Stadium Tech Report: AT&T Stadium network a winner at CFP Championship game

Inside AT&T Stadium at the College Football Championship game. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Inside AT&T Stadium at the College Football Championship game. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

It’s late here in North Texas and you know by now that Ohio State beat Oregon to win the first non-mythical college football championship. Behind the scenes at AT&T Stadium Monday night, the wireless network in AT&T Stadium was also a winner, standing up to the challenge of the 85,000-plus crowd on both the DAS and Wi-Fi front.

We’ll have a more thorough stadium report when we get time to digest all the info we gathered at the game (and get the network stats back from the AT&T Stadium tech crew) but one thing we learned before the game was that since November, the Wi-Fi network at AT&T Stadium grew by more than 280 access points, on top of a total somewhere in the 1,200 range. According to AT&T network folks the stadium here in Arlington, Texas, has been seeing game-day totals of 3.3 Terabytes of data carried on the Wi-Fi network — leading some here to believe that Monday’s championship game could well surpass 4 TB of data used at a single game, an unofficial record as far we know for a single-day, single facility network.

As guests of AT&T we also got a quick demonstration of LTE broadcast technology, which basically slices the available cellular spectrum into a channel that can provide live streams of video. We’ll have more on this new technology in another separate report, but it is something to watch for facilities that want video options but don’t want to go whole hog on Wi-Fi.

AT&T LTE Broadcast demo, showing a live streaming broadcast of the game

AT&T LTE Broadcast demo, showing a live streaming broadcast of the game

Even though we were housed in a field-level suite your intrepid MSR crew wandered all over the massive facility, and basically found great connectivity wherever we were. Two places stick out in my mind: At the very top of the nosebleed section in the south end zone the Wi-Fi dipped to just 1 Mbps, probably because the roof is so high there is no place for an access point. However, at that same spot the AT&T 4G LTE signal was around 7 Mbps, providing great connectivity in a tough to configure spot.

The other notable spot was in a “star level” suite (about the 6th level of the building), where we got a Wi-Fi signal of 28 Mbps download and 59 (no typo!) Mbps on the upload. Yes, suite people have it better but all around wherever we went we got consistent Wi-Fi signals in the high teens or low 20s, and LTE cellular signals (including Verizon 4G LTE) just under 10 Mbps. Like the Ohio State offense, the network at AT&T Stadium works really well and may have set a new record Monday night. More soon, and more images soon as well. For now, Elvis has left the building.

Outside in the frozen tundra of North Texas, aka Arlington

Outside in the frozen tundra of North Texas, aka Arlington

This place was humming all night long

This place was humming all night long

AT&T 4G LTE speedtest, from the top of the stadium

AT&T 4G LTE speedtest, from the top of the stadium

The view from the nosebleed section

The view from the nosebleed section

Some "suite" Wi-Fi speeds

Some “suite” Wi-Fi speeds

Stadium Tech Report: THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL ISSUE looks at university Wi-Fi deployments

collegethumbIf there was a college football playoff for stadium wireless network deployments, which four teams would be in? Electing myself to the committee, I think my top picks would be the same venues we’re profiling in our latest Stadium Tech Report – Baylor, Nebraska, Stanford and Texas A&M. All four are pursuing high-end networks to support a better fan experience, leading the way for what may turn out to be the largest “vertical” market in the stadium networking field – sporting venues at institutions of higher learning.

To be sure, network deployments at major universities in the U.S. are still at the earliest stages — in our reporting for our latest long-form report, we found that at two of the top conferences, the SEC and the Pac-12, only four schools total (two in each conference) had fan-facing Wi-Fi, with only one more planned to come online next year. Why is the collegiate market so far behind the pro market when it comes to network deployment? There are several main reasons, but mostly it comes down to money and mindset, with a lack of either keeping schools on the sidelines.

Leaders look for NFL-type experiences

But at our “playoff” schools, it’s clear that with some ready budget and a clear perspective, college stadiums don’t need to take a back seat to anyone, pro stadiums included. The networks, apps and infrastructure deployed for this season at Baylor’s McLane Stadium and Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium are among the tops anywhere in sports, and the all-fiber infrastructure being put in place at Texas A&M should make that school’s Kyle Field among the most-connected if all work gets completed on time for next football season. Read in-depth profiles on these schools’ deployments, along with team-by-team capsule technology descriptions and an exclusive interview with Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin in our latest report, available for free download from our site.

We’d like to take a second here to thank our sponsors, without whom we wouldn’t be able to offer these comprehensive reports to you free of charge. For our fourth-quarter report our sponsors include Crown Castle, SOLiD, Extreme Networks, Aruba Networks, TE Connectivity, and Corning.

AT&T: Getting busy with multiple college football DAS deployments

In an interview with AT&T’s John Donovan earlier this year the company’s senior executive vice president told us that AT&T would continue to be aggressive in its deployment of stadium DAS systems. True to his word, here are announcements from no fewer than eight new top U.S. universities (and one that was announced earlier in the year) that got an AT&T DAS in time for this fall’s football season.

Included in the list of DAS deployments that AT&T either is leading or has joined another operator’s infrastructure are Baylor University, which has a whole new stadium and a new stadium Wi-Fi network as well; Big Ten schools Indiana University, Ohio State University, Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin (where AT&T also installed a new Wi-Fi network and some IPTV systems); the University of Missouri from the SEC; and Pac-12 schools the University of Washington as well as the University of California, an installation plan that we covered last year. AT&T also participated alongside Verizon in a unique joint DAS deployment at the University of Oregon, also announced earlier this year.

Why so much DAS? As we are finding out in the process of doing a lot of reporting for our upcoming Q4 Stadium Tech Report on college football stadium technology deployments, Wi-Fi deployments are still somewhat of a rarity, even at some of the biggest schools. As we’ve said before, bringing in a DAS deployment makes a lot of sense for schools since A) you can usually get the carrier to pay for most if not all of the cost of building the DAS; and B) a good DAS goes a long way toward eliminating the feared “no signal” problem that can still be found on many major college campus facilities.

How much have fans already been using the new networks? According to AT&T the new Mizzou DAS has done the biggest amount of traffic so far, with 290 gigabytes of traffic crossing the DAS system with its 150+ antennas at one game this season. Cal was close behind with an average of 253 GB per game so far in 2014, while up in Seattle at UDub the fans are generating an average of 190 GB per game. Remember, these stats represent ONLY AT&T traffic on the AT&T part of the DAS; since we still can’t convince Verizon to provide similar statistics we’ll just have to guess what the total-totals are.

Stay tuned for more information about college stadium deployments… look for our Q4 STR report in early December!

Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi update: Usage down from record, but still strong — 2.4 TB for Eagles game

Fans take pictures of opening-day kickoff from southwest concourse. Credit, all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Fans take pictures of opening-day kickoff from southwest concourse. Credit, all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

With three NFL games and now one collegiate contest under its belt, the Wi-Fi network at Levi’s Stadium is still handling big loads of data traffic, though not quite at the Super Bowl-beating level of 3.3 Terabytes recorded at the Niners’ home opener.

According to statistics provided by Niners vice president for technology Dan Williams, the Levi’s Wi-Fi network carried 2.4 TB of data during the Sept. 28 game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and another 2 TB during the Oct. 5 contest with the Kansas City Chiefs, both sellouts with reported attendance of 70,799 fans. And at an Oct. 24 college game between Cal and Oregon with 55,575 fans in attendance, the network carried 1.5 TB of traffic.

As you might be able to guess from the bandwidth numbers, the Sept. 28 game also had more users on the network, with 22,942 unique users, compared to 21,133 at the Oct. 5 game. For Cal-Oregon the unique user count was 13,508. At the Niners’ regular-season home opener on Sept. 14, there were more than 30,000 fans using the Wi-Fi network, with a peak of 19,000 simultaneous connections. The peak numbers for the later dates were 15,500 for the Sept. 28 game, 14,500 for the Oct. 5 game, and 8,400 for the college game.

In-seat and express food orders stay strong

Screen grab from Levi's Stadium app showing in-seat food delivery option. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, Mobile Sports Report.

Screen grab from Levi’s Stadium app showing in-seat food delivery option.

Food and beverage orders via the Levi’s Stadium app appear to be holding between the 1,500-2,000 order level for both the express pickup option as well as the in-seat delivery, with both features available to every seat in the house. According to Williams, for the Eagles game there were 1,144 express pick-up orders and 1,652 in-seat deliveries, while at the Kansas City game there were 1,162 express and 1,712 in-seat orders. At the Cal-Oregon game, where many fans were probably not as aware of the Levi’s app functionality, there were 551 express orders and 308 in-seat deliveries.

The video-replay feature of the Levi’s app also continues to attract solid interest, with 1,297 unique users watching 5,089 replays at the Eagles game and 1,111 unique users watching 4,986 replays at the Kansas City game. At the college game 234 fans used the replay feature, watching 1,059 replays.

One more interesting stat provided by Williams — the Apple iPhone is the overwhelming favorite device for connecting to the Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi, with 62 percent share for the Sept. 28 game, and 60 percent share for both the Oct. 5 and Oct. 24 games. Android devices represented 24 percent (Sept. 28), 26 percent (Oct. 5) and 25 percent of all devices, while Apple iPads accounted for 2 percent, 3 percent and 1 percent of devices for the respective Sept. 28, Oct. 5 and Oct. 24 games.

DAS usage also remains strong, but not tops in NFL

On the DAS side of the Levi’s Stadium network we have some stats from AT&T to share (but none from any other carriers). According to AT&T, for the Oct. 5 game AT&T customers used 549 GB of data, which was only the fourth-highest AT&T DAS total for that weekend. Dallas (827 GB), San Diego (716 GB) and New Orleans (598 GB) all had higher AT&T DAS traffic totals for that weekend’s games. (Remember, these are results for stadiums with AT&T DAS networks only, not for all stadiums.) For the Sept. 14 game, the Levi’s Stadium AT&T DAS recorded 673 GB of traffic, according to AT&T.

Fan engagement app CheckinLine gains traction


One of the major challenges that any new app faces is how does it separate itself from the pack. Simply having solid features and an easy to use interface is no longer enough in these days when a user has millions of apps to choose from.
CheckinLine is one of the new types of apps that are designed to engage fans, an area that others have tried to gain traction in and then fallen by the wayside. Yet CheckinLine might be able to break that mold as it has not just had a successful beta test but also gained support and recommendations from some major sports teams. It also helps that the app is taking a slightly different approach to addressing fan engagement, with solid metrics for teams to use on the back end.

In reality the app is half about fan engagement and half about access to tickets to sporting events, and how one can naturally lead to the other. The app enables fans to “check in” to get in line for tickets to select events. Then they can demonstrate to others who are also checked in how big a fan they are in conversation and other ways. The focus of the latter part is determined by the sports agency or school that is using the mobile program. There can be games such as quizzes and trivia contests to gain access to tickets, either as rewards or permission to purchase or simply moving up in the queue.

While the app has been adopted already in Australia by teams and stadiums in the Australian rules football league such as Hawthorn FC, Stadium Australia (ANZ Stadium), Etihad Stadium, Octagon and St Kilda FC it is still in the testing level in the U.S. but is making progress toward widespread adoption.

CheckinLine said it has just completed a beta test with Arizona State University and it said that it has received commitments from several schools such as The University of California at Berkeley, Boise State University and Illinois State University and claims that a host of additional schools are looking to come on board later this year. It has also gained support from The Aspire Group, a fan relations management group that has 25 colleges as clients and has recommended the app to them.

While the app can provide advantages to fans in that it might enable them to get tickets to sporting events that they otherwise might not have access to, it also brings advantages to the schools in that it enables them to harvest a huge amount of data about its fans and so tailor programs to continue engaging them. The app can also be used to sell advertising to companies seeking to reach the demographics that the app has revealed.

It will be interesting to see how the app fares in the U.S. when it gets a real world test. Even devout fans can be forgetful to check into mobile apps, since it’s not quite the same as going to the team fan page but it looks like CheckinLine has a boost in the right direction to keep its users.

AT&T turns on Wi-Fi at Miami Dolphins’ Sun Life Stadium

We knew that AT&T had put in a new DAS at Miami’s Sun Life Stadium earlier this year, so we were a bit surprised when we saw the Dolphins announce a new Wi-Fi network for their season opener a couple Sundays ago. A quick phone chat with Chad Townes, VP of AT&T’s antenna solutions group, set us straight: Turns out that AT&T had installed a Wi-Fi network alongside the DAS, but hadn’t planned to turn it up until the NFL season started.

For those of us who were lucky enough to be at the SEAT Conference in August, however, the questions couldn’t stop there. At SEAT, Townes made one of the bolder statements of the gathering, proclaiming that AT&T wasn’t going to fund stadium Wi-Fi developments anymore. So why was AT&T building Wi-Fi at Sun Life?

The Wi-Fi at Sun Life, Townes said, was built via a model AT&T was comfortable with — mainly, it was a financial model where the team and venue participated in the deployment costs. “Our position on Wi-Fi remains clear,” Townes said — mainly, that AT&T isn’t going to fully fund a network that it doesn’t reap benefits from. Since stadium Wi-Fi is or will be mainly used for high-bandwidth apps like video replays, it will generate wireless traffic that “doesn’t leave the stadium,” Townes said. AT&T is more interested in building and paying for DAS, or distributed antenna systems, which bring better cellular connectivity for fans at stadiums.

Traffic that leaves the stadium, to connect fans to the outside Internet, is of interest to AT&T since it is something the company can make money on, by providing the service to customers. OK, but then what about the recent deal AT&T signed with the Pac-12, which called for DAS builds in all conference stadiums, but may also call for AT&T to build… stadium Wi-Fi networks?

Again, it’s all about the economics, which in the Pac-12 case involved a big content carriage deal between the conference and AT&T’s home Internet and video service, U-verse. From what we’ve heard and read the deal involves a lot of stadium-intensive content agreements, so to make it all run right, AT&T wants to build the networks itself. In the case of that deal, Townes said networks would be built to “support the value of our brand” in those stadiums. So the bottom line is — AT&T isn’t going to simply pay for a Wi-Fi network in your stadium. Unless there’s more to the deal than that.