suffice to work in all spaces or if it will be broken down by both size and market segment, with different leaders in the differing areas.

Friday Grab Bag: MLB Looks at iBeacon

In the last few weeks Microsoft has been very good at starting rumors with its vague comments about potential new directions and the latest is that it might be looking at delivering a Phablet that runs the unpopular Windows RT operating system.

As reported by Slash Gear, Microsoft vice president Terry Myerson speaking at the company’s financial analyst meeting last week said that the distinction between a phone and a tablet is blurring and that has seen the growth of the Phablet space.

Google’s Balloon idea about to pop?
Much has been made about Google’s plan to launch a series of balloons to provide Wi-Fi-around the globe in an effort called Project Loon. Now Per Lindstrand has come out against the program calling it ‘a waste of time.’

If you are unfamiliar with Lindstrand he was Richard Branson’s partner as they sought to fly a balloon around the world. He said that he expects the balloons to eventually all gather at the North or South Pole.

MLB gives iBeacon a trial run
One of the features in Apple’s recently released iOS 7 operating system is something called iBeacon. It is a technology that is designed to address the shortcomings that GPS suffers from when used indoors.

Now MLB has demonstrated the potential of the technology for use at ballgames and has the potential to bring fans to within 10 feet of their destination, not within the ½ mile that is how much a GPS can be off. No word yet if it will incorporate it in its At the Ballpark app, but keep an eye out next season.

Wall Street misses on Apple iPhone sales
The day that Apple released its latest generation iPhones the naysayers were out in force. The company has lost its mojo, CEO Cook is not inventive enough, the new phones are a dud and on and on as the stock, which had soared prior to the rollout started to sink.

The market put sales of the new phones in the 6 to 7.5 million range and just a week later Apple is breaking the 10 million unit barrier and phones are on backorder. In addition the company told Wall Street to expect quarterly earnings to be at the high end of the range it had previously announced. Mojo rising I guess.

Intel invests in Google Glass rival
Recon Instruments, which has been making wearable technology for some time has announced that Intel has come on board as a significant investor, although the sum has not been revealed. Recon makes Heads-up Displays for sports.

Recon has a number of partners including Oakley and has been shipping, and selling the devices at a number of outlets worldwide, including Apple Stores. Recon said that so far it has shipped over 50,000 devices.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 ship date set from Sprint
Sprint has announced that it will be shipping the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 on Oct. 4. So fans of the very popular phone can start getting in line soon. The real good news for many will be that it comes with an Unlimited Data Guarantee for life.

Amazon Refreshes Kindle Lineup-Meet the Kindle Fire HDX


Amazon has brought out its next generation Kindle Fires with new models that have greater resolution, faster processors and in one case the ability to hit a button and get help for issues that may be plaguing the tablet.

The company has also started to take the tablet battle into a new space — the enterprise — as it has added what it calls enterprise and productivity features as tablets are increasingly seen as replacements for PCs in the corporate environment.

The Kindle Fire HDX will be available in both a 7-inch and 8.9-inch model and are both powered by Qualcomm’s 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, which the company said was 3x faster than what powered its older models.

The company has also increased the pixels per inch to 2560 x 1600 on the 8.9-inch and reduced its weight 34% to 13.2 ounces while the 7-inch model has 1920 x 1200 resolution. The amount of RAM has been doubled to 2GB and they have a new graphics subsystem for faster gaming. There are a host of additional features including longer battery life and improved cameras.

An interesting feature is the “Mayday Button” that is in the Quick Settings. It calls up an Amazon expert on the device who can walk you through a feature or issue. This feature is available 24/7/365.

One area that the company has created a technology that will likely both further differentiate its products and help open new markets is its Fire OS 3.0 “Mojito” operating system that couples the Android operating system environment with Amazon-only features and cloud coverage.

Mojito may be a strong tool for the company to establish itself in the corporate environment where the “Bring your own device” (BYOD) mentality is becoming strongly entrenched. It has a number of features targeted directly at the enterprise including encryption, Kerberos support for intranet access, secure Wi-Fi, and a native VPN client, among other capabilities.

The 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX starts at $379 for 8 GB of memory, while the 7-inch starts at $229 also with 8 GB. Buyers can pre-order starting Sept. 25. The 7-inch will ship Oct. 18, while the 8.9-inch will ship starting Nov. 7. There will also be new colored covers that will be available in seven shades and cost between $45 and $70.

Older models have seen their price cut as the new models come on line with entry-level 7-inch tablet, the Kindle Fire HD with 8GB, to $139 from a $199 version that had 16 GB model.

It will be interesting to see how these models compare with the forthcoming iPads from Apple, widely expected sometime next month. The drive for the corporate space could catch Apple unprepared, and it will be interesting to see what Apple’s message will be when it takes its turn on stage. The corporate push is also where Microsoft has been positioning its Surface Pro tablets for some time, and it just recently announced the latest generation platforms.