NFL Wi-Fi update: AT&T Stadium adds 667 APs

A row shot of the under-seat APs at AT&T Stadium. Photo: Dallas Cowboys

With today’s main NFL season schedule already underway, here is a quick update on all the NFL stadium Wi-Fi updates we know about that are either finished or still under construction for the 2017 season:

— AT&T Stadium, already the location of the biggest (by number of APs) stadium network we know of, is in the process of adding another 667 APs, a project scheduled to be finished in the next few weeks. According to John Winborn, CIO for the Dallas Cowboys Football Club, the new APs are all the Cisco 3800 two-radio models, and will be installed on the stadium’s 400-level seating area.

When done, AT&T Stadium will have 2,567 APs, with plans to add another 400 in the upcoming offseason. After that, said Winborn, AT&T Stadium will “be out of locations in the stadium to place additional APs without additional spectrum opening up.” (editor’s note: This post has been updated to correct an error in reporting that previously stated that 600 new APs had been installed.)

— In Atlanta, the fans are getting ready for the first regular-season game at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which will have nearly 1,800 APs total, many of those under the seats in the bowl.

— As previously reported in MSR, Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High is in the process of ripping and replacing its former Wi-Fi network, installing 1,470 new Cisco 3800s in a project scheduled for completion by late October/early November.

— In Philadephia, Lincoln Financial Field is in the process of switching from an Extreme Networks deployment to a new one using Wi-Fi gear from Panasonic. More details on this project are promised later this fall.

— In Seattle, the Seahawks’ IT team is adding additional APs to improve coverage in the four corners of the upper seating sections of CenturyLink Field, according to Chip Suttles, vice president of technology for the Seahawks. Suttles said a full offseason tuning assessment with gear provider Extreme Networks also saw a new channel plan put in place, and “multiple Wi-Fi antenna orientations to improve coverage.”

— Detroit’s Ford Field also got a Wi-Fi (and DAS) upgrade over the past offseason, a revamp that will now allow all visitors, and not just Verizon Wireless customers, to use the stadium Wi-Fi.

— Chicago Bears fans will finally have free Wi-Fi this season, after being forced to pay for access previously.

— Following the announcement that the Arizona Cardinals were switching from CDW to Cox Business as the exclusive technology provider for the University of Phoenix Stadium, the UoP Stadium network was set for some additional APs and some network tuning ahead of the NFL season, according to Mark Feller, vice president of technology for the Cardinals.

Anyone else we miss? Send us the info… and the speedtests!

Seahawks see big jump in Wi-Fi usage at CenturyLink Field for 2016-17 season

Screen Shot 2016-09-12 at 1.11.24 PMThe Seattle Seahawks saw almost every metric associated with the Wi-Fi network at CenturyLink Field just about double from the 2015-16 to the 2016-17 NFL regular season, according to statistics provided by the team.

Chip Suttles, vice president of technology for the Seahawks, sent us over some excellent season-long charts of Wi-Fi activity, including unique and concurrent-user peaks, top throughput, and a couple of comparison charts mapping this most recent season’s activity compared to that a year before.

With a capacity crowd attendance total of 69,000, the always sold-out CenturyLink saw a take rate nearing 50 percent for most of the season, with a top unique-user number of 35,808 for a Nov. 7 31-25 win over the Buffalo Bills. Interestingly, the biggest day for total data usage wasn’t the Bills game (3.259 terabytes) but a 26-15 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 20, when the Wi-Fi network saw 3.526 TB of data used. If you look at the comparitive graphs, both peak usage and total usage numbers pretty much doubled down on what was seen the year before.

According to Suttles, there wasn’t much in the way of upgrades to the Extreme Networks-based network before this past season — just some firmware and software updates, and “about a half-dozen” new APs to support additional seating added in the south end zone area. “Overall, I think it [the data increases] is more to do with familiarity,” Suttles said. Thanks to Chip and the Seahawks for sharing the numbers!

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Seahawks see 4.1 TB of Wi-Fi usage for Monday Night game vs. Bills

Seahawks fans at CenturyLink Field during Nov. 7 game. Credit: Seahawks.com

Seahawks fans at CenturyLink Field during Nov. 7 game. Credit: Seahawks.com

With the Seahawks starting to gain momentum for another playoff push, the Wi-Fi network at their home of CenturyLink Field is getting a good workout as well, with 4.10 terabytes of data used during Seattle’s 31-25 win over the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 7.

The Monday Night Football game, an exciting, close contest, also saw a total of 35,808 unique clients and a peak concurrent user number of 23,281 on the Extreme Networks-powered Wi-Fi network at the stadium, according to Seahawks IT officials. The game set an attendance record for CenturyLink Seahawks games, with 69,084 in the seats, breaking the old record of 69,080 from last season.

According to information from all the games so far this season (see below), the CenturyLink Field Wi-Fi has been seeing strong and growing usage, with unique numbers starting out in the high 20,000-user level and edging up each week. Upload totals also seem to be growing, with maybe the team’s improved record as the impetus.

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Ookla shares Speedtest data from CenturyLink Field, other stadiums

Ookla ad banner being flown over CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Credit: Ookla

Ookla ad banner being flown over CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Credit: Ookla

Anyone who follows Mobile Sports Report knows that I use the Speedtest app from Ookla to measure stadium network performance whenever I visit a sporting venue. While my one-man tests do show some measure of network power, I always dreamed of harnessing the results from many fans at the same game to see a better picture of the network performance.

Well, Speedtest’s creators think along the same lines, and conducted an experiment during an Aug. 25 Seattle Seahawks preseason game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. You can read their very thorough post and neat results here, with some interesting twists — for instance, the cellular networks are way faster than the CenturyLink Wi-Fi, according to the Ookla results.

UPDATE: Ookla responded to our email and let us know that on Aug. 25, there were 252 Speedtests at CenturyLink Field, a great sampling to draw results from. Ookla also talked about tests from 12 different events at CenturyLink Field, and said in the email that across those events it saw 1,143 tests conducted.

Ookla also published some test result totals from other stadiums as well, including Levi’s Stadium, AT&T Stadium and Bank of America Stadium, but didn’t say when those tests were recorded, or how many tests were taken.

What we really like, however, is that Ookla’s tests show what our stadium tech report surveys have been showing — that overall, in-stadium network performance is steadily improving. Over time, more data like this can help dispel the still-lingering rumor that stadium networks don’t deliver good connectivity. Now if we could only get Ookla to partner with us to do league-wide or college-comparison speedtests… anyone ready for that idea?

NFL Stadium Tech Reviews — NFC West

Editor’s note: The following team-by-team capsule reports of NFL stadium technology deployments are an excerpt from our most recent Stadium Tech Report, THE PRO FOOTBALL ISSUE. To get all the capsules in one place as well as our featured reports, interviews and analysis, download your free copy of the full report today.

NFC WEST

Reporting by Paul Kapustka

View from the Levi's 501 Club section seats, 2014 season. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

View from the Levi’s 501 Club section seats, 2014 season. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

San Francisco 49ers
Levi’s Stadium
Seating Capacity: 68,500
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

Though the San Francisco 49ers didn’t quite live up to expectations last year, the team’s new stadium delivered on its technological promise, especially on the Wi-Fi network front, where service was solid from day 1, supporting the innovative stadium-app features like food delivery to every seat and instant replays. And while there were no complaints about the stadium’s DAS, carrier customers paid deployment firm DAS Group Professionals to completely replace the system this offseason, to better handle even more traffic expected at Super Bowl 50, which will take place at Levi’s in February.

Arizona Cardinals
University of Phoenix Stadium
Seating Capacity: 63,500
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

If you want great Wi-Fi, by all means have your facility host a Super Bowl. The latest recipient of a high-fidelity network (using Cisco gear and deployed by CDW), the University of Phoenix Stadium set Wi-Fi records last February at the big game, with more than 6 terabytes of data used.

Seattle Seahawks
CenturyLink Field
Seating Capacity: 72,000
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

CenturyLink Field, once a joke because it was a stadium named after a phone company that had poor connectivity, is now into its second year of a Wi-Fi deployment from Extreme and Verizon Wireless, where Verizon customers get their own part of the network. Watch for more innovation in Seattle on the app side, with multiple camera angles available for replays.

St. Louis Rams
Edward Jones Dome
Seating Capacity: 66,000
Wi-Fi – No
DAS – Yes

Still no Wi-Fi at the Edward Jones Dome, as the team continues to ponder its future and whether or not it will stay in St. Louis.
Fans should still have good cellular connectivity thanks to the Mobilitie neutral-host DAS installed last season.

University of Phoenix Stadium sees another 2 TB Wi-Fi game with big events on the horizon

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)

Call it maybe a warm-up before the storm hits? The University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals, racked up another 2 terabyte Wi-Fi traffic event during a recent Thursday night game, but bigger wireless days are no doubt on the near horizon.

With playoff-consideration regular season home games coming up against the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks, the beefed-up Wi-Fi and DAS at UoP is sure to get a workout, though there might be even bigger numbers chalked up during the Notre Dame-Ohio State clash at the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1, 2016, and the College Football Playoff championship game, scheduled for Jan. 11. According to Mark Feller, vice president of technology for the Arizona Cardinals, the two college events will use the stadium’s expanded seating, which increases capacity from the NFL-game level of 63,500 to 75,000.

Last February during Super Bowl XLIX, the University of Phoenix Stadium (located in Glendale, Ariz.) recorded the highest single-game Wi-Fi traffic mark, a figure of 6.23 TB, while the inaugural College Football Playoff championship game at AT&T Stadium hit 4.93 TB. With the Packers coming to town Dec. 27 followed by the Seahawks on Jan. 3, it might be interesting to see how much Wi-Fi traffic is carried at UoP in the two-week-plus span.

For the Dec. 10 Thursday night game against the Minnesota Vikings (won by the Cardinals, 23-20), Feller said the Wi-Fi network recorded 28,497 unique clients, an almost 45 percent “take rate.” The peak concurrent user number that night was 25,333, Feller said, occurring just before halftime. The total bandwidth used was 2.0 TB, Feller said.

We’ll be interested to see what happens in the “15 days of bandwidth,” a series of events Feller and his crew are facing with excitement, as well as probably some pots of coffee and/or energy drinks.

“We are excited to be hosting all these games, but won’t be sleeping much,” Feller said in an email.