Florida sees 11.82 TB of Wi-Fi for Auburn game

Florida’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium saw 11.82 TB of Wi-Fi data used Saturday at Florida’s home game against Auburn. Credit all photos: Floridagators.com and University of Florida

The new Wi-Fi network at the University of Florida’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium saw 11.82 terabytes of data used during Saturday’s home game against Auburn, a new high-water mark for the Extreme Networks-powered network in “The Swamp.”

According to figures provided by Extreme and the University of Florida, the network saw more than 51,000 unique connections during the game day, out of 90,584 in attendance, approximately a 56 percent “take rate.” A story on the Floridagators.com website said the data totals from Saturday’s game (a 24-13 win by Florida over previously undefeated and No. 7-ranked Auburn) “swamped” the previous high Wi-Fi mark of 6.94 TB at a home game against Tennessee two weeks ago. The total put Florida into the top 10 on the unofficial MSR “Top 27” list for single-day Wi-Fi marks, squeezing past Super Bowl 51 to claim the No. 10 position.

Figures provided by Extreme said 1.3 TB of traffic was seen before kickoff, and there was a high throughput mark of 9.4 Gbps. The average bandwidth consumed per connected user for the day was approximately 232 Megabytes, and according to the Floridagators.com story the top three applications used were, in order of usage, Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook.

MSR is planning to visit “The Swamp” later this season for an in-person look at the new Wi-Fi network, work on which was started in 2018. According to the Floridagators.com story the network has approximately 1,100 access points, with many of those in the seating bowl using an under-seat deployment method.

THE MSR TOP 27 FOR WI-FI

1. Michigan State vs. Ohio State, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, Oct. 5, 2019: Wi-Fi: 25.6 TB
2. Super Bowl 53, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga., Feb. 3, 2019: Wi-Fi: 24.05 TB
3. NCAA Men’s 2019 Final Four semifinals, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn., April 6, 2019: Wi-Fi: 17.8 TB
4. Super Bowl 52, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn., Feb. 4, 2018: Wi-Fi: 16.31 TB
5. Miami (Ohio) vs. Ohio State, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, Sept. 21, 2019: Wi-Fi: 13.7 TB
6. NCAA Men’s 2019 Final Four championship, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn., April 8, 2019: Wi-Fi: 13.4 TB
7. Florida Atlantic vs. Ohio State, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, Aug. 31, 2019: Wi-Fi: 13.3 TB
8. Cincinnati vs. Ohio State, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, Sept. 7, 2019: Wi-Fi: 12.7 TB
9. 2018 College Football Playoff Championship, Alabama vs. Georgia, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga., Jan. 8, 2018: Wi-Fi: 12.0 TB*
10. Auburn vs. Florida, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla., Oct. 5, 2019: Wi-Fi: 11.82 TB
11. Super Bowl 51, NRG Stadium, Houston, Feb. 5, 2017: Wi-Fi: 11.8 TB
12. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., Sept. 8, 2019: Wi-Fi: 11.58 TB
13. Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa., Sept. 6, 2018: Wi-Fi: 10.86 TB
14. Super Bowl 50, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., Feb. 7, 2016: Wi-Fi: 10.1 TB
15. Taylor Swift Reputation Tour, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., July 27, 2018: Wi-Fi: 9.76 TB
16. Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles, NFC Championship Game, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa., Jan. 21, 2018: Wi-Fi: 8.76 TB
17. Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New England Patriots, AFC Championship Game, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., Jan. 21, 2018: Wi-Fi: 8.53 TB
18. Taylor Swift Reputation Tour, Broncos Stadium at Mile High, May 25, 2018: Wi-Fi: 8.1 TB
19. Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., Sept. 7, 2017: Wi-Fi: 8.08 TB
20. SEC Championship Game, Alabama vs. Georgia, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga., Dec. 1, 2018: Wi-Fi: 8.06 TB*
21. Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys, Divisional Playoffs, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, Jan. 15, 2017: Wi-Fi: 7.25 TB
22. Stanford vs. Notre Dame, Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind., Sept. 29, 2018: 7.19 TB
23. (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
24. Tennessee vs. Florida, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla., Sept. 21, 2019: Wi-Fi: 6.94 TB
25. WrestleMania 32, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, April 3, 2016: Wi-Fi: 6.77 TB
26. Wisconsin vs. Nebraska, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb., Oct. 7, 2017: Wi-Fi: 6.3 TB
27. Super Bowl 49, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., Feb. 1, 2015: Wi-Fi: 6.23 TB

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.”

ESPN the BCS winner with Megacast broadcast experiment

Side by side ESPN Megacast screens during BCS

Side by side ESPN Megacast screens during BCS

My favorite moment from Monday’s stupendously good BCS championship game came during a break at the start of the fourth quarter, when FSU quarterback Jameis Winston told his offensive teammates, one by one, that “you want it more” than Auburn. If you were watching the game on TV on the main ESPN feed, you missed this extremely cool exchange. But I saw it, and heard it, courtesy of the ESPN Megacast experiment.

My guess is that the Megacast experiment — in which ESPN used multiple broadcast channels to air different views and commentators on the game — was probably only experienced by a small amount of hard-core fans with digital chops. (And purported sports-site editors who call Jameis Winston “Wilson” in Twitter-speed error.) But I think it’s the wave of the future for big-event broadcasts, since it addresses the too-common problem of boring or annoying announcers and one single view of the action.

The bit where Winston was talking to his teammates came courtesy of the “Spidercam” channel, which simply showed fans what the robot camera that hovers above the field was seeing. What was unadvertised was the fact that that camera also has a microphone — in addition to the Wilson pep talk the spidercam caught coaching conversations on the sidelines during breaks, and also gave you a real in-the-arena feel of crowd noise. My new favorite digital sports moment came when I realized I could open more than one Megacast window and had the main feed running next to the spidercam feed on my desktop Mac. Nirvana. I felt like I was in the broadcast truck, deciding exactly how much info the audience of one — me — wanted to see.

Screen shot 2014-01-06 at 8.45.47 PMSome of the people I follow on Twitter really liked the channel that provided a panel of coaches watching and commenting on formations and things like that, a kind of chalk talk in real time. I wasn’t that thrilled with it because the coaches were all “aware” and tried to act too scholarly. A roundtable discussion channel had participants with a bit more life, but the “Fan Cam” channel was a fail, especially the FSU fan who looked like Zach Galifianakis — dude, you wore a red vest and texted for all of us to see?

Some other parts were hit and miss as well — the Goal Line channel had the excellent radio feed audio with Mike Tirico, and an instant replay after every play, which was great. But it also had two cameras that remained focused on the coaches, something I never need to see again in my lifetime. There was also a Spanish language feed and the home team radio feeds for each team, which I didn’t spend a lot of time on. Still, the breadth of choices was for me the amazing part and I hope it gets copied often and improved on.

I mean — imagine the possibilities! ESPN blew it by not having Jason Dufner and Charles Barkley, two Auburn alums who are hilarious, on some kind of screen or feed. Dufner’s Twitter feed during the game was 10 times more entertaining than the Fan Cam, and he was spot on in calling out the refs for missing multiple holding infractions on FSU. I also nominate the SB Nation crew to do a live commentary on their hilarious Brent Bingo if Musberger comes back for one more year on the title game crew.

You’ve also got to think that beer companies will get in on this act soon, showing R-rated commentary from sports humorists from some sponsor tent on site. The beauty of having multiple audio or complementary video feeds online is the cost of producing them has got to be a fraction of the cost that is already sunk for the main TV production. ESPN could pull this off for TV since it has multiple channels in ESPN2, ESPNU and the like. But any broadcaster could do this more easily by putting all the extras online only.

There were some apparent production glitches — viewing online, the different channels weren’t in sync, so if you tried my two-window experiment you quickly noticed that the spidercam was a few seconds ahead of Brent and Herbie. And the spidercam window could use a floating info-window that tells you down and distance, since it’s not always apparent from the behind-the-play angle the camera usually takes. Keep the live microphone, though! Moments like the one of Winston in the huddle are a priceless view into the games we care deeply about. And that, in my mind, makes the Megacast a win in its first time out. Well played, ESPN. Now everybody else, please copy it.