Ruckus, DAS Group Professionals, CommScope and Brocade all part of Sacramento Kings’ new tech-forward stadium

Golden 1 Center in Sacramento taking shape earlier this summer. All photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

Golden 1 Center in Sacramento taking shape earlier this summer. All photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

Thursday morning at CES here in Las Vegas Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive is scheduled to speak and will no doubt tell the CES attendees about the Kings’ new stadium, the Golden 1 Center, and about how tech-loaded it is by design. But Wednesday night details emerged about the vendors helping the Kings with their extensive wireless deployment, and the list includes Ruckus Wireless, DAS Group Professionals, Brocade and CommScope, among others.

As previously reported by Mobile Sports Report, Ruckus gear will be used in the Wi-Fi deployment not just at the 17,500-seat Golden 1 Center, but also in the surrounding area, which is supposed to include a new public plaza and other developments, including hotel, office, housing and retail space. In the press announcement of all the tech underpinnings the Kings do not state exactly how many Wi-Fi APs will be in the stadium proper but instead say that there will be “more than 1,000” APs in both the stadium and surrounding plaza and developments. UPDATE, 1/10/16: The Kings have responded to clarify, saying there isn’t yet an exact AP count but density is expected to be in the area of one AP per 15 seats, which would put the final total well over 1,000 APs and easily be the most APs for a Wi-Fi deployment in any basketball/hockey arena we know of, and perhaps the most dense of any sporting venue (for now).

Since we’re nit-picking we’ll also question the Kings’ claim that Golden 1 Center will be “the first arena in the world to implement wide-band, multimode fiber technology” on the backbone, a curious claim since the fiber-based network at Texas A&M’s Kyle Field is already operational (and working quite well). UPDATE, 1/10/16: The Kings have responded and say that their implementation differs from Texas A&M’s passive optical network; we will provide further details and comparisons in the near future.

The DGP team at Levi's Stadium for a summer interview included, L to R, Derek Cotton, director of engineering; Steve Dutto, president; and Vince Gamick, VP and COO. These guys are probably smiling again now that DGP will be part of the Golden 1 Center deployment.

The DGP team at Levi’s Stadium for a summer interview included, L to R, Derek Cotton, director of engineering; Steve Dutto, president; and Vince Gamick, VP and COO. These guys are probably smiling again now that DGP will be part of the Golden 1 Center deployment.

Frothy claims aside, we are very interested in hearing more about the venue’s tech underpinnings, especially the combined DAS/small cell deployment being installed by DAS Group Professionals, the builders of the DAS network at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. According to the Kings’ release wireless powerhouse CommScope will be part of the infrastructure as well (along with bandwidth provider Comcast, a deal that was announced last month), and network backbone gear provider Brocade will also be involved, making Golden 1 Center a mini-me kind of version of Levi’s Stadium, where Comcast, Brocade and DGP are all also involved. (This is also not so surprising since we have heard rumors that the Kings hired some IT folks who previously worked on the Levi’s Stadium deployment.)

If there is an outlier to the deal it’s the Wi-Fi presence of Ruckus, which has had a tough year when it comes to potential stadium deployments. First Ruckus had a deal for Wi-Fi at the new San Jose Earthquakes soccer stadium but lost that when Avaya booted Ruckus off the pitch by purchasing naming rights to now-Avaya Stadium for $20 million. More recently, Ruckus was part of an initial winning bid with integrator 5 Bars for the Wi-Fi deployment at Houston’s NRG Stadium, but was replaced at the last minute by Extreme Networks to unspecified and unconfirmed pressure, most likely by the NFL. On the plus side, Ruckus gear was used for the Wi-Fi deployment at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, as well as at Indian Wells Tennis Garden, site of the big spring pro tennis tourney.

We will try to fill in more blanks and details during Ranadive’s appearance Thursday (like who will be designing the team app, which we are guessing might be VenueNext), but the real proof of the Golden 1 pudding won’t come until October, since you never can tell how a stadium network will work until it’s turned on for a full house of device-holding fans. That’s why we don’t put much stock in theoretical claims, like the Kings’ ridiculous promise that the network can handle “over 500,000 Snapchat posts per second” — that’s some fast fingers for a full house of 17,500, no? When it comes to feeds and speeds we are firmly in the show-me house, so we hope the Kings and Golden 1 Center will be as open with their real-world statistics come next fall as they are with press-release superlatives now.

Niners: More than 1,000 fans used in-seat food delivery at 2nd Levi’s Stadium preseason game

Screen grab from Levi's Stadium app showing in-seat food delivery option. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, Mobile Sports Report.

Screen grab from Levi’s Stadium app showing in-seat food delivery option. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, Mobile Sports Report.

One of the more unique features the San Francisco 49ers are introducing at their new home this year is the ability for all fans to have food and drink delivered to them, no matter which one of Levi’s Stadium’s 68,500 seats they are in. And according to the Niners, the feature is quickly catching on, with more than 1,000 in-seat orders delivered at the second preseason game at Levi’s on Aug. 24.

At a Levi’s media technology tour Wednesday, the Niners’ tech staff provided an in-depth and up-close look at some of the new stadium’s network infrastructure, including a quick glimpse of one of the several data-center rooms. Dan Williams, vice president of technology for the Niners, said that at the first preseason game at Levi’s on Aug. 17, more fans used the “express pickup” service to order food that they could then pick up at concession stand windows than the seat-delivery feature. But at the second game against the San Diego Chargers, more fans went for the in-seat option, perhaps a sign that Niners fans are learning and testing the new stadium services as they go.

“It’s going to be an ongoing education process,” said Martin Manville, business operations analyst for the Niners and one of the key tech leaders on the Levi’s app team. Manville said the Niners had learned a lot about food delivery in test situations at Candlestick Park last season — and some of those lessons are now evident in the Levi’s delivery menu, which is stripped down to ensure the food runners can get grub to fans before it gets cold (or warm, in the case of cold beverages). According to Manville the average delivery time at the Aug. 24 game was between 10 and 12 minutes, but the team expects that “normal” delays during the regular season will be closer to 15 to 20 minutes per order.

Still, that’s not a bad option if you don’t want to leave your seat and you don’t mind the extra $5 delivery charge. One early interesting stat from the food-delivery process is that the Niners found more orders coming from the “cheap seats” in the north and south stands at Levi’s than from the 50-yard-line seats where the high rollers sit. According to Manville, since the fans in the club seats have easy access to numerous uncrowded concession stands they may not see the need for the in-seat options.

Wi-Fi APs: 600 in Levi’s bowl seating

Under-seat Wi-Fi AP at Levi's Stadium.

Under-seat Wi-Fi AP at Levi’s Stadium.

Some other news nuggets from the tech tour day: According to Williams, of the 1,200 Wi-Fi access points at Levi’s, 600 of those are distributed in the seating areas (aka “the bowl”), with the other 600 placed in suites, concourses and other stadium areas. Williams said the Aruba Networks Wi-Fi antennas are basically split into three types — regular enterprise-type APs for suite and office areas, regular outdoor APs for concourse areas, and more specialized versions (including the under-seat APs) for bowl placements.

— For the app itself, the Niners said that there have been 80,000 downloads so far, with almost half of the season ticket holders having put their ticketing information into the app. The “NiNerds,” the geek-dressed help squad that provides fans with personal assistance with the app, is now at about 50 or 60 strong at each event (originally the team had said it wanted to hire 150 such Wi-Fi coaches). The Niners said the NiNerds will be doing more pro-active app education going forward, doing things like approaching fans in concession lines to see if they know about the express line or in-seat ordering options.

— Though Comcast’s 10-year deal with the Niners calls for the cable provider to bring in two 10-gigabit backbone pipes, the Niners are often quoted as saying they have 40 GB of backbone bandwidth. We solved this mystery today: According to Comcast, the other two 10-GB pipes are a redundant channel from another (unnamed) provider. So: the stadium does have four 10 GB bandwidth pipes, by far the most capacity in any stadium we’ve heard of.

— More traffic stats: Though we will break these down in a separate post, the Niners said that for the Aug. 24 game fans used 1.96 Terabytes of Wi-Fi traffic, just a bit lower than the 2.13 TB used at the first preseason game on Aug. 17. The team also provided some DAS stats, claiming fans used another 1.02 TB of cellular data at the two preseason games combined.

Tech tour photos follow… including a sighting of some (shhhh!) Cisco equipment in the data center racks… click on photos for larger images.

Niners VP of technology Dan Williams (left) and COO Al Guido kick off the Wednesday tech tour.

Niners VP of technology Dan Williams (left) and COO Al Guido kick off the Wednesday tech tour.

Ted Girdner, Comcast VP of business services for California, talks stadium networking.

Ted Girdner, Comcast VP of business services for California, talks stadium networking.

Dan Williams talks Wi-Fi while the Levi's Stadium new turf grows silently behind him.

Dan Williams talks Wi-Fi while the Levi’s Stadium new turf grows silently behind him.

Mystery Cisco gear inside Levi's Stadium data center. Alert! Intruder!

Mystery Cisco gear inside Levi’s Stadium data center. Alert! Intruder!

Brocade router at Levi's Stadium data center. One of many. As in, many many.

Brocade router at Levi’s Stadium data center. One of many. As in, many many.

Wi-Fi gear in Levi's Stadium data room.

Wi-Fi gear in Levi’s Stadium data room.

Franks and DAS: DGP DAS antennas above food station.

Franks and DAS: DGP DAS antennas above food station.

Screenshot of food feature on Levi's Stadium app. Note the green light buttons to show expected wait times for express option.

Screenshot of food feature on Levi’s Stadium app. Note the green light buttons to show expected wait times for express option.

Obligatory Levi's Stadium selfie. MSR shirts complete the style.

Obligatory Levi’s Stadium selfie. MSR shirts complete the style.

Holy Terabyte! First football crowd at Levi’s Stadium uses 2.13 TB of Wi-Fi traffic, with nearly 25K fans on Wi-Fi at once

Levi's Stadium from Section 244. All photos: Paul Kapustka, Mobile Sports Report

Levi’s Stadium from Section 244. All photos: Paul Kapustka, Mobile Sports Report

All those predictions about Silicon Valley people using a stadium network more than other fans? It looks like they’re true.

The network numbers are in for the first football game at Levi’s Stadium, and they are pretty amazing: According to Dan Williams, the vice president of technology for the San Francisco 49ers, the Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi network carried 2.13 terabytes of data during last Sunday’s preseason game, with a peak of 24,775 fans on the Wi-Fi network at the same time. Those numbers are comparable to the latest Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, where according to AT&T and Verizon there was approximately 2.5 TB of data used on wireless networks.

The kicker to the Niners’ stats — they do NOT include any traffic figures from the Levi’s Stadium DAS, the distributed antenna system that is meant to provide enhanced cellular coverage in the stadium. What follows is an email Q-and-A with Williams, who kindly answered our extensive list of questions. The real question is, if Niners fans are hitting terabyte levels during preseason games, what’s going to happen when the season starts for real? And the instant replay function in the team app is live? Read on for some great insight from Williams. Additional editor’s note: The companies talked about include Aruba Networks, the provider of Wi-Fi gear; Brocade, provider of back-end networking gear and integration; DAS Group Professionals, the integrator and deployment team behind the DAS (the network of small antennas that improve in-building cellular coverage).

Mobile Sports Report: what was the peak number for simultaneous Wi-Fi connections? The average?
Dan Williams: We peaked at 24,775 (roughly 38% of attendance) concurrent connections with an average of 16,862 (roughly 25% of attendance).

MSR: When did connections spike? When did they start and then tail off?
Williams: We had two spikes, 1:02 p.m. [editor’s note: kickoff was 1 p.m.] with a system wide peak of 2.3Gbps and then again at 1:53 p.m. with 1.7Gbps. We averaged more than 1Gbps for more than two hours.

Niners VP of technology Dan Williams attempts to fix my Droid 4 Wi-Fi issues (while trying not to laugh at the fact that I actually have and use a Droid 4)

Niners VP of technology Dan Williams attempts to fix my Droid 4 Wi-Fi issues (while trying not to laugh at the fact that I actually have and use a Droid 4)

MSR: What was the total data tonnage on the Wi-Fi network?
Williams: We offloaded 2.13 Terabytes during the event.

MSR: What were the usage patterns with the app — which feature did people use most?
Williams: We had a great deal of usage throughout Sunday. The food ordering app usage was top of the list with ticketing being a close second while video would take third from a feature standpoint.

MSR: What are the plans with the instant replay feature… when will it be live (and can you explain why it was held back)?
Williams: We felt a lot of folks were happy with the livestream, so we wanted to focus more on a couple of core features with food ordering and ticketing a bit more at this point. Replays will be available to all by the first regular season home game.

MSR: Can you explain exactly how the location feature works… does it require Bluetooth to be on?
Williams: The location service is mainly built around low-energy Bluetooth, BLE. We have a number of beacons placed throughout the open areas and points-of-interest which allow the app to identify your location through proximity. Aruba helped us build this as well. GPS is also used but the primary resource is Bluetooth. The app prompts users to enable Bluetooth to provide improved location awareness.

One of the big screens in Levi's Stadium.

One of the big screens in Levi’s Stadium.

MSR: Can you provide any stats on the DAS performance?
Williams: The DAS held up really well. Like WiFi, we found some areas that need tuning. Unlike WiFi, the carriers protect a lot of their specific data but they have told us they are very happy with the system DGP helped us with. It is important to note our DAS and WiFi have been built to compliment each other and I think between Aruba and DGP, we did that very well. Most come here looking to connect to WiFi but our story internally has been we are going to have an awesome connectivity play regardless of medium.

MSR: Could you guys see any [more] of the 2.4 GHz issues like the one I had?
Williams: As you know, 2.4GHz is limited with non-overlapping channels so we suspect a number of legacy devices may have some problems. That said, we had a ratio of 2:1 with respects to 5GHz to 2.4GHz [usage] which shows a good deal of 2.4GHz usage. We know we still have some optimizations to do in the upper bowl and upper concourse while we continue to fine-tune the main bowl and concourse as we noticed our cell edge was weaker than expected when the stands were full. Our Aruba team did a great job capturing real-time data during the event as there is really no other way to test this stuff without a full venue. We will make some tweaks and continue to learn more from every event we host. Between Aruba, Brocade, and the 49er tech staff, we are not resting on our laurels. We know there is more to do.

Wi-Fi Whispers: Where’s Brocade in Niners’ New Stadium Plans? Plus More NFL Wi-Fi with Cisco in Atlanta, Verizon in Detroit

There was one thing missing from the great Ars Technica blowout on the proposed Wi-Fi network at the new stadium being built for the San Francisco 49ers: Any mention of networking partner Brocade, which made a big deal about how it was going to help the Niners with a state-of-the-art stadium network.

In a Twitter exchange with the story’s author, Jon Brodkin, he said that the Niners’ networking crew asserted that they hadn’t yet picked a vendor for the access points the network will use. That opinion was not taken well by the folks at Brocade, who have not commented publicly but are most likely having some interesting discussions with their new partner the 49ers.

What it may boil down to is the fact that the Niners’ networking crew is waiting for the next generation of Wi-Fi hardware to come out — most likely built around the new 802.11ac protocol — and since the network isn’t scheduled to go live for another year, it’s probable that they are not yet at final hardware decisions. Though no monetary details of the Brocade agreement were ever revealed, it was supposed to encompass not just building of the stadium network but name-sponsoring an attached meeting room area that Brocade (whose headquarters are close to the stadium site) would be able to use during non-football times.

Then there is the big question about whether or not networking giant Cisco, which also has headquarters within walking distance of the Niners’ stadium, will be involved in any way at all. Cisco, the current big player in the stadium-network space, might be tapped for digital signage or video, but it’s hard to imagine both Cisco and Brocade being “partners.” We are guessing this story is far from over…

Cisco Network in Georgia Dome Profiled

MSR would like to give a shout out to Steve Zurier, who penned this excellent breakdown of the new Cisco Wi-Fi network in the Georgia Dome. Steve, who at one point held down bass guitar duties on our old industry band Kludge, spells out how stadiums are the ultimate BYOD operation. I bet there will be plenty of Cisco employees on hand to “make sure the network keeps working” during the upcoming men’s Final Four.

Verizon makes Lions Wi-Fi Official

We’ve noted here before how Verizon Wireless doesn’t like to call attention to its stadium network deals — probably because it doesn’t want every team clamoring for the same investment — but it is nice to see Big Red come out publicly and talk about the Wi-Fi network it put into Ford Field in Detroit.

What I think is kind of bogus is the fact that the network is available only to Verizon customers; I hope the tradeoff of having a network that only keeps a third of your customers happy is worth it for the Lions, but to me it sounds like a poor decision. Check out the quote from Mark Emerick, Verizon’s director of network operations, about what fans can do if they’ve shelled out thousands for season tickets but have a phone from another provider:

“As fans are frustrated with other carriers they may look to their neighbors next to them and decide to switch.”

Or, they could decide to not come to the games.

Wednesday Wi-Fi Whispers: Brocade and the Niners, Part 2

Just a quick promised expansion of last week’s top story, the official signing of Brocade as the provider for the upcoming network in the new San Francsico 49ers stadium. Dave Stevens, Brocade CTO, told us that the deal between the networking gear provider and the team had been brewing for several years, while Brocade was building its new headquarters near the team’s Santa Clara training and business facility.

“Brocade’s campus buildings were all about being green, with photovoltaic power and LEED certification,” said Stevens, noting that some similar design guidelines (solar, sustainable) are being used in the Niners’ new stadium. “I think there was some commonality between them and us with vision.”

In terms of whether or not Brocade has the experience to build a stadium-ready infrastructure, Stevens said the company has already installed a couple stadium networks, but hasn’t publicized them. He also noted that Brocade typically sells to customers like large national telecom carriers and other big mission-critical enterprise businesses. “We grew up on that, so we’re confident with that [high pressure] environment,” Stevens said. In terms of stadium networks, he added, “we’re familiar with what has to be done.”

For the new Niners stadium, Stevens acknowledged that its location in the middle of Silicon Valley raises the bar for expectations about network performance. “It’s a much higher bar than for any other venue,” he agreed. “It’s the middle of Silicon Valley. But we should be able to put an infrastructure in place with enough capacity to drive whatever apps people can dream up.”

Right now Stevens said Brocade is guessing that a lot of the Wi-Fi gear will incorporate the new 802.11ac standard, which holds the promise of much greater throughput and much better antenna performance. But he also knows that in the ensuing two years before the stadium is scheduled to open, advances in mobile devices will probably continue to push the envelope for mobile data networks.

“There’s just an unprecedented amount of I/O capacity that’s now being carried around in people’s pockets,” Stevens said. “If you’re a tech guy it’s scary. But we are looking to deliver an unprecedented [wireless] experience, and make sure it’s ready by day one.”

Wednesday Wi-Fi Whispers: Brocade, Niners Make it Official

After hinting about a relationship earlier this year, the San Francisco 49ers and networking vendor Brocade made it official Tuesday, announcing Brocade as the “exclusive and official network solutions partner of the San Francisco 49ers.” Though no details on the exact buildout are yet available, Brocade Chief Technical Officer Dave Stevens told MSR in a phone interview Tuesday that Brocade will be responsible for the “entire wired and wireless network infrastructure” for the new Niners stadium currently being built in Santa Clara.

We’ll break out more details from our interview with Stevens next week but the bottom line is, he says Brocade knows that this stadium will have to live up to a higher standard because of its location smack dab in the middle of Silicon Valley. That means the Niners and Brocade will aim for building the best Wi-Fi and cellular fan network that can be built, as well as a wireless network to run other stadium apps like signage, ticketing, security and more.

“The Niners and Brocade are looking for an unprecedented network experience,” Stevens said. What that will be is a bit of a moving target, since the stadium won’t be ready for a couple years at the earliest. While technology changes and improvements will affect deployments some, Stevens said you can probably count on Wi-Fi equipment that embraces the nascent 802.11ac standard, which supports much higher data rates than current Wi-Fi gear. As we said, more from our interview next week.

If there’s a loser right now in the game it’s Cisco, which like Brocade has its headquarters in the same San Jose/Santa Clara neighborhood as the stadium. (Cisco’s HQ is literally just down the street.) With a business unit dedicated to building out stadium networks, Cisco might have been seen as a lock for the bid and even earlier this month had hinted rather strongly that they wouldn’t be shut out of the Niners’ new stadium, which has a long list of corporate sponsors on its roster, like SAP, whose name is on the practice center. Maybe there will be some room for Cisco on the digital signage part of the buildout? Cisco reps contacted Tuesday had the “no comment” light on, but from the looks of it this Brocade deal doesn’t seem to leave much room for any Cisco gear. But it ain’t over until the access points get connected, or something like that.

Ericsson Intros Stadium-Specific Wi-Fi Gear

Telecom supplier Ericsson Tuesday announced a set of stadium-specific Wi-Fi gear, the first new products coming out of the company’s acquisition of Wi-Fi specialist BelAir Networks earlier this year. According to the press release, Ericsson now has a Wi-Fi access point and a Wi-Fi controller designed specifically for stadium use. Since Ericsson sells mainly to big telecom companies like Verizon and AT&T, look for this year to be used side by side with small-cell cellular technology as the big carriers continue their quest to make fans’ phones work in stadiums worldwide.

(hat tip to Phil Harvey at Light Reading for alerting us to the news release. Phil and his crew cover Ericsson… a lot.)

AT&T Adds 4G LTE DAS to… Some Stadium in Foxboro

From the “we can’t tell you but you can figure it out file” comes a press release from AT&T today telling us of the company’s newest DAS upgrade, a 4G LTE implementation that will make fans’ cell phones work better in… a football stadium in Foxboro, Mass. Yep, because of stadium naming rights AT&T apparently can’t use the name of the place but… we are under no such restrictions. So unless there is a spaceship stadium that landed during the night we are guessing that New England Patriots fans will find their AT&T iPhones connecting a bit better now.