AT&T sees 13.6 TB of cell data used for Kentucky Derby weekend; Verizon hits 7.17 TB on Derby Day

Race winner Always Dreaming. Credit: Coady Photography /Churchill Downs

Once again, fans at the Kentucky Derby used more wireless data than they did the previous year, with AT&T seeing a total of 13.6 terabytes of cellular data over the racing weekend at famed Churchill Downs.

For the muddy Derby race day itself, AT&T said its customers used a total of 8.1 TB of data on the in-venue DAS, the temporary COWs (cell trucks on wheels) and the AT&T macro network in the area. That number surpassed the 6.7 TB AT&T saw on Derby Day last year.

With an additional 5.5 TB of traffic seen on the “Kentucky Oaks” race day Friday, AT&T saw a total of 13.6 TB for the race weekend, a 19 percent increase from last year’s AT&T total of 11.4 TB for the weekend.

UPDATE: Verizon Wireless said it saw 7.17 TB of traffic on Kentucky Derby Day, up from 5.5 TB the year before. For the full three days of racing (including Thursday’s “Thurby” events), Verizon said it saw a total of 14.27 TB of traffic, meaning that this year’s events handily surpassed last year’s combined-carrier mark of 20.15 TB. In the venue, wireless carriers run on a DAS deployed by Mobilitie.

T-Mobile joins DAS at Texas A&M’s Kyle Field

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

The DAS network at Texas A&M University’s Kyle Field will now support T-Mobile cellular customers, according to an announcement from the school.

According to Texas A&M, T-Mobile will pay $3.5 million to have its signals carried on the DAS inside the 102,512-seat Kyle Field. Previously, AT&T and Verizon Wireless had paid $5 million each to be the first carriers on the stadium’s new DAS, which was installed ahead of the 2015 football season as part of a network deployment that cost north of $20 million according to school officials.

The network, one of the highest-performing deployments in U.S. sports stadiums, saw an 8.2 terabyte traffic day for a game this past season against Tennessee, with 3.8 TB of that traffic on the DAS network.

Kentucky Derby app adds more content for version 2.0

Call it a content-focused refresh — the Kentucky Derby app developed for Churchill Downs by VenueNext will add several new features for race-day fans, including live odds and betting tips.

The mobile app, which debuted at last year’s race, will once again offer the ability to place bets from within the app, so the new content may help produce more winners if the betting tips are correct. Also new to this year’s version of the app are a “today’s events” section which will detail what is happening at the racetrack throughout the Kentucky Derby weekend, as well as a “Derby News” section which will, in the words of Churchill Downs, provide “racing, lifestyle & equine information in one place.”

Like last year, the app will also support mobile ordering for in-seat food and beverage delivery or express pickup, but only in certain selected sections of the venue, which will see somewhere near 170,000 attendees over the race weekend. Last year, the track made delivery available to 500 seats in its Turf Club section, and express pickup available to another 15 sections of seating areas. We don’t have any details yet whether or not those services expanded for this year’s race, but stay tuned.

We’ll also be watching to see if this year’s wireless activity surpasses last year’s totals of 12.2 terabytes of cellular data for Derby Day and 20.15 TB for the weekend, numbers from the combined traffic of AT&T and Verizon Wireless customers.

AT&T beefs up ski resort reception with stealthy DAS

AT&T DAS antenna stand (right) near the American Eagle lift at Copper Mountain. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

In order to improve cellular reception at the Copper Mountain ski area, AT&T this winter installed a stealthy seven-antenna DAS in several base-area locations, including inside ski-lodge buildings and inside a rooftop cupola.

According to Quin Gelfand, a senior real estate and construction manager for AT&T’s Antenna Solutions Group, the mountain had previously been served only by a single macro tower located up near the slopes of the popular Colorado resort, which is located just off the I-70 Interstate between Frisco and Vail.

On heavy skier-visit days, Gelfand said, the macro tower recently caused some “capacity concerns,” leading AT&T to design a DAS solution for the several base areas at Copper Mountain. In addition to just being saturated by demand, Gelfand said the single macro antennas often didn’t provide strong signals inside buildings at the base areas.

“In a lot of areas around the resort, there were low bars for LTE,” Gelfand said.

AT&T’s Quin Gelfand shows off the main head end DAS gear rack.

But on Feb. 23 this year, that situation changed for AT&T cellular customers, as the DAS went live and immediately started moving lots of cellular traffic. By the time of our visit in early April, Gelfand said the DAS installation (which has the capacity equivalent of a single large macro tower) had already seen more than 7 terabytes of data moved, averaging about 175 GB per day. Like at many Colorado ski areas, March is a busy month at Copper with lots of spring break skiers and locals driving up on weekends from Denver.

Hiding antennas in a cupola

Brad Grohusky, senior IT manager for Copper Mountain, said AT&T approached the resort a couple of years ago to discuss the idea of a DAS. “When we had a dense population of guests, it was pretty easy to saturate a signal,” Grohusky said.

On weekends, Grohusky said Copper could often see as many as 10,000 guests, and might even see as many as 14,000 visitors on popular days or holidays. Wireless communications, he said, could get even more stress if the weather turned nasty or cold, driving more people inside buildings.

DAS antenna (upper top left) in Copper Station lodge

Starting from an existing telecom service room located in an underground garage, AT&T ran fiber this past offseason to three different antenna locations. The closest and most obvious is a three-antenna stand near the “Burning Stones” gathering area and the American Eagle chairlift base. As one of the resort’s main first chairs the American Eagle often has crowds at its base, and the Burning Stones area is a small clearing between the slopes and the base area buildings that is used often for concerts and other public gatherings.

“There was lots of digging last summer,” said Grohusky of the fiber-trenching effort, which gained some extra time thanks to a warmer-than-usual fall that kept the snow at bay. “We took advantage of that extra week,” Grohusky said.

If the American Eagle-area antennas are in plain sight, the two antennas at the Union Creek Schoolhouse base area to the west would be impossible to find if you didn’t know where they were; on the roof of a building AT&T built custom-designed baffling for a rooftop cupola that completely hides the antennas while allowing cellular signals to pass through.

“You would never know the antennas were up there,” Grohusky said. “AT&T really accomodated our architecture there.”

Closer look at DAS tower near American Eagle lift

Back farther to the east, two more antennas were located at the top windows of the Copper Station lodge building, pointed outward to cover the lift base areas and the condos and other buildings in that area. According to Gelfand AT&T used Nokia RAN gear as well as Corning fiber equipment, CommScope cabling components and antennas from JMA Wireless in the deployment. The DAS is powered by a 100 Mbps fiber link from CenturyLink, and supports three cellular bands — 700 MHz, AWS and PCS, according to Gelfand.

Even though ski season is all but over, the network will still get use in the non-snowy months as Copper Mountain, like many Colorado resorts, has an active summer schedule of on-mountain activities. The resort also has a limited free public Wi-Fi network in certain base area buildings, including in and around the Starbucks location right next to the Burning Stones area. Gohusky said there are no current plans to expand the Wi-Fi, and also said that none of the other major cellular carriers are planning to add any of their own DAS deployments.

But for AT&T customers, Grohusky said connectivity is vastly improved. “The feedback has been great,” he said. “Connectivity used to be poor inside buildings, but now it’s great.”

Look back toward the Burning Stones gathering area, near American Eagle lift

Union Creek Schoolhouse building — cupola with AT&T antennas is the one closest to ski hill

JMA Wireless antenna mounted high up inside Copper Station lodge

CommScope gear inside the Copper Station node equipment room

Corning optical gear inside the Copper Station node equipment room

Copper Station lodge building (with DAS antennas) on far right, showing proximity to eastern base area

Final Four final score: 17.6 TB (at least) of wireless data used at University of Phoenix Stadium

We finally have the Wi-Fi numbers from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament Final Four weekend at the University of Phoenix Stadium, and they are big — a total of 11.2 terabytes of data used during the two days of competition, according to the stadium network crews running the operations for the NCAA. Combined with AT&T’s reported DAS total of 6.4 TB, that means the total wireless usage so far is at least 17.6 TB — and that’s not including DAS numbers from Verizon Wireless, Sprint or T-Mobile, which if we had them would probably push the total far higher.

Just on the Wi-Fi side of things, the Saturday semifinal games this year produced enough single-day traffic (6.3 TB) to sneak into our unofficial Top 5 list for Wi-Fi events, barely edging Super Bowl XLIX, which saw 6.2 TB of traffic in the same building a couple years earlier. Granted, the Final Four has more fans in attendance and more time with two games compared to one, but it’s still a sign (to us, anyway) that wireless use by fans at big games of all types is continuing to grow. (It’s cool to see the comparison between a Super Bowl and a Final Four in the same venue, as well. Looks like the network operators there keep improving from big game to big game.)

According to the network stats provided to us, the Final Four crowd on Saturday saw 38,520 unique users connected to the Wi-Fi at some point, with a max concurrent user total of 20,675. On Monday night’s championship game, those numbers were 31,458 uniques and 19,861 max concurrent users. Attendance for the two sessions was 77,612 for Saturday’s semifinals and 76,168 for Monday’s championship, which were both second-highest ever numbers, according to a cool NCAA infographic that has some more stats on TV and internet viewership.

See you next year in San Antonio, NCAA… to see if the connectivity pace keeps increasing!

THE NEW TOP 8 FOR WI-FI

1. Super Bowl 51, NRG Stadium, Houston, Feb. 5, 2017: Wi-Fi: 11.8 TB
2. Super Bowl 50, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., Feb. 7, 2016: Wi-Fi: 10.1 TB
3. Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys, Divisional Playoffs, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, Jan. 15, 2017: Wi-Fi: 7.25 TB
4. WrestleMania 32, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, April 3, 2016: Wi-Fi: 6.77 TB
5. NCAA Men’s Final Four, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., April 1, 2017: Wi-Fi: 6.3 TB
6. Super Bowl 49, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., Feb. 1, 2015: Wi-Fi: 6.23 TB
7. Alabama vs. Texas A&M, Kyle Field, College Station, Texas, Oct. 17, 2015: Wi-Fi: 5.7 TB
8. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots, AFC Championship Game, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., Jan. 22, 2017: Wi-Fi: 5.11 TB

Cubs fans on AT&T networks use 1.4 TB of cellular on opening night, more than World Series games

Bleacher fans at Wrigley Field use their mobile devices to record the team’s World Series banner celebration. Credit: Screen shot of ESPN broadcast

As we found out last fall, having a World Series game at your venue can generate large amounts of wireless traffic, on both cellular and Wi-Fi networks. But as it turns out, celebrating a World Series victory can generate even more traffic, especially when the celebration includes an on-field ceremony made for fan photos from the seats.

According to AT&T, Cubs fans at Wrigley Field for Monday night’s home opener used 1.4 terabytes of wireless data on AT&T’s cellular and DAS (distributed antenna system) in and around the Friendly Confines. That was almost 400 GB more than the biggest AT&T usage report from last fall’s World Series, when Wrigley Field saw 1.006 TB of data used on AT&T networks for Game 3, the first game in Chicago.

Before the Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers played on Monday night, there was a lengthy rain delay where a packed house of fans was waiting for the Cubs to unveil their World Series and National League pennant banners.

The flags, which were mounted on four poles at the back of the centerfield bleachers, became the center of attention when the entire Cubs roster still with the team from last season climbed up into the stands to each take a pull at hoisting the World Series champion banner aloft. As you can tell by the pictures we snapped off the ESPN broadcast, it was a made-for-mobile-device moment, with some lucky fans able to get up close and personal photos of the Cubs players.

After hoisting the banners the Cubs players emerged from the tunnels behind the outfield walls with the World Series trophy and paraded it onto the field, again no doubt attracting more of the photos that eventually were sent over the AT&T networks. It’s a lot of wireless traffic, but no doubt a problem any team in Major League Baseball would be willing to tackle each spring.