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.

Stadium Tech Report: Boingo, AT&T answer call for more DAS bandwidth at Chicago’s Soldier Field

Soldier FieldWhether or not the Chicago Bears will beat the Green Bay Packers this Sunday is a question still answerable only by higher deities. But if those powers that be decide to unleash weather conditions of biblical proportions again, at the very least the Soldier Field folks can be confident that their in-stadium network will stand up to the challenge.

Earlier this year, tornado weather hit Soldier Field and caused an unusual 2-hour delay during the Nov. 17 Bears-Ravens game. While the deluge was too dangerous for football, for Doug Lodder and Luca Serra, it was a big test to see if the stadium wireless network upgrades they’d recently helped install could stand up to a huge, unexpected traffic surge.

“We thought we’d probably see some good [network] usage with the weather delay and tornados,” said Lodder, vice president of business development at Boingo Wireless, which recently concluded a big network upgrade at the home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

“We saw double the usual traffic from both AT&T and Verizon customers during the 2-hour delay,” said Serra, director of sponsorship and media for SMG, the outside entity that manages Soldier Field for its owners, the Chicago Park District. “During that break, we didn’t hear a single complaint [about the wireless network] from the media or the fans. It was a great test — not a desired one in any way, shape or form, but a great test.”

Upgrades needed at ‘oldest’ big stadium Wi-Fi network

Luca Serra, SMG

Luca Serra, SMG

Even though you can’t really plan or design for surges that might happen during extreme situations, Serra and Lodder and others running the Soldier Field network knew last year that an overall upgrade was needed. Home of one of the earliest (if not the first) big-stadium DAS and Wi-Fi networks, Soldier Field was showing 80 percent year-over-year traffic growth on the Wi-Fi network, Lodder said in a recent joint phone interview with Serra.

Along with DAS partner AT&T, SMG and Boingo spent last year adding more DAS capacity so that Solider Field now has 250 DAS antennas to go along an undisclosed number of new Wi-Fi APs. Though AT&T did some specific upgrades to its DAS presence at Soldier Field (including adding support for its new 4G LTE network), all the major wireless carriers are represented in the DAS via the neutral hosting of Boingo.

Why did the firms decide Soldier Field needed an upgrade? While Lodder said its DAS, which first started operating in 2011, was “pretty cutting edge at the time,” during the past couple years, data usage at Soldier Field has skyrocketed.

“Everyone has a device, and there’s a lot more social engagement and sharing,” Lodder said. “We’ve seen a huge increase in data use.”

“With this large increase in use, we said ‘let’s address the issue’ and not let it get to a point where it’s a problem,” Serra said.

Moving fast and finding space

DAS gear at Soldier Field. Credit: Boingo Wireless

DAS gear at Soldier Field. Credit: SMG/Soldier Field

Both Serra’s and Lodder’s teams were familiar with the need to balance performance and aesthetics at the venerable stadium perched on the edge of Lake Michigan. Since the network was put in after Soldier Field’s extensive renovation was finished in 2003, special attention needed to be paid to placements of Wi-Fi and DAS antennas.

“It wasn’t just bolting APs on,” Serra said. “We had to be very protective of the aesthetics of the building.”

For Lodder, that sometimes means that the best placement isn’t always available.

“There’s always challenges with architecture at stadiums,” Lodder said. “In a perfect world, there might be a certain place you want to put an antenna. In the real world, you can almost always count on changing that 20 percent of the time.”

Doug Lodder, Boingo

Doug Lodder, Boingo

A bigger construction concern of late is where to put the extensive amount of back-end telco gear needed to support the DAS infrastructure and upgrades. “Carrier base stations need several thousand square feet of space, and those need to be rooms with connectivity and power,” Lodder said. At Solider Field, Serra said some unfinished space north of the stadium proper was converted into a DAS equipment room, since there wasn’t enough available space in the main building. Lodder said for the recent upgrade, additional power upgrades were installed as well.

Still, even with all the challenges the Boingo, AT&T and SMG teams were able to go from design to finished construction of the recent upgrade in 45 days this past summer, in part thanks to some interesting work schedules.

“After one preseason [football] game we had scaffolding going up at night, with three 24-hour shifts,” Lodder said. “It was a pretty accelerated build.”

There is no such thing as free Wi-Fi

One other interesting twist to the Boingo Wi-Fi network at Soldier Field is its cost — the company charges a $1.99 per day fee for Wi-Fi use, or you can purchase a regular Boingo monthly plan for $7.95 which will also provide access at Soldier Field.

Wi-Fi antennas hidden under stands at Soldier Field. Credit: SMG/Soldier Field

Wi-Fi antennas hidden under stands at Soldier Field. Credit: SMG/Soldier Field

While many if not most professional teams are making Wi-Fi services free to paying ticketholders, Serra and Lodder said that the Bears aren’t.

“The Bears are a tenant of the Park District, and no one [from the team] has ever said ‘we’re going to pay to turn it [Wi-Fi] on for free,’ ” Serra said. Lodder noted that in the end, someone somehow has to pay the cost of connectivity.

“Someone’s always got to pay for it — Wi-Fi isn’t free,” Lodder said. “Some teams may feel they’ve made enough on the tickets to offer [Wi-Fi] free, while in other cases users pay either with money or with eyeballs, by viewing some ads.”

While the NFL itself is still somewhat vague on its league-wide plans for in-stadium Wi-Fi — other than saying that teams should provide it — Serra and Lodder are confident that Soldier Field will be at the top of the chart when it comes to network performance.

“If and when they [the NFL] roll out standards for network performance, we’re going to exceed them,” Lodder said.

Watching Golf this Week: The Ryder Cup

It’s really too bad that the Ryder Cup, the biennial golf competition between the U.S. and Europe, takes place in the fall — because that means a lot of fun and interesting golf is going to get lost in the tornado of football this weekend. Fortunately, thanks to the PGA and Turner Sports there’s a boatload of Ryder action taking place online, so get your browsers fired up for Friday morning foursomes. And then some fourballs. What?

Oh yeah, the Ryder Cup’s first two days have something we never see during the regular tour year — team competitions! If you need a how-is-it-scored primer, the BBC has a great one explaining the scoring — but basically foursomes are alternate-shot competitions (meaning each of the two players trades shots) while fourballs are more familiar team play, with everyone playing their own ball and the team with the player with the lowest score wins the hole. Each hole is worth a point, and the team with the higher score at the end wins an overall match point. If the match is tied each team gets a half-point. Singles on Sunday need no explanation. Mano a mano, also match play so it only matters how many holes you win, not your total score.

And after the inflated importance of the FedEx Cup — yes there was some good golf by the big names and congrats to Brandt Snedeker for bagging the big check — there is nothing truer than playing for your country or your continent, no prize money on the line just pressure and pride. This year the Cup is being contested in my home town, Chicago, at the monster known as Medinah. I remember playing there once, just out of high school, thought I had some game, and put something like a 120 on the scorecard. The pros, of course, will be shooting pars and birdies but the scores matter less than the head to head, between the great Euro players led by Rory McIlroy and the U.S. team, led by Tiger Woods.

With live coverage online, on TV and on an app, you have no excuse for not watching some great golf, even if you are also watching football. The great thing about Ryder coverage is that it’s also unlike tournament coverage — there is usually always some tension going on, and the TV folks are usually in a Red Zone-type mode, switching to where the pressure is most high. A great way to end the real golf season. Just wish we didn’t have to be distracted by the return of real refs and all that.

REMEMBER: ESPN for TV Friday, NBC on Saturday and Sunday.


(all times Eastern)

Friday, Sept, 28 — ESPN, 8 a.m. — 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 29 — NBC, 9 a.m. — 7 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 30 — NBC, 12 p.m. — 6 p.m.

SIRIUS XM (Satellite)
8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. The live broadcasts are also available to subscribers on the SiriusXM Internet Radio App and online at

Ryder Cup Live will be online basically the whole tourney, starting at 8:20 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, 12 p.m. on Sunday, and going until competition is over each day. The live video is free (no cable contract required), and mobile viewers can download the iPhone app, the iPad app, or go to the Ryder Cup Mobile Site if you have an Android device.

ESPN3 is also carrying the ESPN broadcast live on Friday.

The PGA Facebook page is the Facebook home of the Ryder Cup.

The Ryder Cup has something called the 13th Man page, similar to the Social Caddy we saw at the PGA. Lots of Twitter streams, a USA vs. Europe Twitter competition, an Instagram feed… worth a bookmark.


Geoff Shackelford — well known golf writer. If you’re not following Geoff you are missing the online boat.
Golf Channel — official Golf Channel feed
@PGATOUR — official PGA Twitter feed
@StephanieWei — great golf writer who is a Twitter fiend.
Doug Ferguson is the lead golf writer for AP. Good Twitter insights that often aren’t part of your wire-service lead.

Here’s the deets on Medinah Country Club course.

Europe is the defending champ, if you remember. I remember bad raincoats.