Extreme Networks to provide Wi-Fi 6 to 16 Major League Baseball stadiums

Extreme Wi-Fi gear (small white box in center) at Wrigley Field. Credit: Paul Kapustka, STR

In one of the biggest sports-venue Wi-Fi deals ever, Major League Baseball said it has selected Extreme Networks as its new “official Wi-Fi solutions provider,” a deal that will see Extreme Wi-Fi 6 gear being deployed in at least 16 MLB venues, beginning with the Boston Red Sox’s Fenway Park.

In an announcement today, Extreme and MLB said the deal would bring in-stadium Wi-Fi gear as well as Extreme’s network analytics software to at least 16 stadiums by 2026.

According to Major League Baseball, the Extreme deal represents the latest step for the league’s “technology consortium,” a plan started in 2014 where the league brought together a consortium of technology and service providers to more quickly bring better connectivity to MLB venues through pre-arranged and shared pricing structures. (In the first version of the consortium plan, Cisco was the preferred Wi-Fi gear supplier.)

Truman Boyes, MLB’s senior vice president for technology infrastructure, said that adding Wi-Fi 6 technology to the consortium offerings was driven by the continued increase in network data consumption by fans at ballparks.

“We’ve seen growth [in network usage] ramp up year after year,” Boyes said.

And while an earlier version of the Wi-Fi 6 rollout plan was set to start last spring, Boyes said that the Covid pandemic and its subsequent closing of almost all venues to fans in 2020 actually helped MLB solidify its plans.

More Extreme Wi-Fi gear underneath the roof at Wrigley Field. Credit: Paul Kapustka, STR

“We did have some delays [due to the pandemic] but because there still wasn’t an actual standardized approach to Wi-Fi 6 at this time last year, it became a good time to wait it out,” Boyes said. And after evaluating all the equipment providers in the Wi-Fi space, Boyes said Extreme’s experience in large-venue Wi-Fi networks helped make Extreme MLB’s choice based on technical merit.

“When it comes to networks of 20,000 to 40,000 [users], it’s a totally different landscape,” Boyes said. With Extreme’s experience in NFL-size venues, he said, “they know how to make it scale.”

According to Boyes, 10 of the network deployments are expected to be completed by the end of the year, with Fenway’s deployment scheduled to be live by opening day. (See full list at bottom of story)

MLB deal follows NFL deal

The “official” Wi-Fi deal adds another win to Extreme’s sports-industry ledger, following the company’s current similar deal with the NFL. Next year will be Extreme’s ninth season as the official Wi-Fi supplier to the NFL, where 10 of the 30 venues use Extreme gear exclusively for Wi-Fi, with two other NFL venues having a mix of gear with some Extreme included. Extreme’s current deal with the NFL lasts until March of 2022, according to the NFL.

Like its NFL deal, Extreme’s contract with MLB does not require venues to use Extreme equipment; it simply provides teams with a league-approved deal that most likely has economics that are potentially more favorable than those available outside the consortium pricing, given that Extreme is both a supplier and a sponsor to the league.

“Teams can join if they want to share in the benefits of centralized management,” said Boyes of MLB’s consortium efforts. While 16 MLB teams have committed to the Wi-Fi 6 deal with Extreme, Boyes said there is “interest from other teams” as well. Currently, Boyes said 20 of MLB’s 30 teams have used consortium deals for connectivity in the past.

Extreme currently has two existing MLB customers for stadium Wi-Fi, the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field and the Baltimore Orioles’ home, Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles’ deal with Extreme had not been previously reported, other than that Verizon had paid for Wi-Fi at the park.

While Extreme has gotten big visibility out of its NFL deal — one which allows Extreme to control the announcement of network-usage results from the Super Bowl each year, even if Extreme gear is not used at the venue — it has also not won any recent deals for new NFL Wi-Fi networks. The two newest NFL venues, SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles and Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, both chose Cisco as their Wi-Fi 6 gear supplier.

However, some long-standing Extreme customers in the NFL have recently stuck with Extreme for renovations, including updates at the last two Super Bowl venues, Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium and Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium. Extreme and the Seattle Seahawks were also set to announce a Wi-Fi 6 upgrade to the network at Lumen Field this past year, but that announcement was delayed by the team due to the Covid pandemic.

Wes Durow, chief marketing officer for Extreme, said in a phone interview that Extreme’s focus on analytics makes it a great fit with Major League Baseball, which he said has been out in front of the entire sports world when it comes to emphasizing new statistics as a way to engage fans more closely.

And while acknowledging that a sponsorship with MLB was part of the equation, he said “that’s not what drove this deal. They [MLB] needeed to make a technology decision first.”

Consortium focusing on Wi-Fi

Unlike the past version of the consortium efforts, which included cellular distributed antenna network (DAS) systems as well as Wi-Fi, Boyes said the MLB consortium would “focus on Wi-Fi” going forward.

Part of MLB’s stance of “keeping DAS a little bit at arm’s length for now,” Boyes said, has to do with the complexity of 5G cellular deployments. Unlike 4G LTE cellular, where the top U.S. carriers all used similar spectrum spaces, the early 5G deployments from the top carriers all use different spectrum bands, which doesn’t work with a shared-antenna system.

MLB Stadiums that will get Extreme Wi-Fi 6:

Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox)
Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Guaranteed Rate Field (Chicago White Sox)
Great American Ballpark (Cincinnati Reds)
Progressive Field (Cleveland Indians)
Comerica Park (Detroit Tigers)
Minute Maid Park (Houston Astros)
Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City Royals)
Marlins Park (Miami Marlins)
Citi Field (New York Mets)
Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia Phillies)
PNC Park (Pittsburgh Pirates)
Petco Park (San Diego Padres)
T-Mobile Park (Seattle Mariners)
Busch Stadium (St. Louis Cardinals)
Nationals Park (Washington Nationals)

Texting from games: A look back 10 years ago today, great Red Sox win and a first-ever live view of a fan sending a text

I want to thank the esteemed Jon Brodkin for reminding me that 10 years ago today a very special night in Boston baseball history was also a watershed moment for me from both a sports fan and a professional capacity. Along with being there live to watch the start of baseball’s greatest playoff comeback ever, I saw for the first time, someone sending a text message during a game.

Yeah, we’ve all come a long way.

To refresh — it was 10 years ago today on a chilly Boston night when the all-hope-lost Red Sox rallied to win Game 4 of their ALCS series against the hated Yankees.

Since Voice over IP was one of my main beats then, I was flying in to Boston that night to attend the VON Conference — and when I got out of Logan I asked the cabbie if the Yankees had finally eliminated the Sox. He told me that even though it was late — around 8 p.m.? — the game hadn’t started yet, because it was scheduled to start after the NL game (St. Louis against Houston). So I dumped my bag in my Back Bay hotel room and hoofed it to Fenway, where I found someone selling one seat in the bleachers for face value. For $50, I was in for the baseball night of my life.

Who texts on a phone?

You probably all know how the game ended — as a Cubs fan I was not attached emotionally to the outcome, but sitting in the Fenway bleachers I was carried along with the agony and eventual ecstasy of the home crowd. What I remember most is: 1. You don’t get up when you’re sitting in the Fenway centerfield bleachers, because it bugs everyone else when you do. (I limited myself to one beer, one bad hot dog and one relief session, all on the same trip, so as not to fall out of favor with my very vocal seatmates.) 2. Boston bleacher fans probably know more baseball than any other place I’ve been (Wrigley, Candlestick, AT&T Park), including the minor-league history of not just their team’s players, but the opposition’s as well. 3. Everybody in the park knew Roberts was going to steal, and he did it anyway. 4. I’ve never before or since heard a fan eruption like the one that happened when Big Papi’s walk-off cleared the fences.

So yeah, greatest baseball game I’ve ever been to, no contest. But something else happened that night — that very cold night where I was glad to have remembered a wool cap and gloves — when I saw, during one inning break, a 20-something woman in the row in front of me doing something with her phone that seemed way more involved than dialing a number. Since she wasn’t talking but staring at her flip phone I had to ask what was up.

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 12.15.22 PM“I’m sending my friend a text message,” she said. I had only a vague idea what she was talking about. I mean, I think I knew it was possible to send a message to someone else using those three-tap spelling tricks, but I didn’t know anyone personally who did that. I also knew that anyone who pulled out a cell phone during a game was subject to ridicule, especially if you held the phone to your ear and waved when you knew you were on TV.

She explained that her friend had moved to New Orleans (for work or school, can’t remember) and was part of a loyal group of Bosox fans… and she was keeping him in the loop on how it felt to be in the bleachers, letting him know he was missed. I thought the idea was pretty cool, but it didn’t register with me that more people might want to do the same thing.

Fast forward to last night, when my Facebook feed lit up with friends’ video clips from the Giants’ walk-off NLCS win from AT&T Park. Yeah, we’ve come a REAL long way in 10 years.

I usually tell people my a-ha moment for starting Mobile Sports Report came at a CTIA conference in 2011, where AT&T CTO John Donovan told the crowd that for the first time ever at the Super Bowl earlier that year, there was more wireless traffic leaving the stadium than coming in — meaning that fans were sending texts and pictures out in great number, perhaps more so than ever thought before. That trend, of course, is what’s fueling the current wave of stadium network deployments, and that Super Bowl was certainly a watershed moment. But when I think a bit I remember that night in Boston 10 years ago and think… people have wanted to share these special moments for quite some time. Good to see more people getting the chance.

Stadium Tech Report: MLB stadium technology reports — AL East

Editor’s note: The following team-by-team capsule reports of MLB stadium technology deployments are an excerpt from our most recent Stadium Tech Report for Q2 2014, which focuses on Major League Baseball. To get all the capsules in one place as well as our featured reports, interviews and analysis, download your free copy of the full report today.

AL EAST

Reporting by Chris Gallo

Boston Red Sox
Fenway Park
Seating Capacity: 37,493 (night), 37,065 (day)
Wi-Fi: Yes
DAS:Yes
Beaconing: Yes

Fenway Park is one of the iconic ballparks in all of sports. It first opened more than 100 years ago, but today it remains a great place to catch a ballgame. Meru Networks outfitted the historic park with Wi-Fi in 2012. Combined with Verizon DAS antennas, Red Sox fans can connect at once while watching the reigning World Series Champions.

Thanks to the solid network, fans can stroll down Yawkey Way using the MLB At the Ballpark app to receive discounts on Red Sox gear and stream video from the Green Monster. This makes the Fenway Park experience even more memorable.

New York Yankees
Yankee Stadium
Seating Capacity: 49,642
Wi-Fi: No for full park; Yes for luxury suites
DAS:Yes
Beaconing: No

Despite opening in 2009 and with money to finance a monster payroll every year, the New York Yankees have yet to bring free Wi-Fi to fans in the new Yankee Stadium. It’s somehow fitting that Wi-Fi is available to fans in luxury suites and to employees. Call Costanza! We want Wi-Fi!

For a team that once banned iPads at its stadium, the Yankees are still behind in the division when it comes to stadium connectivity.

Toronto Blue Jays
Rogers Centre
Seating Capacity: 48,282
Wi-Fi: No for full park; Yes for luxury suites
DAS:Yes
Beaconing: Yes

The Toronto Blue Jays call the Rogers Centre home, but do not benefit from the sponsor’s service. Rogers is one of the largest telecommunications providers in all of Canada, but the Blue Jays do not deliver free public Wi-Fi to all fans.
Wi-Fi is available only in limited seating areas. There are DAS antennas installed and the Rogers Centre is experimenting with iBeacons. But Blue Jays representatives said that fans can expect an expansion of the network throughout the stadium in the near future.

Tampa Bay Rays
Tropicana Field
Seating Capacity: 31,042
Wi-Fi: Yes, 250 access points
DAS: Yes, 680 antennas
Beaconing: No

Lightning struck a transformer near Tropicana Field earlier this year causing a 19-minute delay between the Orioles and Rays. From catwalks that remain in play to blackouts, the stadium has a colorful history. Despite the odd quirks, the indoor stadium does offer free Wi-Fi. Rays’ fans are greeted with 250 Wi-Fi access points and 680 DAS antennas at the Trop.

Baltimore Orioles
Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Seating Capacity: 45,971
Wi-Fi: No
DAS: No
Beaconing: No

Opened in 1992, Oriole Park
at Camden Yards does not yet provide free Wi-Fi or DAS to fans. The Maryland Stadium Authority, who owns the ballpark, assures us that the organization is in discussions about how to proceed. A ball- park that’s been to home to historic games, Camden Yards would be a great place to share memories with increased connectivity.

To get all the capsules in one place as well as our featured reports, interviews and analysis, download your free copy of the full report today.

AT&T Bosox fans set wireless data records during World Series opener

It’s a bit of a broken record — another big sporting event, another huge wireless data usage event — but the numbers never fail to amaze me: According to our friends at AT&T, fans at Fenway Park Wednesday night set new records for wireless data usage during the Red Sox victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in the opening game of the 2013 World Series. How much data? Try 248 GB of data, bigger even than the Bosox’s Big Papi.

Mind you, none of these figures represent traffic that might have traversed over the Meru-supplied Wi-Fi network inside Fenway. The following figures are all from AT&T’s Distributed Antenna System (DAS) network, the collection of small cellular antennas that bring better connectivity to crowded public places. And this is only AT&T carried data, which means that the total of all wireless customers in the park is almost certainly a multiple larger. But for your enjoyment here are the AT&T stats, direct from our AT&T sources:

— Data usage on the AT&T in-stadium network during Game 1 was 248 GB (gigabytes) of data
— 248 GB of data is equal to more than 700,000 social media posts with photos
— AT&T fans made more than 17,361 voice calls and sent more than 56,335 SMS text messages Wednesday night on our in-stadium network
— The peak hour for data traffic on the in-stadium network was from 10–11 p.m. EST
— The 248 GB total surpassed the record for data usage for the AT&T in-stadium network at Busch Stadium in St. Louis in 2013, which was 183 GB set on 10/11/13

We’ll see if the Meru folks can provide any Wi-Fi stats before the series ends. Like football, baseball is perfect for data dalliances because of all the downtime between action. Just more proof that this mobile sports thing is more than just a fad.

Friday Grab Bag — Come for the Red Sox Game, Stay for the Bootmobile

For Red Sox Fans & L.L Bean Aficionados: Two venerable institutions are celebrating their 100th Anniversaries this year and what could be more natural than L.L. Bean teaming up with Fenway Park to celebrate that event? A lot you say, well quiet down.

Of the most interest to the average fan I believe will be the display of a large and unique collection of baseball artifacts that were collected by the founder of L.L. Bean, including letters between Leon Leonwood Bean and Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.

The L.L Bean Bootmobile will kick off the festivities when it drops by Fenway for the 2012 Season Opener, prior to the Bootmobile leaving on the 2012 Bootmobile Tour. It will be your chance to get your photo taken with the iconic vehicle, I kid thee not. There will also be ticket giveaways and a variety of other events centered on the joint anniversary.

Want to develop for the Windows Phone? There is AppCampus!
Of course it might help to speak Finnish. Microsoft has teamed with its partner Nokia and to continue their strong push of the Windows Phone platform with the creation of AppCampus, a venture that is designed to fuel development of apps for the platform.

The effort will be managed by a third partner, Aalto University School of Science and Technology, which was formed in 2010 in Helsinki with the merging of The Helsinki School of Economics, Helsinki University of Technology and The University of Art and Design Helsinki.

The three year venture, which will see Nokia and Microsoft invest approximately $24 million, seeks to garner thousands of applicants developing along a range of mobile apps. Aside from Windows development the effort will also encompass development for Nokia’s Symbian operating system.

Miss your Android apps on your PC? Look for that to end
BlueStacks, a developer of technology that is designed to allow Android apps to play on a PC has released the beta-1 version of its technology that should enable that feature. Called the App Player, the release is the second from the company.

A quick visit to its site confounded me on more information since it had a hot button to download the app but none to give me general information about the program, such as minimum system requirements etc… Maybe I just looked in the wrong place, would not be the first time.

According to PCWorld the app emulator runs on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 and enables you to use apps from a variety of Android app sites and run them on your PC, which would be cool, and lead to an even greater loss of productivity on my part. In the future the company is reportedly aiming at also allowing Macintosh users to play Android games. I wonder what Apple will try and do about that?

The Patent Wars
TiVo sues Time Warner & Motorola Mobility

TiVo, not wanting to be left on the sidelines in all of the lawsuit fun after ending a suit against Microsoft that apparently ended in a draw has filed a lawsuit against Motorola Mobility and Time Warner Cable, Venture Beat has reported.

The company is an experienced hand at this game, and a successful one, winning or resolving cases against several foes in the past including a deal that called for AT&T to pay the company at least $215 million. It also has a suit pending against Verizon.

In the most recent case TiVo is claiming that the two companies are violating three of its patents including ones that cover “multimedia time warping system,” and “system for time shifting multimedia content streams.” I do not envy the judge or jury in these cases.

Dell kills smartphone development — for now
Dell is once again rethinking its mobile strategy and this time I is its smartphone effort that is on the chopping block. It has already killed its tablet offerings, although the company is expected to return with a Windows-based offering by year end.

The company is killing in the United States its Venue Pro which runs a Microsoft OS and its Venue line that runs Android operating systems. It said that it will continue to sell the phones in Europe. The company did indicate that it intends to return to the U.S. market with new products at some point in the future.

FTC looking at establishing a “Do Not Track” option for consumers
The Federal Trade Commission has said that it is developing a “Do Not Track” option for consumer data and that the agency will seek to encourage the industry to adopt this as a standard feature that companies will be encouraged to adopt across the board.

At the same time it has indicated that it would like Congress to enact a law that would allow consumers access to the data that has been collected on them, much the way that you can access your financial standings.

Will this kill Facebook and Google? I am being facetious but they are top data harvesters, but I imagine they will simply provide an option to opt out and many, possibly most will not. Of more real interest to me is when I start hearing from sites I did not know where tracking me. I wonder what this will mean for the cookies market, if anything- any ideas?

NFL passes new rule changes
I sort of tune out the NFL right after the Super Bowl hype dies down. Sure there is free agency signings but it takes a while for the dust to settle and you can get a feel for how your team was helped or harmed. Possible aside from the Jets this year.

So while I knew that the NFL had changed some rules I did not realize that they changed 5 and that at least one more may be altered before all is said and done. Some of the changes were no-brainers like making the overtime rules the same in regular and post season and making the 12th man n the field penalty a dead ball foul.

The other moves include having Replay Officials initiate reviews on some types of turnovers, adding the recipient of a crack back block being added to the growing list of defenseless players and adding loss of down to kicking a loose ball. Was the last one really screaming to be added? There were a couple that was not approved as well, but it is still early in the offseason. Head over to SB Nation for a look at what did and did not pass.