BYU scores with new Wi-Fi, app for LaVell Edwards Stadium

BYU’s LaVell Edwards Stadium. Credit all photos: photo@byu.edu (click on any picture for a larger image)

At Brigham Young University, the wait for Wi-Fi was worth it.

After a selection and deployment process that took almost three years, the first full season of Wi-Fi at BYU’s LaVell Edwards Stadium was a roaring success, with high fan adoption rates and a couple 6-plus terabyte single-game data totals seen during the 2018 football season. Using 1,241 APs from gear supplier Extreme Networks, the Wi-Fi deployment also saw high usage of the new game-day app, built for BYU by local software supplier Pesci Sports.

Duff Tittle, associate athletic director for communications at Brigham Young University, said the school spent nearly 2 1/2 years “studying the concept” of bringing Wi-Fi to the 63,470-seat stadium in Provo, Utah. After looking at “five different options,” BYU chose to go with Extreme, based mainly on Extreme’s long track record of football stadium deployments.

“We visited their stadiums, and also liked what they offered for analytics,” said Tittle of Extreme. “They had what we were looking for.”

According to Tittle, the deployment was actually mostly finished in 2017, allowing the school to do a test run at the last game of that season. Heading into 2018, Tittle said the school was “really excited” to see what its new network could do — and the fans went even beyond those expectations.

Opener a big success

For BYU’s Sept. 8 home opener against California, Tittle said the Wi-Fi network saw 27,563 unique connections out of 52,602 in attendance — a 52 percent take rate. BYU’s new network also saw a peak of 26,797 concurrent connections (midway through the fourth quarter) en route to a first-day data total of 6.23 TB. The network also saw a peak bandwidth rate of 4.55 Gbps, according to statistics provided by the school.

Sideline AP deployment

“It blew us away, the number of connections [at the Cal game],” Tittle said. “It exceeded what we thought we’d get, right out of the gate.”

With almost no overhangs in the stadium — there is only one sideline structure for media and suites — BYU and Extreme went with mostly under-seat AP deployments, Tittle said, with approximately 1,000 of the 1,241 APs located inside the seating bowl. Extreme has used under-seat deployments in many of its NFL stadium networks, including at Super Bowl LI in Houston.

Another success story was the new BYU app, which Tittle said had been in development for almost as long as the Wi-Fi plan. While many stadium and team apps struggle for traction, the BYU app saw good usage right out of the gate, finishing just behind the ESPN app for total number of users (2,306 for the BYU app vs. 2,470 for ESPN) during the same Cal game. The BYU app just barely trailed Instagram (2,327) in number of users seen that day, and outpaced SnapChat (1,603) and Twitter (1,580), according to statistics provided by Tittle. The app also supports instant replay video, as well as a service that lets fans order food to be picked up at a couple express-pickup windows.

What also might have helped fuel app adoption is the presence of a “social media” ribbon board along the top of one side of the stadium, where fan messages get seen in wide-screen glory. Tittle said the tech-savvy locals in the Provo area (which has long been the home to many technology companies, including LAN pioneer Novell) are also probably part of the app crowd, “since our fan base loves that kind of stuff.”

Tittle also said that Verizon Wireless helped pay for part of the Wi-Fi network’s construction, and like at other NFL stadiums where Verizon has done so, it gets a separate SSID for its users at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Verizon also built the stadium’s DAS (back in 2017), which also supports communications from AT&T and T-Mobile. (More photos below)

Under-seat AP enclosure

A peek inside

The social media ribbon board above the stands

LaVell Edwards Stadium at night, with a view of the press/suites structure

Mercedes-Benz Stadium Wi-Fi saw 12 TB of data used at January’s college championship

The iconic ‘halo board’ video screen below the unique roof opening at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any picture for a larger image)

The Wi-Fi network at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium saw 12 terabytes of data used at the 2018 College Football Playoff championship on Jan. 8, 2018, according to officals from the Atlanta Falcons, owners and operators of this city’s new distinctive venue.

We’d long suspected that Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which opened in August of 2017, had seen big data days inside the 71,000-seat arena with its innovative technology, but until Sunday the Falcons had never made any network-performance data publicly available. But a day after the venue saw another 8.06 TB of Wi-Fi used during the SEC Championship game, Danny Branch, chief information officer for AMB Sports & Entertainment, revealed the statistics during a live MSR visit at an Atlanta Falcons home game. The 12 TB mark (which was an estimate — we’ll check back with the Falcons for exact numbers) is the second-highest we’ve ever seen in our unofficial research of single-day Wi-Fi totals, trailing only the 16.31 TB recorded at Super Bowl LII in February at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“We’re confident and ready for the Super Bowl,” said Branch during a pregame stadium tour, details of which we’ll dig into deeper in a full profile for our upcoming Winter Stadium Tech Report. Multiple network speed tests taken by MSR during Sunday’s 26-16 Falcons loss to the visiting Baltimore Ravens showed robust Wi-Fi performance on the network that uses gear from Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, in a design from AmpThink.

DAS renovation complete

An under-seat DAS antenna in the 300 seating section at Mercedes-Benz Stadium

According to Branch, the cellular distributed antenna system (DAS) network inside Mercedes-Benz — a deployment that is at the center of a current lawsuit filed by contractor IBM against gear supplier and designer Corning — is also now at full deployment, with the completion of 700 new under-seat DAS antenna deployments, mostly in the upper seating deck.

MSR speed tests taken during Sunday’s game showed a wide range of DAS results, from single-digit tests in some tough-deployment areas to results near 100 Mbps directly in front of what looked like some new antenna deployments. Again, look for more details in our upcoming profile in the Winter Stadium Tech Report (due out in mid-December).

“We’re in a good place [with the DAS],” said Branch, though he did say there was going to be more DAS work done on the outside of Mercedes-Benz Stadium prior to when Super Bowl LIII comes to the venue on Feb. 3, 2019, mainly to help ensure that the move toward more digital Super Bowl tickets goes smoothly. Mercedes-Benz Stadium also now has a couple of MatSing ball antennas in its rafters, there to bring DAS coverage to the sidelines of the playing field.

Sunday the Mercedes-Benz Stadium staffers were hosting a rare big-game back-to-back event, following Saturday’s packed-house tilt between SEC powers Alabama and Georgia, a championship-game rematch won by Alabama 35-28 after a dramatic comeback.

“That was a massive flip,” said Branch of the two-day stretch, which saw another huge data day Saturday with 8.06 TB of Wi-Fi used. The network, sponsored by backbone provider AT&T, averages about a 50 percent take rate from event attendees, according to Branch, who gave praise to Aruba and AmpThink for their combined deployment efforts.

“The expectation for fans now is that there will be Wi-Fi [in a sports venue],” said Branch. “But I love it when friends come to me after a game and tell me ‘the Wi-Fi is so fast!’ ”

THE MSR TOP 17 FOR WI-FI

1. Super Bowl 52, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn., Feb. 4, 2018: Wi-Fi: 16.31 TB
2. 2018 College Football Playoff Championship, Alabama vs. Georgia, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga., Jan. 8, 2018: Wi-Fi: 12.0 TB*
3. Super Bowl 51, NRG Stadium, Houston, Feb. 5, 2017: Wi-Fi: 11.8 TB
4. Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa., Sept. 6, 2018: Wi-Fi: 10.86 TB
5. Super Bowl 50, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., Feb. 7, 2016: Wi-Fi: 10.1 TB
6. Taylor Swift Reputation Tour, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., July 27, 2018: Wi-Fi: 9.76 TB
7. Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles, NFC Championship Game, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa., Jan. 21, 2018: Wi-Fi: 8.76 TB
8. Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New England Patriots, AFC Championship Game, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., Jan. 21, 2018: Wi-Fi: 8.53 TB
9. Taylor Swift Reputation Tour, Broncos Stadium at Mile High, May 25, 2018: Wi-Fi: 8.1 TB
10. Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., Sept. 7, 2017: Wi-Fi: 8.08 TB
11. SEC Championship Game, Alabama vs. Georgia, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga., Dec. 1, 2018: Wi-Fi: 8.06 TB*
12. Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys, Divisional Playoffs, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, Jan. 15, 2017: Wi-Fi: 7.25 TB
13. Stanford vs. Notre Dame, Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind., Sept. 29, 2018: 7.19 TB
14. (tie) Southern California vs. Notre Dame, Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind., Oct. 21, 2017: 7.0 TB
Arkansas State vs. Nebraska, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb., Sept 2, 2017: Wi-Fi: 7.0 TB
15. WrestleMania 32, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, April 3, 2016: Wi-Fi: 6.77 TB
16. Wisconsin vs. Nebraska, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb., Oct. 7, 2017: Wi-Fi: 6.3 TB
17. Super Bowl 49, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., Feb. 1, 2015: Wi-Fi: 6.23 TB

* = pending official exact data

NFL CIO: Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s wireless is ‘ready for the Super Bowl’

The entry concourse at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

The wireless networks at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium are “ready for the Super Bowl,” according to Michelle McKenna-Doyle, senior vice president and chief information officer for the NFL, who spoke to Mobile Sports Report via phone last week.

Though McKenna-Doyle would not comment on any of the particulars of the recent lawsuit filed by IBM against Corning that revolves around issues with the stadium’s distributed antenna system (DAS) cellular network, she did assert that any past problems have since been fixed, and that the league is confident the venue’s wireless systems will stand up to the stress test that will likely arrive when Super Bowl LIII takes place on Feb. 3, 2019.

“The [Atlanta] Falcons have been super-cooperative in remedying one of the challenges they had,” said McKenna-Doyle. “The networks will be ready for the Super Bowl.”

Mercedes-Benz Stadium also has an Aruba-based Wi-Fi network, which has not been the subject of any lawsuit; however, stadium officials have also not ever released any performance statistics for the network since the stadium’s opening. According to IBM’s lawsuit documents, the company said it had to pay extra to fix the DAS network, a task it said was completed before the end of the 2017 NFL season.

Outside connectivity a challenge as well

While the Super Bowl is almost always the biggest single-day sports events for wireless connectivity, McKenna-Doyle added that this year’s version will be even a little more challenging than others since the league is in the process of moving fans to digital ticketing for its championship event.

“This year one of the new challenges is the move to paperless ticketing,” said McKenna-Doyle in a wide-ranging interview about NFL technology issues (look for a full breakdown of the interview in our upcoming Winter Stadium Tech Report). Though this year’s game will still have some paper-based ticket options, McKenna-Doyle said the lessons learned in ensuring good connectivity outside the stadium gates will help prepare for future Super Bowls, which will likely be all-digital ticketing.

One Super Bowl technology not yet decided is the game-day app, which for the past two years has been built by the NFL. In previous years, the league used versions of local game-day apps with Super Bowl additions, a direction McKenna-Doyle said the league might still take this year. Designed mainly as a way to help visitors find their way around an unfamiliar stadium and city, the Super Bowl app this year might need to lean on the local app to help integrate the digital ticket functionality, McKenna-Doyle said. The Falcons’ app for Mercedes-Benz Stadium was built by IBM.

MSR News Wire: Aruba introduces new series of 802.11ax access points

Editor’s note: Welcome to a new feature for Mobile Sports Report, the MSR News Wire, in which MSR will now post press releases from companies in the stadium technology sector. These releases are prepared by the companies, and are NOT an MSR editorial product. For information on how to get your company releases on the MSR News Wire, please contact Paul Kapustka at kaps at mobilesportsreport.com.

Aruba Introduces New Secure, AI-Powered Mobility Innovations for the Experience Edge

New Series of 802.11ax Access Points, 802.11ax-optimized Switches, and AI-Powered Software to Give Organizations a Secure, Autonomous Network for the Mobile, Cloud and IoT Era

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – November 13, 2018 – Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company (NYSE: HPE), today announced a new family of 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) IoT-ready wireless access points and complementary access switches, along with innovations in security, intelligent power management, and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered automation and service assurance, to deliver the performance, simplicity and reliability that organizations need to give users exceptional digital experiences.

The new wireless access points support the latest Wi-Fi standard and are the first to be Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA) certified for the new WPA3 and Enhanced Open security standards to provide stronger encryption and simpler IoT security configuration. Aruba is also the first Wi-Fi vendor to integrate Bluetooth 5 into its APs combined with an integrated ZigBee® capabilties. These new capabilities enable IoT use cases, such as smart door locks and electronic shelf labels, while Bluetooth 5 also delivers user-aware indoor location allowing IT to create personalized experiences. In addition, Aruba is delivering industry-first power management innovations allowing customers to preserve their existing PoE switch investments while significantly reducing access point power consumption during off hours. These unique features include Intelligent Power Monitoring, a capability delivered by Aruba Operating System (AOS) 8, and NetInsight Green AP, part of Aruba’s AI-powered analytics and assurance solution.

Enabling the Experience Edge
Organizations are expecting IT professionals to deliver IoT-enabled innovation that will allow them to create extraordinary digital experiences for their employees, customers and guests. New types of experiences such as location-aware mobile engagement, digitally-assisted patient care, and user-aware meeting rooms can give organizations a competitive advantage. According to Gartner, “Enterprises preparing for the future of work must offer engaging, consumer-like experiences and deliver technologies that enable, rather than hinder, streamlined work execution [1].”

The network at the edge is what connects people and IoT to this digital world. It is the platform for building these digital experiences and it must be secure, intelligent and always on. However, a solid network foundation is not enough. To enable these new experiences, IT must be able to deliver improved and consistent service levels to address growing business demands and heightened user expectations. This requires not only a state-of-the-art network, but also the ability for IT to proactively anticipate issues in an ever-changing environment before they impact users and the business.

To address these challenges, Aruba is introducing the following new products and innovations:
• The Aruba 510 Series APs, a new series of 802.11ax, IoT-ready APs, with advanced security, AI-powered RF optimization, intelligent power monitoring, and integrated ZigBee and Bluetooth 5 capabilities.
• The Aruba 2930M access switches, with support for the 802.3bt standard to provide higher power PoE (up to 60 watts per port), a requirement for some high-end 802.11ax access points.
• Support for Wi-Fi Alliance WPA3 and Enhanced Open Security Standards to deliver state-of-the-art device security. Aruba is the first vendor in the industry to receive WFA certification for these new standards.
• Green AP, a unique, new feature of NetInsight, Aruba’s AI-powered analytics and assurance solution, that dynamically powers down APs when user devices are not present, offsetting the increased power requirements associated with select 11ax APs.

Leveraging Aruba’s Rich Heritage to Bring Intelligence to the Network
An effective AI solution requires domain expertise, a historical pool of clean data to feed the algorithms that deliver precise and trusted network automation and assurance, and real-world experiences to validate the solution. Aruba has a unique advantage over many competitors, including 16 years of Wi-Fi expertise, with learnings and best practices built into the AI algorithms from the largest edge networks in the world and from millions of installed APs to deliver secure, autonomous network operations.

The new 510 Series APs work in concert with Aruba NetInsight to proactively monitor and troubleshoot the network, generating actionable insights and recommendations based on peer comparisons and benchmarks, and applying these recommendations to the network autonomously. This allows businesses to deliver the kind of improved performance and efficiency needed for today’s highly mobile and IoT-centric environments, while continually adapting to changing requirements and improving experiences for their users and customers.

Built for IoT with ZigBee and Bluetooth 5 Integration
The Aruba 510 series is the industry’s first set of 802.11ax APs with integrated support for ZigBee and Bluetooth 5, enabling Aruba customers to support 74% of IoT devices. Having all three wireless technologies available in a single access point gives customers powerful, extensive connectivity. In addition, customers can significantly reduce both their capital and operational expenditures since the Aruba infrastructure with ZigBee integration eliminates the need to deploy and operate a separate Zigbee network.

Smart Energy Management with Green AP and Intelligent Power Monitoring

As higher performance 802.11ax APs will handle a greater number of devices and traffic, they will also consume more power. In addition, network architects generally design AP configurations for the highest capacity scenarios, and these combined factors mean that many organizations are confronted with rising power costs.

Green AP, a new feature of NetInsight and a new innovation for the networking industry, allows IT to intelligently manage APs to reduce power consumption by up to 72% dramatically lowering costs, while supporting social responsibility. Using Green AP, APs can be automatically turned on or off based on utilization, resulting in significant energy costs savings and an environmentally-friendly network.

Additionally, Aruba’s Intelligent Power Monitoring (IPM), a feature in AOS 8, actively measures the power utilization of an AP and dynamically adapts to the available power resources. IT organizations can define and prioritize which capabilities to disable when an AP is operating over its power budget. IPM will begin taking power reduction steps autonomously as defined by the priority definition until the AP is operating within the power budget.

State-of-the-Art Security with WPA3 and Enhanced Open
Aruba is the first networking vendor to release products that have received WPA3 and Enhanced Open certifications from the Wi-Fi Alliance. With support for WPA3 and Enhanced Open, Aruba’s new suite of 11ax APs can deliver the security enterprises need as more users, devices and things join their networks.

WPA3 adds new features to simplify Wi-Fi security, enable more robust authentication, and deliver increased cryptographic strength for highly sensitive data markets, such as government or finance. Wi-Fi Enhanced Open complements the security protection WPA3 delivers by improving data privacy while maintaining ease-of-use in open public networks where user authentication is not used, such as local coffee shops, airports and stadiums.

Pricing and Availability
The Aruba 510 Series APs are available now, beginning at a list price of $1,095. The Aruba 2930M access switch is available now, starting at $10,799 list. The new version of NetInsight with Green AP will be available in the first quarter of 2019, with one-year subscriptions beginning at $50 per year per AP.

Supporting Quotes
Home to the Carolina Panthers, Bank of America Stadium is located in Charlotte, North Carolina and supports more than 75,000 fans.

“Our fans expect an outstanding connected stadium experience,” said James Hammond, Director of Information Technology for the Carolina Panthers. “In order to continue to deliver that experience, we need to prepare for the future demands on our network which is why we’re evaluating Aruba’s .11ax APs to support new applications and greater IoT and mobile device density requirements.”

The University of Minnesota has 48,000 students, 18,000 faculty and staff, and connects over 120,000 devices on its network daily.

“As we prepare for the introduction of 802.11ax devices on campus, we need to understand the impact of the additional traffic and device density to the infrastructure and IT staff,” said Louis Hammond, service owner for data and voice network services for the University of Minnesota. “Testing Aruba’s 802.11ax APs will help determine how to best integrate ax with our current system while improving the user experience, and look at ways to leverage Aruba’s NetInsight Green AP capabilities to potentially reduce energy usage and costs.”

CSPI is a Florida-based solutions provider helping customers meet the performance, availability and security requirements of their network, applications and services.

“The real value in the Aruba 802.11ax solution is that the infrastructure is leveraged with automation and IoT in mind,” said Peter Kaufman, Vice President, Advanced Technologies, CSPi. “By using NetInsight and new IoT protocols like ZigBee, our customers will be able to create the autonomous experiences they want while delivering performance-stringent applications and securely connecting IoT devices over Wi-Fi with ease.”

Zunesis is a Colorado-based IT Solution Provider and Value Added Reseller (VAR) that delivers end-to-end infrastructure solutions, IT business solutions, and IT professional and consulting services in the Western United States.

“Our customers are seeing a major increase in IoT use cases resulting in additional requirements for the network and IT,” said Steve Shaffer, Founder and CEO, Zunesis. “A significant benefit of the Aruba 802.11ax solution is that it’s built with integrated IoT connectivity capabilities. Having one hardware platform with Aruba that supports ZigBee and Bluetooth 5 will help eliminate the need for separate IoT networks, allowing organization to get more out of their infrastructure investment while reducing IT overhead.”

Additional Resources
• Blog – Deliver Amazing Experiences with Amazing Simplicity with Aruba
• Blog – Discover a New Way to Save: Green APs

Footnote 1: Gartner, Cool Vendors in Employee Engagement and Enablement in the Digital Workplace, September 2018, ID: G00355285

About Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company
Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, is a leading provider of next-generation networking solutions for enterprises of all sizes worldwide. The company delivers IT solutions that empower organizations to serve the latest generation of mobile-savvy users who rely on cloud-based business apps for every aspect of their work and personal lives.

To learn more, visit Aruba at http://www.arubanetworks.com. For real-time news updates follow Aruba on Twitter and Facebook, and for the latest technical discussions on mobility and Aruba products visit Airheads Social at http://community.arubanetworks.com.

CommScope buying Arris (and Ruckus) for $7.4 B

CommScope announced today its intent to acquire Arris International for $7.4 billion, a move that would also bring in Wi-Fi vendor Ruckus, an asset that could help turn CommScope into a single-stop shop for large public venue connectivity products and services.

Financial details are available in the official announcement, but what will be more interesting will be how CommScope now markets itself to large public venues, like stadiums, for connectivity solutions. Previously known for its cellular distributed antenna system (DAS) infrastructure and back-end operations, with Ruckus in its portfolio CommScope could now offer an end-to-end solution for stadiums including DAS and Wi-Fi and also for those interested in Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) services in the near future.

Though commercial deployments for CBRS systems have not yet emerged, Ruckus has been a leader in the testing and certification process and is expected to be at the forefront of CBRS hardware providers when systems are ready to come online, possibly sometime next year.

If you’re keeping score (like we are), this is the third Ruckus has been acquired in the last two years. The list:

Feb. 22, 2017: Arris to acquire Ruckus from Brocade as part of $800 million deal

April 4, 2016: Brocade buys Ruckus for $1.2 B

That’s a lot of email changes and a closet full of new logowear…

Big Wi-Fi numbers for Big Red fans at Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium

A view of the west stands at Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any picture for a larger image)

When you visit Memorial Stadium in Lincoln Neb. you can’t avoid a history of devotion to football and fans. The stadium itself still contains much of its old bones dating back to its inception in 1923, and when the red-clad faithful assemble for their football ceremonies, you can see generations of fans loyal to the Cornhuskers streaming in to fill the nearly 90,000 available seats.

Aside from the five national championships and many years of top-level success, the university takes care of the people responsible for sellouts dating back to the 1960s by keeping the stadium up to date with high-definition connectivity, inlcuding both cellular and Wi-Fi networks, and a wide range of digital displays for visual information and entertainment. In a recent visit to Memorial Stadium for a Saturday day game, Mobile Sports Report found excellent connectivity, especially on the Wi-Fi network, even in some areas where construction materials and stadium design presented unique challenges to wireless communications.

Nebraska fans have found the Wi-Fi as well, as according to statistics not released previously by the school Nebraska saw one game last season with 7.0 terabytes of Wi-Fi data used. Nebraska also saw a 6.3 TB game last season and started off 2018 with Wi-Fi totals of 6.3 TB and 6.2 TB, the first coming at a game that wasn’t even played due to massive rain and thunderstorm activity that canceled the event just after kickoff.

The connectivity reach even stretches out to some of the football parking lots, where external Wi-Fi AP placements keep fans connected while they are tailgating. What follows here is an on-the-scene description of what connectivity and the fan experience looks and feels like on yet another sellout day, this one from the Sept. 8 game versus old rival Colorado.

Getting ready for the red

Editor’s note: This profile is from our latest STADIUM TECH REPORT, an in-depth look at successful deployments of stadium technology. Included with this report is a profile of the DAS deployment at StubHub Center, a sneak peek at Milwaukee’s new Fiserv Forum, and a profile of the new Wi-Fi network being added to Wrigley Field! DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY now!

A Ventev railing enclosure in the north stands

Even the day before the game, there was noticable excitement in Lincoln for Nebraska football, with groups of fans roaming around outside the stadium while VIP tours were taking place inside. On game day itself, the connectivity experience starts in the parking lots, where MSR saw Wi-Fi gear on light poles and sides of buildings that was clearly there to cover the tailgating activities. Stopping to check it out we found and quickly connected to the FanXP SSID, with no splash screen or email login required, just a quick connection to fast bandwidth. Throughout the day, the FanXP network connected and reconnected no matter where we roamed, or if we turned Wi-Fi off and on (as we do to test cellular signals).

With perhaps one of the most devoted fan bases in any sport — the team and the stadium have a record sellout streak dating back to 1962 — the Husker sports operation is well funded, meaning they don’t have to bother with concerns about whether or not Wi-Fi or other technologies produce any direct returns on investment. In turn, the school rewards its fans by staying at the forefront of stadium technology deployments, including being the first college stadium to install video boards, back in 1994. Wi-Fi using Cisco gear was first brought to Memorial Stadium for the 2014 season, and has since then gone through various upgrades and tunings, and now has 855 total Wi-Fi APs in the venue and the surrounding parking lots.

The current video board over the north end zone (which was the largest in the country when it was first installed) now is even sharper to look at, having gone through an upgrade last year from 20 millimeter pixel density to 10mm. Last year also saw the introduction of two two-sided “wrap-around” video screens on north sides of the east and west sections, providing video viewing for fans in the north stands who previously had to turn all the way around to see a screen. The north tower screens, as well as two other similar flat screens on the south sides of the east and west stands all also have 10mm pixel sharpness.

Also before last fall, ribbon boards on the east- and west-side balconies were replaced with 16mm displays that run the full length of the structures. An additional ribbon board was also added to the middle east balcony, providing even more inventory for messages, advertisements and game information. Overall, the venue has approximately 1,400 screens of various sizes and shapes to bring game day action, concessions menu and other communications to fans there for game day. Nebraska uses Cisco’s Cisco Vision (formerly known as Stadium Vision) to manage and operate all its digital signage from one central control.

North and South stands the biggest connectivity challenge

With the gates open and the stadium starting to fill up, MSR went directly to the north stands, which Nebraska IT operations manager Chad Chisea and director of information technology Dan Floyd had previously told us was the most challenging area to cover with wireless connectivity. With extremely wide rows of bench seating and no overhangs for antenna placements, Nebraska brought in small Wi-Fi antenna enclosures from Ventev and mounted them onto small “p-railings” that dot the aisles. The area is also covered by Wi-Fi antenna placements on top of the scoreboard structure pointing down.

A Wi-Fi enclosure points back up from field level

Though the section wasn’t completely full when we tested it, we still got a strong Wi-Fi mark of 28.5 Mbps download and 19.8 Mbps upload about halfway up the west corner side of the north stands. In another spot on the east side we got a test mark of 28.0 Mbps / 12.2 Mbps; and in possibly the hardest place to cover, as far as we could get from an aisle or the scoreboard, we still got a Wi-Fi test of 11.0 Mbps / 13.1 Mbps. DAS coverage for Verizon 4G LTE at the same spot was 16.9 Mbps download, but just 1.40 Mbps upload.

With more and more fans finding their way inside, we tested several spots on the concourses and found them with extremely strong coverage, including one mark of 63.8 Mbps / 61.1 Mbps just inside Gate 7. The concourse areas in several parts of the stadium are very architecturally interesting since there are some places where newer construction was simply placed outside the older structures, producing a kind of stadium-inside-a-stadium effect. Originally, the IT staff thought that Wi-Fi APs on the newer outside walls would be able to bleed through the old structures, which had glass windows along the old outside walls; but because those windows contain leaded glass (which shut out the Wi-Fi signals), Nebraska was forced to install APs on either side of the old walls.

Such attention to detail and a clear desire to keep fans connected no matter where they roam was evident in other places as well, such as finding strong Wi-Fi connectivity (30.6 Mbps / 15.2 Mbps) even while taking escalators up to the top levels of the east stands. In the top 600-level concourse we got Wi-Fi readings of 25.5 Mbps / 11.6 Mbps, and in row 5 of section 607 — about as high as you can go at Memorial Stadium — we got a Wi-Fi reading of 18.2 Mbps / 10.6 Mbps, most likely from the antennas mounted on the top railing of the stadium or on the LED light fixtures that also poke up from the east side.

Just before kickoff, we were in the middle of the lower-bowl seats on the west side of the stadium, where most fans were standing, phones ready to record the Cornhuskers as they came out of the locker room and took the field. With APs mounted on field-level railings pointing up probably providing coverage, we got a mark of 7.73 Mbps / 1.74 Mbps in the fifth row of seats.

Wi-Fi usage among the top of all venues

According to Floyd, only Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile use the stadium’s DAS network, which was built by Verizon. Since Verizon dominates the customer base of the Lincoln, Neb. area (Floyd estimates it has about 70 percent of the market), the other major carriers haven’t seen the need to participate in the DAS; instead, U.S. Cellular built a platform for macro antennas inside the north scoreboard area, and AT&T and Sprint use that area for similar deployments. For backhaul bandwidth for the Wi-Fi, Chisea said Nebraska has one circuit that transmits between 1.5 and 2 Gbps, along with a backup circuit that can carry 500 Mbps of traffic.

Children of the corn get ready for game day

And all those circuits and antennas got a free stress test during Nebraska’s first scheduled game of the season, a Sept. 1 contest against Akron that was cancelled almost immediately after kickoff when severe thunderstorms moved into the area. While the fans didn’t get to see any football, according to Floyd many stuck around for a considerable amount of time, using a full regular-game amount of wireless data — 6.3 TB of Wi-Fi — doing things like taking live Facebook Live video streams of the storm.

“If you looked at the network stream that day it was absolutely full,” Floyd said. For the Colorado game (a 33-28 Colorado victory), Nebraska reported 6.2 TB of Wi-Fi data used, with 34,728 peak concurrent connections on a day with 89,853 announced attendance. The top Wi-Fi game so far for Memorial Stadium, a 7.0 TB mark recorded on Sept. 2, 2017, saw 36,892 peak concurrent connections for a game with 90,171 in attendance. Nebraska saw an average of 5.93 TB and 31,115 peak concurrent connections per game in 2017, according to statistics provided to us by the school. An Oct. 7, 2017 game against Wisconsin also saw 6.3 TB of Wi-Fi data used.

With a constant attention to detail and a devotion to good network performance (during the Colorado game, MSR saw the Nebraska IT staff identify and fix a Wi-Fi network configuration issue that briefly impacted upload speeds) the Nebraska IT staff treats its stadium networks like a coach treats a team, always looking for ways to improve. So no matter what happens on the field, the faithful fans who fill the venue every game day can rest assured that if and when they want to use their mobile devices to connect, the Memorial Stadium networks will take them wherever they want to go.

More pictures from our visit below. Please download your free copy of our most recent Stadium Tech Report for all our photos from our Nebraska visit!

Lots of connectivity atop east stands makes for an easy upload of selfies

A look at one of the wrap-around video boards serving the north stands

Cisco Vision at work on concession stand menu displays

Artsy panoramic view from the north seats