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.

AT&T: Kentucky Derby DAS traffic doubled from last year, hits 5.1 terabytes

The iconic twin spires of Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. Credit all photos: Churchill Downs

The iconic twin spires of Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. Credit all photos: Churchill Downs

An upgrade to the Mobilitie-run DAS at Churchill Downs let AT&T record record wireless traffic at this year’s Kentucky Derby, as horse racing and hat fashion fans used 5.1 terabytes of cellular data over the racing weekend, according to AT&T.

The total wireless traffic (which is only AT&T customers on AT&T networks) for the events including the Friday Kentucky Oaks race as well as the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby or Run for the Roses on Saturday, May 2, was more than double last year’s total of 2 TB of overall traffic, according to AT&T. This year’s gathering also saw a new AT&T record for the most data used in a specific hour on an AT&T in-venue mobile network during any sporting event, when 474 GB of data crossed the AT&T networks between 5 and 6 p.m. Eastern time during Saturday’s races.

AT&T did not specify what it exactly did to upgrade the Churchill Downs DAS, but it did say that it also deployed a cell on wheels (COW) to help with the traffic crush from the 170,513 fans who watched the race. The hour-long record, which happened just before the race’s start, included data only on the in-venue DAS network, AT&T said.

Will Periscope and Meerkat swamp stadium networks?

Three thoughts to start your week off, of a completely unrelated nature. First one up is about a couple of live video-streaming services that you might have heard of or seen, Meerkat and Periscope. I successfully avoided watching any super-selfimportant types video themselves using Meerkat from SXSW, and I’ve been too wrapped up in March Madness to care yet about Periscope. So far I haven’t seen any coverage that details how much bandwidth the apps use up. Probably not much if you are livestreaming something all by yourself. But what if a bunch of people decide to livestream, and they’re all in the same place? So I do wonder how stadium networks will handle the idea of live video streams.

Will the Wi-Fi and DAS networks be able to handle the traffic? Anyone looking into this yet? Discuss. You can do so in the comments, or send me some longer thoughts via email and I will relay them to the crowd. Will Periscope and Meerkat be banned in-stadium? If so how can that happen? Will live video streams be the final straw that makes teams and leagues realize that Twitter may not be such a great content partner after all? I don’t have any answers yet but I assure you this is a question that will be asked the rest of the year in stadium IT shops — as well as in the lawyers’ offices where content and TV rights are negotiated and protected. Selfies may be fine, and Vine may be OK. But live streams of sports events are bound to get someone’s attention, fast.

Thought No. 2: Twenty-three years ago, I remember exactly where I was when I saw this:

I was in Beaver Creek, Colo., in a swanky hotel room that I normally couldn’t afford, watching the Duke-Kentucky game after covering pro ski racing during the day on the slopes of Beaver Creek. Because it was near the end of the ski season the still-new Beaver Creek wasn’t too full, so us members of the media got special rates to stay in the slopeside hotel rooms that now will cost you an arm, a leg and maybe a first-born. That is not important to this thought, though. What is important is that I remember watching the game on a nice TV. Which was the only way you could watch, 22 years ago.

Fast forward to Saturday night, when another classic NCAA tournament match involving Kentucky came down to the wire, and a last-second shot, on the exact anniversary of the Laettner shot. That Kentucky prevailed this time in another classic also doesn’t really matter here; what does is how I watched the second half — on my phone in my backyard while cooking dinner on the grill, over a Wi-Fi connection to a router inside the house. The thing I thought about afterwards was how completely normal it seemed to do something that was unthinkable 22 years ago, namely watch a live game via a handheld device through multiple connectivity junctures — and it all just worked. In the future I will probably remember the game more, and the key free throws and the crazy defense of the last play. But right now I’m still a little in wonder in how far the idea of watching sports on your phone has come.

Third thought: Some more history here — does anyone out there remember the 2009 version of SXSW, when Foursquare was launched and the huge influx of attendees using Twitter on their iPhones brought the AT&T network to its knees? Here’s another link to the historical moment when AT&T got pantsed publicly for not knowing how much bandwidth its customers would need at a gathering like SXSW.

Fast forward again to this year’s SXSW, and man, was AT&T ready for record network usage. Not only did it trot out the huge big-ball cellular antenna that it used at Coachella last year, it beefed up regular network connections and brought in a whole herd of COWs (cell trucks on wheels) to satisfy a mobile bandwidth demand that doesn’t seem to be able to stay flat or go down. According to AT&T, its network saw 37 terabytes of data used during the SXSW event — that’s like three-plus Super Bowls worth of traffic, and this is just on AT&T’s networks, so not counting other carrier traffic.

We concentrate a lot here on stadiums and the particular problems for wireless communications caused by a tight geographic grouping of device-holding people. But what about towns with festivals like SXSW, or other big gatherings? Is your event ready for massive wireless bandwidth needs? If not what is your plan going forward?

AT&T: Golf fans used 3.286 terabytes of traffic at Pebble Beach tourney

AT&T social media sign at the tourney, 2013. Credit: @James_Raia.

AT&T social media sign at the tourney, 2013. Credit: @James_Raia.

It’s not really a stadium, but fans at the Pebble Beach golfing kingdom used 3.286 terabytes of data on AT&T’s cellular and Wi-Fi networks during the recent Pebble Beach AT&T Pro-Am PGA tour stop, according to AT&T.

With two cell trucks on wheels (aka COWs) to supplement the Monterey Peninsula cell sites, as well as the Wi-Fi network in and around the golf course, AT&T said it saw an 104 percent increase in wireless data use from the previous year’s tournament. With clear skies all weekend and Bill Murray back in the entertainment-participant category, it’s perhaps no surprise that more selfies, videos and other messages were sent forth. But it’s still amazing to us that the wireless numbers from each big event just seem to keep growing. Is there no top in sight?

At the Pebble Beach tourney (which included play at several different courses over the Feb. 12 to Feb. 15 weekend) AT&T said it saw 2.296 TB of traffic on its cellular networks, and another 990 GB on the Wi-Fi networks it deployed. And all that without any public complaints about camera-phone clicks! Now if we could just convince the Masters to allow cell phones on the course…

Super Bowl XLIX sets new stadium Wi-Fi record with 6.2 Terabytes of data consumed

University of Phoenix Stadium. Credit: Arizona Cardinals.

University of Phoenix Stadium. Credit: Arizona Cardinals.

The Super Bowl is once again the stadium Wi-Fi champ, as fans at Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz., used 6.23 terabytes of data during the contest, according to the team running the network at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

The 6.23 TB mark blew past the most recent entrant in the “most Wi-Fi used at a single-day single-stadium event” sweepstakes, the 4.93 TB used at the Jan. 12 College Football Playoff championship game at AT&T Stadium. Prior to that, pro football games this past season at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., and at AT&T Stadium had pushed into the 3-plus TB mark to be among the highest totals ever reported.

The live crowd watching the New England Patriots’ 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks also used about as much cellular data as well, with Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint claiming a combined total of 6.56 TB used in and around the stadium on game day. All three carriers were on the in-stadium and outside-the-stadium DAS deployments being run by neutral host Crown Castle. If those figures are correct (more on this later) it would put the total wireless data usage for the event at 12.79 TB, far and away the biggest single day of wireless data use we’ve ever heard of.

Apple OS updates still the application king

Handrails with Wi-Fi antenna enclosures from AmpThink. Credit: Arizona Cardinals.

Handrails with Wi-Fi antenna enclosures from AmpThink. Credit: Arizona Cardinals.

Mark Feller, vice president of information technology for the Arizona Cardinals, and Travis Bugh, senior wireless consultant for CDW, provided Mobile Sports Report with the final Wi-Fi usage numbers, which are pretty stunning for anyone in the stadium networking profession. According to Feller the new CDW-deployed Wi-Fi network with Cisco gear at the UoP Stadium saw 2.499 TB of data downloaded, and 3.714 TB uploaded, for a total of 6.213 TB of Wi-Fi usage. Bugh of CDW said there were 25,936 unique devices connecting to the network on game day, with a peak concurrent usage of 17,322, recorded not surprisingly at halftime.

Peak download usage of 1.3 Gbps was recorded before the game’s start, while peak upload usage of 2.5 Gbps was hit at halftime. The top applications by bandwidth use, Feller said, were Apple (mobile update), Facebook, Dropbox and Snapchat.

DAS numbers also set new record, but clarification needed

The only reason we aren’t yet trumpeting the 6.564 TB of reported DAS use as a verified record is due to the differences in clarity from each of the reporting providers. We also haven’t yet heard any usage totals from T-Mobile, so it’s likely that the final final wireless data use number is somewhere north of 13 TB, if all can be believed.

Parking lot light poles, Westgate entertainment district. Can you spot the DAS?

Parking lot light poles, Westgate entertainment district. Can you spot the DAS?

As reported before, AT&T said it saw 1.7 TB of cellular wireless activity from its customers on game day, with 696 GB of that happening inside the stadium, and the balance coming from the outside areas before and after the game. We’d also like to welcome Sprint to the big-game reporting crew (thanks Sprint!), with its total of 754 GB of all 4G LTE traffic used in and around the stadium on game day. According to Sprint representatives, its Super Bowl coverage efforts included 5 COWs (cell towers on wheels) as well as expanded DAS and macro placements in various Phoenix-area locations. The Sprint coverage included the 2.5 GHz spectrum that uses TDD LTE technology.

As also previously reported, Verizon Wireless claimed 4.1 TB of customer traffic in and around the stadium on game day, which Verizon claims is all cellular traffic and does not reflect any Verizon Wireless customer use of the stadium Wi-Fi network. Verizon also reported some other interesting activity tidbits, which included 46,772 Verizon Wireless devices used at the game, of which just 59.7 percent were smartphones. Verizon also said it saw 10 million emails sent on its networks that day, and 1.9 million websites visited, while also seeing 122.308 videos sent or received over wireless connections.

We’re still waiting to see if we can get usage numbers from the Super Bowl stadium app (we’re especially interested to see if the instant replay feature caught on) but the warning for stadium owners and operators everywhere seems to be clear: If you’re hosting the big game (or any BIG game), make sure your network is ready for 6 TB and beyond!

Wi-Fi Whispers: AT&T Beefs Up Wi-Fi and Cellular for Pebble Beach

AT&T social media sign at the tourney. Credit: @James_Raia.

AT&T social media sign at the tourney. Credit: @James_Raia.

With a field full of entertainment and sports celebrities in addition to pro golfers, the AT&T National Pro-Am in Pebble Beach this weekend is a fan-snapshot nirvana — and AT&T has beefed up its wireless coverage yet again to make sure all those pictures, tweets and Facebook updates can get posted.

“Every year, the data volumes [from the event] go up significantly,” said Chad Townes, vice president of AT&T’s Antenna Solutions Group, in a phone interview last week. “Between the celebrities and the beauty of the course, there’s definitely a lot more [wireless] traffic than at other golf tournaments.”

According to Townes, AT&T has provided fans at the tourney with several Wi-Fi hotspot areas where AT&T customers can get a high-bandwidth signal for Internet connection. This year, AT&T also deployed three additional COWs, or cell towers on wheels, to augment the existing cellular infrastructure.

Bringing wireless signals to a golf course, Townes said, is always a challenge, due to the very nature of the venue, with hills, trees and other obstacles to surmount. There are also aesthetic challenges, such as the fact that most of these courses don’t want any cables to be visible during the TV broadcasts.

Townes said there is also the whole discussion about whether phones should even be allowed at golf tournaments, given the possibility of fans distracting players with loud calls or with camera noises. Still, he said, providers need to figure out how to bring better coverage to courses, since fans want to be able to use phones to communicate with friends and family at the event, say using text messages to say “meet us at the next hole.” The PGA seems to be on board with this idea, since it just introduced a course-finder app that not only shows players and scored superimposed on a Google map, but also adds in locations for amenities and concessions — meaning the PGA expects fans to have phones at events.