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

AT&T sees double DAS usage at College Football Playoff championship game

Screen Shot 2017-01-10 at 12.06.37 PMWireless data use at big sports events keeps continuing to grow, with AT&T reporting that its cellular network traffic from Monday’s College Football Playoff championship game between Clemson and Alabama was double the total from last year’s game.

According to AT&T, it saw fans use a total of 3.8 terabytes of wireless data Monday, on its stadium distributed antenna system (DAS) network at Raymond James Stadium as well as from other network sites in and around the stadium in Tampa. At last year’s championship game in Glendale, Ariz., AT&T saw 1.9 TB of data used on its cell networks. Keep in mind, these numbers are for AT&T networks ONLY, so the total wireless numbers are much larger.

Unfortunately, Verizon Wireless is (so far) declining to report its wireless data statistics from Monday night’s game, a situation we hope they reconsider; we are also still waiting to hear from Sprint and T-Mobile representatives to get their figures from the event. We also have a call in to the stadium authorities to see if we can get figures from the in-stadium Wi-Fi network, so stay tuned. If AT&T’s numbers are any indication, the thrilling 35-31 Clemson victory might just join our list of top single-day wireless event, especially since the event set an attendance record with 74,512 on hand to witness the drama.

Fans at College Football Playoff championship game use 4.9 TB of Wi-Fi data, 3.9 TB of DAS from AT&T and Verizon

Alabama coach Nick Saban hoists the college championship trophy. Photo by Kent Gidley / University of Alabama

Alabama coach Nick Saban hoists the college championship trophy. Photo by Kent Gidley / University of Alabama

The exciting national championship game Monday night between Alabama and Clemson also resulted in a big night for Wi-Fi and cellular usage at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., with 4.9 terabytes of Wi-Fi data consumed, according to stadium network officials.

While the number didn’t set a stadium record — the 6.23 TB of Wi-Fi used at Super Bowl XLIX last February in the same venue is still the highest single-game Wi-Fi mark we’ve seen — the 4.9 TB used Monday nearly matches the total from last year’s inaugural College Football Playoff championship game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where 4.93 TB of Wi-Fi was used. It’s worth noting, however, that Monday night’s game had 75,765 fans in attendance, almost 10,000 less than last year’s crowd of 85,689 at the first playoff championship. So at the very least, Monday’s fans used more data per fan in attendance than last year’s game.

On the cellular side of things however, AT&T reported that data usage on its DAS network Monday night exceeded the total from last year’s Super Bowl, with 1.9 TB carried Monday to top the 1.7 TB total AT&T recorded at Super Bowl XLIX. UPDATE, 1/26/16: Verizon has followed up with a report claiming it had 2 TB of DAS traffic at the event. So for right now the wireless total from Monday’s game stands at 8.8 TB, a number that still might grow if we ever hear from Sprint or T-Mobile.

Mark Feller, vice president of information technology for the Arizona Cardinals, said that the University of Phoenix Stadium Wi-Fi network saw 23,306 unique devices connect Monday night, with a peak concurrent connected total of 17,297 devices. The stadium network also saw an additional 1.2 TB of wired data used Monday night, primarily from press and photographer Ethernet connections, Feller said.

The 4.9 TB mark unofficially puts Monday’s game in the “top four” of highest-ever single game Wi-Fi data totals we’ve seen, behind only last year’s Super Bowl, an Alabama game at Texas A&M’s Kyle Field this fall that hit 5.7 TB, and (barely) last year’s college championship game. All eyes in the Wi-Fi totals world now turn to Levi’s Stadium, where Super Bowl 50 takes place Feb. 7. Will the 6.2 TB mark survive, maybe showing that fan data use at big games has peaked? Or will a new record be set?

Texas A&M’s fiber-backed Wi-Fi at Kyle Field records 5.7 TB of data during Alabama game

Scoreboard, Kyle Field. Photos: Texas A&M

Scoreboard, Kyle Field. Photos: Texas A&M

We’ve been hearing rumors about how much data was flowing at the new fiber-based Wi-Fi network at Texas A&M’s Kyle Field this fall, and now we finally have some verified numbers that are sure to pop some eyeballs: According to the networking crew at Corning, fans at Kyle Field used 5.7 terabytes of Wi-Fi data during the Oct. 17 game against Alabama, which the Aggies lost 41-23.

In case you are keeping score the 5.7 TB mark is the second-largest single-game Wi-Fi usage number we’ve seen, trailing only the 6.2 TB recorded at Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz., earlier this year. Before you pin it all on the network, however, be aware that the newly refurbished Kyle Field can hold a whole lotta fans — the announced attendance for the ‘Bama game was 105,733, which is 35,000+ more fans than the 70,288 who attended the Super Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium on Feb. 1. Still, building a network to support basically another baseball stadium’s worth of fans is pretty cool, too.

Other related numbers from the Wi-Fi network are in Super Bowl territory as well, including the 37,823 unique clients recorded during pre-game and game time, as well as the 26,318 peak concurrent user count. We’re not sure why only 10 people tweeted about the Wi-Fi (8 good, 2 bad) but the 3.2 Gbps throughput should also turn some heads.

Corning ONE DAS headend equipment at Texas A&M's Kyle Field deployment

Corning ONE DAS headend equipment at Texas A&M’s Kyle Field deployment

The question this all raises for us is, has the availability of a fiber backbone allowed fans to simply use more traffic? And is the demand for mobile data at big events perhaps even higher than we thought? With a regular-season game at Nebraska hitting 4.2 TB earlier this season, it’s pretty clear that data demands are showing no signs of hitting a plateau. Or maybe we can deduce that the better the network, the more traffic it will carry?

It’s also worthwhile to note that stats this season from AT&T have shown several 1+ TB data totals for games at Kyle Field on the AT&T DAS network, which uses the same fiber backbone as the Wi-Fi. This “fiber to the fan” infrastructure, built by IBM and Corning, will also be at the core of the network being built at the new home of the NFL’s Falcons, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, scheduled to open in 2017.

We’ll have more soon from Kyle Field, as Mobile Sports Report is scheduled to make a visit there for the Nov. 7 game against Auburn. If you plan to be in College Station that weekend give us a holler. Or a yell, right? We are looking forward to seeing the stadium and the network firsthand, to do some speedtests to see how well all areas are covered. With 5.7 TB of Wi-Fi, it’s a good guess the coverage is pretty good.

(Statistics provided by Corning for the Oct. 17 game are below.)

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 9.50.45 PM

Report excerpt: SEC moving slowly on stadium Wi-Fi deployments

Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn University

Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn University

Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from our recent Stadium Tech Report series COLLEGE FOOTBALL ISSUE, a 40-page in-depth look at Wi-Fi and DAS deployment trends at U.S. collegiate football stadiums. You can download the full report for free, to get more stadium profiles as well as school-by-school technology deployment capsules for both the SEC and Pac-12 conferences.

When it comes to college football, the South- eastern Conference – usually just known as “the SEC” – is second to none when it comes to the product on the field.

But what about the product in the stands, namely the wireless technology deployments in SEC stadiums? With just two of 14 conference schools currently with fan-facing Wi-Fi in their main venues, the SEC isn’t pushing any technology envelopes as a whole. And according to one SEC athletic director, there probably won’t be a wholesale march by the conference to the technology forefront – simply because the SEC’s in-stadium fans have other priorities on what needs fixing first.

Scott Stricklin, the AD at SEC member Mississippi State, leads a conference-wide group that is taking a close look at the in- stadium fan experience, a concern for the SEC even as the conference enjoys NFL-like popularity for its teams and games.

“We are proud that we have a pretty special product in our stadiums, and we want to take steps to keep it that way,” said Stricklin in an interview with MSR. A recent conference-wide fan survey, he said, did highlight the fact that when it comes to wireless connectivity, “none of us from a performance standpoint scored very well.”

Wi-Fi not as important as parking, good food

But Stricklin also noted that the same fan survey didn’t place stadium connectivity at the top of the list of things to fix: Instead, it fell well down, trailing issues like parking, clean restrooms, stadium sound and good food. That lack of press- ing concern, combined with Stricklin’s still-common belief that fans should be cheering instead of texting while at the stadium, means that the SEC will probably take a measured approach to Wi-Fi deployments in stadiums, and continue to rely on carrier-funded DAS networks to carry the game-day wireless load.

Scott Stricklin, Mississippi State AD

Scott Stricklin, Mississippi State AD

“I take more of a Mark Cuban approach – I’d rather people in the stands not be watching video [on their phones],” Stricklin said. “It takes away from the shared experience.”

Stricklin also noted that the two schools that have installed Wi-Fi in their stadiums – Auburn and Ole Miss – haven’t had resounding success with their deployments.

“Some [SEC schools] have done [Wi-Fi], and they’re not completely happy with the results,” said Stricklin, saying the lack of success has reinforced the cautious approach to Wi-Fi, conference-wide. “Those are the issues all of us are facing and grappling with,” he added.

SEC fans setting DAS traffic records

Even as they trail on Wi-Fi deployments, that doesn’t mean SEC schools are putting in dial-up phone booths. Indeed, Stricklin noted the huge video boards that have been installed in most conference stadiums, and did say that the recent installations of carrier-funded DAS deploymentshave somewhat eased the no-signal crunch of the near past.

At his own school, Stricklin said his office got a lot of complaints about fans not being able to get a cellular signal before AT&T updated the stadium’s DAS in 2013.

“Last year, we got very few negative comments [about cellular service],” Stricklin said. “AT&T customers were even able to stream video.”

Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Ole Miss

Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Ole Miss

AT&T’s aggressive plan to install as many DAS networks as it can has helped bring the SEC to a 100 percent DAS coverage mark, and the fans seem to be enjoying the enhanced cellular connectivity. According to AT&T statistics, fans at SEC schools have regularly led the carrier’s weekly DAS traffic totals for most of the football season, especially at the “big games” between SEC schools like Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Georgia.

During Alabama’s 25-20 home victory over then-No. 1 Mississippi State, AT&T customers at Bryant-Denny Stadium used 849 gigabytes oftraffic, the second-highest total that weekend for stadiums where AT&T has a DAS. The next two highest data-usage marks that weekend came at games at Georgia (676 GB) and Arkansas (602 GB), highlighting that SEC games typically have huge crowds, and those crowds like to use their cellphones, no matter how good the game on the field is.

Would Wi-Fi help with some of the traffic crunches? Possibly, but only two schools in the conference – Ole Miss and Auburn – currently have fan-facing Wi-Fi in their stadiums. Texas A&M, which is in the middle of a $450 million renovation of Kyle Field, is leaping far ahead of its conference brethren with a fiber-based Wi-Fi and DAS network and IPTV installation that will be among the most advanced anywhere when it is completed this coming summer.

But most of the SEC schools, Stricklin said, will probably stay on the Wi-Fi sidelines, at least until there is some better way to justify the millions of dollars in costs needed to bring Wi-Fi to a facility that might not see much regular use.

“If you only have 6 home games a year, it’s hard to justify,” said Stricklin of the cost of a Wi-Fi stadium network.

Other sports may move before football

Stricklin, the man who wants fans to keep their phones in their pockets at football games, is no stranger to technology-enhanced experiences in stadiums. He claims to “love” the in-seat food delivery options at MSU baseball and basketball games, and notes that the conference athletic directors will have a meeting soon where the game-experience panel experts will walk the ADs through the facets of wireless technology deployments.

“They’re going to lay out what are the challenges, and what are the costs” of wireless deployments, Stricklin said. What Stricklin doesn’t want to see at MSU or at any SEC school is the return of the “no signal” days.

“When fans from other schools come here, we want them to have a good experience,” Stricklin said.

But he’d still prefer that experience is real, not virtual.

“I still just wonder, is anybody really doing this?” he asked. “Are you going to pay what you pay to come to our place, and then watch your phone? What I hope is that we produce such a great experience, you’re not going to want to reach for your phone.”

Big AT&T DAS weekend in Miami: 2.7 TB of traffic for two mid-November games

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 2.21.51 PMWe’re a couple weeks behind in catching up here, but it’s worth backtracking to look at a huge weekend of DAS traffic at Miami’s Sun Life Stadium that took place earlier this month. According to DAS traffic figures from AT&T, the two games held at Sun Life on Nov. 13 (Miami Dolphins vs. Buffalo Bills) and Nov. 15 (Florida State vs. Miami) generated a total of 2.735 terabytes of traffic on the AT&T-specific cellular DAS in the stadium — a pretty high mark for cellular-only traffic.

Since we know there’s also a high-capacity Wi-Fi network at Sun Life, it’s interesting to wonder how much total traffic there was for the two events. While we wait to see if the fine folks who run the stadium network will eventually provide us with the Wi-Fi details, we can drill down a bit more into the DAS numbers that AT&T is seeing across the largest stadiums this fall.

The two games in Miami that weekend were the tops for DAS traffic in both college and pro for AT&T networks, which according to AT&T is the first time one town has held the DAS crown for both spots. The FSU-Miami game, where the Hurricanes kept it close to the end, was the biggest single DAS traffic event of that weekend, college or pro, with 1,802 GB of data crossing the AT&T DAS network. What’s kind of stunning is to remember that these stats are for AT&T customer traffic only; full game traffic from the 76,530 in attendance at the FSU-Miami game was likely much higher but alas — we get no such comparable stats from other cellular providers.

Other big games between highly ranked teams also scored high in AT&T’s DAS rankings that particular weekend — Alabama’s home win over then No. 1 Mississippi State was second on the list with 849 GB of DAS traffic, while Georgia’s win over visiting Auburn that Saturday recorded 676 GB of DAS traffic.

On the pro side, the second-highest AT&T DAS traffic came interestingly from San Diego, where the Chargers eked out a 13-6 win over the Raiders. We’re wondering if the DAS mark from San Diego — 730 GB, which trailed only Miami’s Thursday night mark of 933 GB in its win over Buffalo — was higher because Qualcomm Stadium still doesn’t have Wi-Fi. And again, remember that traffic at some other stadiums might have been higher — these numbers reflect only AT&T stats from venues where AT&T has an operating DAS.

Stay tuned as the football seasons come to their conclusions — with any luck we’ll get some more DAS and Wi-Fi stats to get a more complete picture of stadium traffic this season, which — surprise! — seems to be continually growing. Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile… lend us your stats!