Keeping the Wi-Fi hidden: AT&T Stadium perfects the art of Wi-Fi AP concealment

Wi-Fi antennas visible under the 'shroud' covering the outside of the overhang at AT&T Stadium. Photo: Dallas Cowboys (Click on any photo for a larger image)

Wi-Fi antennas visible under the ‘shroud’ covering the outside of the overhang at AT&T Stadium. Photo: Dallas Cowboys (Click on any photo for a larger image)

Since they like to do everything big in Texas, it’s no surprise that the IT team at AT&T Stadium has taken the art of Wi-Fi access point concealment to new heights.

To just above the first and second seating levels of the stadium, that is.

Even though the venue has more Wi-Fi APs than any sports stadium we’ve ever heard of, trying to find any of the 1,900 permanently installed APs is a tough task, thanks to measures like the fiberglass shrouds that circle the stadium just above the first and second seating levels. Underneath those custom-built coverings are numerous Wi-Fi APs, DAS antennas and even cameras, all contributing to the high level of connectivity inside AT&T Stadium while remaining invisible to the visiting fan’s eyes.

“The philosophy throughout the stadium is for a clean, stark look,” said John Winborn, chief information officer for the Dallas Cowboys Football Club, which is the primary tenant of the venue. “That’s a high standard, and that is a real challenge for us when it comes to Wi-Fi and DAS.”

In just about every stadium network deployment we write about, concealment and aesthetics are always one of the top concerns, especially when it comes to Wi-Fi access points and DAS antennas. For some reason, the physical appearance of an obvious piece of technology evokes strong reactions, even as other necessary structural items are ignored.

(Editor’s note: This story is an excerpt from our most recent Stadium Tech Report, the PRO FOOTBALL ISSUE, which is available for FREE DOWNLOAD right now from our site. In the report our editorial coverage includes a profile of the new Wi-Fi network at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field and team-by-team profiles of Wi-Fi and DAS deployments at all 31 NFL stadiums. Get your copy today!)

Under-seat Wi-Fi AP at AT&T Stadium. Photo: Dallas Cowboys

Under-seat Wi-Fi AP at AT&T Stadium. Photo: Dallas Cowboys

A clean, sleek look at the house that Jerry built

As one anonymous commentator at this summer’s SEAT conference noted, “stadium supervisors don’t ever care about seeing a 4-inch pipe, but leave one antenna out and they go crazy.” And whoever that stadium person is, he or she probably has a kindred soul in Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

An unseen antenna is Jerry Jones’ favorite kind. Winborn said that AT&T Stadium embraces design in all things visible, noting that the “clean look” idea extends to advertising inside the seating bowl, where the only permanent signs are located in the end zone areas.

“We’re very conscious of the aesthetics here,” Winborn said. “Everyone here sees the benefit of what a great looking building can be. And it all starts with [Jerry] Jones.” Jones’ ideas, Winborn said, “are a major influence on everything we do.”

What that means when it comes to Wi-Fi is that while the stadium always aims to be the best-connected venue around – for this football season, AT&T Stadium will have 1,900+ permanent Wi-Fi APs and another 100 or so available for temporary placements – it also aims to hide the physical gear as much as possible. In suites and hallways there is the natural solution of putting antennas behind ceiling panels, but in the seating bowl, Winborn said, “we don’t have a lot of areas to hide them. We’ve had to become pretty clever about ways to hide APs.”

Two years ago, when the stadium’s AP count was going up from 750 to 1,250, the idea came about to design a custom fiberglass “shroud” that would circle the arena on the front of the overhangs above the first and second seating levels.

A row shot of the under-seat APs. Photo: Dallas Cowboys

A row shot of the under-seat APs. Photo: Dallas Cowboys

“We’re very conscious of the aesthetics here,” Winborn said. “Everyone here sees the benefit of what a great looking building can be.

Winborn said one of the IT staff members had contacts in the manufacturing world, which helped the Cowboys build a slighly convex design that wouldn’t be readily apparent to the untrained eye, yet be big enough to house Wi-Fi and DAS gear all the way around the bowl.

Winborn said the shroud and its underlying gear were installed during one of the recent off-seasons, taking about a couple months – and the final result was so good that Winborn says he needs to use a laser pointer to show interested parties exactly where the equipment shroud sits. Since it’s fiberglass the shroud is somewhat easy to move to allow administration and maintenance of the equipment, but the seamless flow of the structure around the bowl may just be the most elegant AP hiding strategy in the short history of stadium Wi-Fi.

But even with the shrouds there was still a need for more new placements, especially in the middle of the open seating areas. So last year the AT&T Stadium team started deploying under-seat AP enclosures, working with design teams at the AT&T Foundry program to build a custom unit that is much smaller and unobtrusive than other under-seat AP enclosures currently in use.

“We worked with the AT&T Foundry and went through [testing] about a half-dozen models,” Winborn said, before finally arriving at a design that worked well and stayed small. “It’s about the size of a small cigar box,” said Winborn of the under-seat APs, 300 of which were installed in the 100-level seating last year. Another 250 are being installed for this year up in the 300-level seating, he said.

Winborn credited the early use of under-seat APs by the IT team at AT&T Park in San Francisco as a welcome guide.

Here's the big bowl that needs to be filled with Wi-Fi. Photo: Paul Kapustka / MSR

Here’s the big bowl that needs to be filled with Wi-Fi. Photo: Paul Kapustka / MSR

“I talked to the Giants and Bill [Schlough, the Giants’ CIO] and had my concerns” about under-seat APs, Winborn said. “But after they did it and had only one complaint in 2 years, that raised my comfort level.”

Like the Giants’ under-seat APs, the ones in AT&T Stadium are designed to be as maintenance-free as possible, so that they can be steam washed and not harmed by spills or any other physical interactions. Winborn said the Cowboys have even started putting sealant and paint over the top of the under-seat APs, “so they look just like a bump.”

With 1,900 to 2,000 APs available, it might seem like the AT&T Stadium IT crew has enough APs for now, so they can relax a bit when it comes to finding new ways to hide Wi-Fi gear. But Winborn knows the next surge is probably right around the corner (including early results from this season showing 4+ terabytes of Wi-Fi use).

“Everything we are giving the fans [in Wi-Fi bandwidth] they are gobbling it up, pretty quickly,” Winborn said.

Cowboys fans at AT&T Stadium use 4.295 TB of Wi-Fi during Sunday’s game

Dallas fans cheering on the Cowboys Sunday. Photo:

Dallas fans cheering on the Cowboys Sunday. Photo:

It’s no fun to try to take on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots when your star quarterback and receiver are sidelined with injuries. But watching an undermanned team didn’t keep Dallas Cowboys fans from using a whole lot of Wi-Fi at AT&T Stadium Sunday, as statistics from AT&T show that 37,173 unique users consumed 4.295 terabytes of Wi-Fi data during the contest.

UPDATE, 10/20: We just heard from the AT&T network folks who told us that an additional 1.517 TB of data was used on the AT&T DAS network at the same game. So that’s nearly 6 TB of wireless data (and probably more with the other carrier DAS traffic added in) for a regular-season game… !

This is the second time this season that the defending Super Bowl champs helped run up a big wireless score when visiting an enemy arena. While we don’t have DAS stats yet for Sunday’s game (a 30-6 New England victory) it’s a good guess that 4+ TB is the “new normal” for big-ish regular season games at pro or college venues with high-fidelity Wi-Fi networks. Maybe it’s just a “the Patriots are in town” thing but we are betting we’ll see a lot more 4+ TB games around the country this football season.

Also according to AT&T, there was a peak concurrent user number of 25,551 connections Sunday, when combined with the 37,173 unique users is a pretty healthy user percentage out of the 93,054 in attendance. If you want to read a good story about how the IT team at AT&T Stadium got creative about hiding some of the almost 2,000 Wi-Fi APs they use inside the venue, download our latest report which has a feature all about those techniques.

That's sunlight, and not visible Wi-Fi beams, at AT&T Stadium. Photo:

That’s sunlight, and not visible Wi-Fi beams, at AT&T Stadium. Photo:

New Report: Green Bay’s Lambeau Field leads new NFL Wi-Fi deployments

Wave the flag, Wi-Fi has come to Lambeau Field! Photo: Green Bay Packers

Wave the flag, Wi-Fi has come to Lambeau Field! Photo: Green Bay Packers

When most NFL fans think of the Green Bay Packers and Lambeau Field, they think of frozen tundra — of Vince Lombardi roaming the sideline in his thick glasses and peaked hat, with visible breath coming through the face masks of behemoth linemen on the field. In the stands, they see the venerable fans braving the cold of northern Wisconsin in their snowmobile suits, with mittens wrapped around a bratwurst and a beer.

But do they think of those same Packers fans pulling out their iPhones and Samsungs to take selfies, and posting them to Instagram or Facebook? Maybe not so much.

The reality of 2015, however, finds us with fans in Green Bay being just like fans anywhere else — meaning, they want to be able to use their mobile devices while at the game. As the cover story of our most recent Stadium Tech Report series, we explore the details of bringing Wi-Fi to historic Lambeau Field, where late-season texting might carry the threat of frostbitten fingers.

Our PRO FOOTBALL ISSUE has 50-plus pages of insight and how-to explanations that in addition to Green Bay’s work also cover some interesting Wi-Fi access point hiding tricks practiced by the IT folks at AT&T Stadium, and a recap of Levi’s Stadium plans as it gets ready to host Super Bowl 50. Plus team-by-team capsule descriptions of stadium tech deployments for all 32 NFL franchises. It’s all free to you, so download your copy today!

The NFL haves and have-nots when it comes to Wi-Fi

PRO_FB_ThumbWas it really three long years ago that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued an edict calling for Wi-Fi in all 31 NFL stadiums? While we’re almost there, it’s not quite everywhere yet and during the course of preparing this year’s PRO FOOTBALL ISSUE we found ourselves wondering how many of the current NFL stadium Wi-Fi networks are really up to snuff. Sure, there are leaders in the networking space, as teams with lots of money or recent Super Bowl hostings seem to be in a bit of an arms war when it comes to installing robust wireless networks. Teams like the Dallas Cowboys, the San Francisco 49ers, the Miami Dolphins, the New England Patriots and a few others come to mind when you are making a list of top networks, and you can probably add Green Bay’s 1,000-plus AP deployment to that tally.

But what about the balance of the league, which now has some kind of fan-facing Wi-Fi in 25 of its 31 venues? While those that don’t have any Wi-Fi at all are somewhat understandable (mainly due to questions about imminent franchise relocation), what about the stadiums that put in Wi-Fi a few years ago, or only put in a limited amount of technology? With no end in sight to the increasing demands for wireless bandwidth, how soon will the older networks need revamping? Including the DAS deployments? Those are questions we’ll keep asking and looking to answer, as we’ve already seen some public reports about Wi-Fi networks falling down on the job. The best place to start, of course, is with the report, so DOWNLOAD YOUR COPY right now!

Thank the sponsors, who let you read for free

Reporting, writing, editing and producing all this content has a cost, but thanks to our generous (and increasing!) list of sponsors, our editorially objective content remains free for you, the reader. We’d like to take a quick moment to thank the sponsors of the Q3 issue of Stadium Tech Report, which include Mobilitie, Crown Castle, SOLiD, CommScope, TE Connectivity, Aruba Networks, JMA Wireless, Corning, 5 Bars, Extreme Networks, ExteNet Systems. and partners Edgewater Wireless and Zinwave. We’d also like to thank you, our readers for your interest and continued support.

As always, we are here to hear what you have to say: Send me an email to kaps at and let us know what you think of our STADIUM TECH REPORT series, and whether or not the Wi-Fi at your local NFL stadium is a division winner.

AT&T Stadium, Levi’s Stadium tops for stadium Wi-Fi usage

Niners' Flickr promotion on scoreboard at Levi's Stadium. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Niners’ Flickr promotion on scoreboard at Levi’s Stadium. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

There’s no competition and no wagering, but if you wanted to find the sports stadium that handles the most Wi-Fi traffic, two of your top finalists would no doubt be Levi’s Stadium and AT&T Stadium, which both recently released some season-long Wi-Fi statistics to Mobile Sports Report, including year-long totals in excess of 40 terabytes for Levi’s Stadium and 50+ TB for AT&T Stadium.

Levi’s Stadium, the brand-new home of the San Francisco 49ers located in Santa Clara, Calif., has carried more than 45 TB of traffic on its Wi-Fi network through 20 events, according to Chuck Lukaszewski, very high density architect in the CTO Office of Aruba Networks, an HP Company (Aruba is the Wi-Fi gear suppler to Levi’s Stadium). During those events — 10 of which were NFL games, the other 10 a list including college games, concerts, a hockey game and a wrestling event — the Levi’s Stadium network saw approximately 415,000 unique users, Lukaszewski said.

Down in Texas, the home of the Dallas Cowboys reported some similar Wi-Fi statistics, with a total tonnage mark of 42.87 TB across 11 NFL games and six college games, according to John Winborn, chief information officer for the Dallas Cowboys Football Club. During those games the AT&T Stadium Wi-Fi network saw more than 500,000 unique connections, Winborn said. Winborn also said that AT&T Stadium saw almost an additional 10 TB in usage from concerts and from hosting the NCAA’s Final Four in 2014, pushing the venue’s Wi-Fi usage mark to 52.17 TB. “This [total] does not include our dirt events (Supercross, Monster Trucks, Rodeos) and other full stadium events that would give us an even higher number,” Winborn added in an email to MSR.

AT&T Stadium at College Football Playoff championship game. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

AT&T Stadium at College Football Playoff championship game. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

For comparison, for football games Levi’s Stadium has a normal capacity of 68,500, with additional seating available (including on-field seats for concerts and other events) that can bring capacity to nearly 80,000. AT&T Stadium has a listed football capacity of 85,000, but that number can also be expanded with standing-room only numbers; according to Wikipedia AT&T Stadium had a record 105,121 fans in attendance for a Cowboys football game on Sept. 21, 2009, and had 108,713 fans in the stadium for the NBA All-Star game on Feb. 14, 2010.

Single-day connections for both pass Super Bowl marks

And while the most recent Super Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., still holds what we believe to be the highest single-game data mark for Wi-Fi traffic at 6.2 TB, both Levi’s Stadium and AT&T Stadium have had events with Wi-Fi usage totals exceeding 4 TB, with March’s WrestleMania 31 hitting 4.5 TB at Levi’s Stadium and the January College Football Playoff championship game recording 4.93 TB of traffic at AT&T Stadium.

Scoreboard promo for the Levi's Wi-Fi network

Scoreboard promo for the Levi’s Wi-Fi network

Both AT&T Stadium and Levi’s Stadium surpassed the Super Bowl when it came to high-water marks for single-game connected user totals; somewhat ironically, AT&T Stadium set what is probably the highest-ever Wi-Fi connection total of 38,534 unique users (out of 91,174 in attendance) during last season’s home opener against the visiting 49ers. According to Winborn, the total was reached “largely due to heavy in-game promotion around the Wi-Fi upgrades and new stadium app.”

At Levi’s Stadium, the season home opener against the Chicago Bears saw 29,429 unique users on the Wi-Fi network, which was more than the 25,936 unique devices connected to the network at Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona. Levi’s Stadium also saw the highest number of concurrently connected users, 18,900, at the Bears game, compared to a high of 17,322 at the Super Bowl. At AT&T Stadium, Winborn said the season high for concurrently connected users was 27,523, recorded during the Cowboys’ home playoff game against the Detroit Lions.

Looking ahead to Super Bowl 50

According to Aruba’s Lukaszewski, the Wi-Fi network at Levi’s Stadium “did what it was supposed to do” last season, carrying high loads of wireless traffic. One stat the Levi’s team invented for its own network was “amount of time the network spent carrying more than 1 Gbps” — a total that Lukaszewski said reached 21 hours and 30 minutes across the 10 NFL events, and 31 hours 40 minutes across all 20 events.

For the upcoming football season and the hosting of Super Bowl 50 next February, the Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi network will get some strategic Wi-Fi AP upgrades, specifically along some of the concourse areas where groups of standing fans had effectively blocked signals from under-the-seat APs near the tops of seating rows. Lukaszewski said the stadium team would add additional APs in areas where fans are spending time standing, as well as in concourse and plaza bar areas, where some structures were added during the season. Levi’s Stadium is also planning to deploy temporary under-the-seat APs when additional bleacher seats are added for the Super Bowl, Lukaszewski said.

Stadium Tech Report: AT&T Stadium’s massive antenna deployment delivers solid Wi-Fi, DAS performance

The old saw that says “everything’s bigger in Texas” is not just a stereotype when it comes to wireless networking and AT&T Stadium. Though our visit was brief and we didn’t have the opportunity to do a deep-dive technology tour, the MSR team on hand at the recent College Football Playoff championship game came away convinced that if it’s not the fastest fan-facing stadium network, the Wi-FI and DAS deployments at AT&T Stadium sure are the biggest, at least the largest we’ve ever heard of.

Inside AT&T Stadium at the College Football Playoff championship game. (Click on any photo for larger image) Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Inside AT&T Stadium at the College Football Playoff championship game. (Click on any photo for larger image) Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

And in many ways we found, bigger is better, at least when it comes to staying connected inside one of the world’s truly humongous indoor spaces.

If you’ve not seen the stats, allow us to remind you that during the Jan. 12 championship game between the University of Oregon and THE Ohio State University the AT&T Stadium network carried more than 6 terabytes of wireless data, with almost 5 TB of that over the in-house Wi-Fi network. Another 1.4 TB was recorded being used by AT&T customers on the AT&T-hosted neutral DAS, which almost certainly carried another terabyte or two from other carriers on the system, who did not report any statistics. Any way you add it up, it’s the biggest single-day wireless data figure we’ve ever heard for a sports arena, professional or college, in any sport at any time.

Flooding the zone with more antennas and APs

How do you get such a big data number? One way is to make sure that everyone can connect, and one way to get to that point is to flood the zone with antennas and access points. Already the leader in the number of Wi-Fi access points and DAS antennas, AT&T Stadium got another 280 Wi-Fi antennas installed between Thanksgiving and the college championship game, according to John Winborn, CIO for the Dallas Cowboys. Some of those antennas, the staff said, were housed in new under-the-seat enclosures that AT&T’s Foundry designed somewhat specifically for use in the lower bowl of AT&T Stadium, which like other stadiums had previously had issues getting connectivity to seats close to field level.

According to Winborn, the AT&T Stadium now has more than 1,600 Wi-Fi APs in use for football games, and 1,400 antennas in its DAS network. By comparison, Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., perhaps the newest and one of the most technologically savvy venues out there, has 1,200 Wi-Fi APs and 700 DAS antennas in its deployments. Winborn also said that the antenna/AP number at AT&T can also scale up as necessary, especially for events that use up more of the building’s space, like the Final Four basketball tournament held there last spring.

“We scaled up to 1,825 [Wi-Fi] antennas for the Final Four last year,” said Winborn in a recent email, where he guessed that the venue might deploy up to 2,000 Wi-Fi APs when the Academy of Country Music Awards holds its yearly event at AT&T Stadium on April 19.

Hiding Wi-Fi APs an aesthetic priority

John Winborn, CIO for the Dallas Cowboys, poses next to a picture of two other innovators, Tex Schramm and Gil Brandt

John Winborn, CIO for the Dallas Cowboys, poses next to a picture of two other innovators, Tex Schramm and Gil Brandt

For all the extra numbers, one thing we noticed in walking around the building on Jan. 12 was that seeing an exposed Wi-Fi AP is about as common as seeing an albino deer. When we asked Winborn what the toughest thing was about network deployment in the venue, he responded quickly: “Finding ways to hide the APs so Jerry [Jones] doesn’t see them.”

With the price-is-no-object Jones on one side, and AT&T’s corporate image on the other, it’s clear there aren’t too many budgetary concerns when it comes down to spending more to make the network work, or look, better. Put it this way: You are never likely to have a “no signal” problem in a building that has on its outside an AT&T logo the size of the moon, and where AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson can be found wandering around the suite level during big events.

Though the immense space could probably be covered by fewer antennas, it’s worthwhile to remember that when the building was built and opened in 2009, it wasn’t designed with high-speed networking in mind. That means that almost all of the Wi-Fi and DAS deployments are a retrofit, including the ingenious circle of Wi-Fi antennas halfway up the seating bowl, which are covered by a tented ring of fiberglass designed and built specifically for the stadium.

According to Winborn the Wi-Fi network is supported by its own 2 GB backbone, with separate backbones in place for media networks and stadium application use. Winborn also noted that the stadium network runs 3,500 TVs via the Cisco StadiumVision system. Other records from this season include a peak concurrent Wi-Fi user mark of 27,523 (set at the Lions playoff game) and 38,534 unique Wi-Fi connections, that mark set at the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers.

Performance solid, even at rooftop level

The view from the nosebleed section

The view from the nosebleed section

So how fast are the Wi-Fi and DAS networks? In our limited testing time at the CFP game, we found solid connections almost everywhere we tried, including outside the stadium while we (freezingly) waited for the doors to open. Just outside the main ticket gate, we got a Wi-Fi signal of 23.93 Mbps on the download and 39.67 Mbps on the upload. At the same location a Verizon 4G LTE device got a 5.93 Mbps download speed, and a 2.59 Mbps upload speed, but it’s unclear if that was on the stadium DAS or just on the local macro network.

When the doors finally opened at 5:30 p.m. (no idea why Jerry kept us all out in the cold all afternoon) we went inside and got solid connections inside the foyer of the pro shop — 18.23/21.74 on Wi-Fi, 21.05/14.84 on an AT&T 4G LTE device, and 12.65/4.61 on a Verizon 4G LTE phone. (It’s worthwhile to note that all our Wi-Fi speeds were recorded on the Verizon device, a new iPhone 6 Plus.)

Down in our field-level suite, where we were the guests of AT&T, we got marks of 19.43/25.31 on the Wi-Fi, 7.35/11.04 on AT&T 4G and 5.71/4.05 on Verizon 4G. An interesting note here: When Oregon scored a touchdown on its opening drive, we took another Wi-Fi speedtest right after the play and got readings of 4.38/7.79, suggesting that there were many Ducks fans communicating the good news.

Later during the game we wandered up to the “Star Level” suites (floor 6 on the stadium elevator) and got a Wi-Fi mark of 11.57/30.51, and 19.31/13.46 on AT&T 4G. The only place we didn’t get a good Wi-Fi signal was at the nosebleed-level plaza above the south end zone, where we weren’t surprised by the 1.41/1.98 Wi-Fi mark since we didn’t see any place you could put an AP. We did, however, get an AT&T 4G signal of more than 7 Mbps on the download in the same location, meaning that even fans way up at the top of the stadium were covered by wireless, no small feat in such a huge space.

Bottom line: Network in place for whatever’s next

If there is a place where AT&T falls behind other stadiums, it’s in the synchronization of network and app; since it wasn’t built with food delivery in mind, it’s doubtful that AT&T will match Levi’s Stadium’s innovative delivery-to-any-seat feature anytime soon. And even though AT&T Stadium is dominated by the massive over-the-field TV set, fans at the CFP championship game were left literally in the dark during questionable-call replays, since they weren’t shown on the big screen and aren’t supported in the AT&T Stadium app.

What could be interesting is if the technology demonstrated by AT&T at the big college game – LTE Broadcast, which sends a streaming channel of live video over a dedicated cellular link – becomes part of the AT&T Stadium repertoire. From experience, such a channel could be extremely helpful during pregame events, since many fans at the college championship were wandering around outside the stadium unsure of where to go or where to find will-call windows. A “pre-game info” broadcast over LTE Broadcast could eliminate a lot of pain points of getting to the event, while also introducing fans to the network and app for later interaction.

At the very least, AT&T Stadium’s network alone puts it in at least the top three of most-connected football stadiums, alongside Levi’s Stadium and Sun Life Stadium in Miami. Here’s looking forward to continued competition among the venues, with advancements that will only further improve the already excellent wireless fan experience.

More photos from our visit below. Enjoy!

Fans freezing outside waiting for the CFP game to start

Fans freezing outside waiting for the CFP game to start

Creative OSU fan

Creative OSU fan

Plug for the app

Plug for the app

AT&T Stadium NOC aka "the Fishbowl"

AT&T Stadium NOC aka “the Fishbowl”

Sony Club. Now we know where Levi's Stadium got its "club" ideas

Sony Club. Now we know where Levi’s Stadium got its “club” ideas

Panoramic view (click on this one!)

Panoramic view (click on this one!)

A glass (cup?) of bubbly to celebrate the 6 TB event

A glass (cup?) of bubbly to celebrate the 6 TB event

College championship game at AT&T Stadium breaks 6 Terabyte wireless data mark, with almost 5 TB of Wi-Fi traffic

AT&T Stadium before the college football playoff championship game. (Click on any photo for larger image) Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

AT&T Stadium before the college football playoff championship game. (Click on any photo for larger image) Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Not only did Monday night’s College Football Playoff championship game crown a new new national title team — it also broke the unofficial record for most wireless traffic at a single sporting event, with more than 6 terabytes of data used by the 85,689 fans in attendance at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

John Winborn, chief information officer for the Dallas Cowboys, said the AT&T-hosted Wi-Fi network at AT&T Stadium carried 4.93 TB of traffic during Monday’s game between Ohio State and Oregon, a far higher total than we’ve ever heard of before for a single-game, single-venue event. AT&T cellular customers, Winborn said, used an additional 1.41 TB of wireless data on the stadium DAS network, resulting in a measured total of 6.34 TB of traffic. The real total is likely another terabyte or two higher, since these figures don’t include any traffic from other carriers (Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile) carried on the AT&T-neutral host DAS. (Other carrier reps, please feel free to send us your data totals as well!)

The national championship numbers blew away the data traffic totals from last year’s Super Bowl, and also eclipsed the previous high-water Wi-Fi mark we knew of, the 3.3 TB number set by the San Francisco 49ers during the opening game of the season at their new Levi’s Stadium facility. Since we’ve not heard of any other event even coming close, we’ll crown AT&T Stadium and the college playoff championship as the new top dog in the wireless-data consumption arena, at least for now.

University of Phoenix Stadium, already with Super Bowl prep under way

University of Phoenix Stadium, already with Super Bowl prep under way

Coincidentally, MSR on Tuesday was touring the University of Phoenix Stadium and the surrounding Westgate entertainment district, which is in the process of getting the final touches on a new complex-wide DAS installed by Crown Castle. The new DAS includes antennas on buildings and railings around the restaurants and shops of the mall-like Westgate complex, as well as inside and outside the UoP Stadium. (We’ll have a full report soon on the new DAS installs, including antennas behind fake air-vent fans on the outside of the football stadium to help handle pre-game crowds).

The University of Phoenix Stadium also had its entire Wi-Fi network ripped and replaced this season, in order to better serve the wireless appetites coming for the big game on Feb. 1. At AT&T Stadium on Monday we learned that the network there had almost 300 new Wi-Fi access points and a number of new DAS antennas installed since Thanksgiving, in anticipation of a big traffic event Monday night. Our exclusive on-the-scene tests of the Wi-Fi and DAS network found no glitches or holes in coverage, which is probably part of the reason why so many people used so much data.

UPDATE: Here is the official press release from AT&T, which basically says the same thing our post does.