NFL Wi-Fi update: AT&T Stadium adds 667 APs

A row shot of the under-seat APs at AT&T Stadium. Photo: Dallas Cowboys

With today’s main NFL season schedule already underway, here is a quick update on all the NFL stadium Wi-Fi updates we know about that are either finished or still under construction for the 2017 season:

— AT&T Stadium, already the location of the biggest (by number of APs) stadium network we know of, is in the process of adding another 667 APs, a project scheduled to be finished in the next few weeks. According to John Winborn, CIO for the Dallas Cowboys Football Club, the new APs are all the Cisco 3800 two-radio models, and will be installed on the stadium’s 400-level seating area.

When done, AT&T Stadium will have 2,567 APs, with plans to add another 400 in the upcoming offseason. After that, said Winborn, AT&T Stadium will “be out of locations in the stadium to place additional APs without additional spectrum opening up.” (editor’s note: This post has been updated to correct an error in reporting that previously stated that 600 new APs had been installed.)

— In Atlanta, the fans are getting ready for the first regular-season game at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which will have nearly 1,800 APs total, many of those under the seats in the bowl.

— As previously reported in MSR, Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High is in the process of ripping and replacing its former Wi-Fi network, installing 1,470 new Cisco 3800s in a project scheduled for completion by late October/early November.

— In Philadephia, Lincoln Financial Field is in the process of switching from an Extreme Networks deployment to a new one using Wi-Fi gear from Panasonic. More details on this project are promised later this fall.

— In Seattle, the Seahawks’ IT team is adding additional APs to improve coverage in the four corners of the upper seating sections of CenturyLink Field, according to Chip Suttles, vice president of technology for the Seahawks. Suttles said a full offseason tuning assessment with gear provider Extreme Networks also saw a new channel plan put in place, and “multiple Wi-Fi antenna orientations to improve coverage.”

— Detroit’s Ford Field also got a Wi-Fi (and DAS) upgrade over the past offseason, a revamp that will now allow all visitors, and not just Verizon Wireless customers, to use the stadium Wi-Fi.

— Chicago Bears fans will finally have free Wi-Fi this season, after being forced to pay for access previously.

— Following the announcement that the Arizona Cardinals were switching from CDW to Cox Business as the exclusive technology provider for the University of Phoenix Stadium, the UoP Stadium network was set for some additional APs and some network tuning ahead of the NFL season, according to Mark Feller, vice president of technology for the Cardinals.

Anyone else we miss? Send us the info… and the speedtests!

Verizon upgrading Wi-Fi at Lions’ Ford Field

Screen Shot 2016-10-21 at 10.52.24 AMVerizon Wireless is upgrading the Wi-Fi network it originally installed at the Detroit Lions’ Ford Field, but is keeping specifics about its upgrade to itself.

In a widely quoted press release Verizon said it is adding capacity to the Wi-Fi network it first installed at Ford Field back in 2013, a network that was only open to Verizon customers. According to a story in the Detroit Free Press, the new network (which won’t be operational until the end of the current NFL season) will be open to all fans, not just Verizon customers. However, like in other stadiums, Verizon customers will be able to access the Wi-Fi over a separate SSID, Verizon said. The Ford Field upgrade joins other NFL stadiums getting a Wi-Fi revamp this season, including the Carolina Panthers, the New England Patriots, the Houston Texans and others.

Verizon would not answer questions about how many Wi-Fi access points the new deployment would have, instead only claiming that coverage would be “quadrupled” from the previous installation. Verizon also claimed it now has Wi-Fi networks in 11 NFL stadiums, but declined to provide a list of which stadiums have Verizon Wi-Fi. MSR has previously reported that the Seattle Seahawks’ CenturyLink Field has a Verizon network, as does FedEx Field in Washington, D.C.. Verizon also claims it will install Wi-Fi in two other NFL stadiums this year, but again declined to name the stadiums.

NFL Stadium Tech Reviews — NFC North

Editor’s note: The following team-by-team capsule reports of NFL stadium technology deployments are an excerpt from our most recent Stadium Tech Report, THE PRO FOOTBALL ISSUE. 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.


Reporting by Paul Kapustka

Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, now has Wi-Fi for fans. All photos: Green Bay Packers

Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, now has Wi-Fi for fans. All photos: Green Bay Packers

Green Bay Packers
Lambeau Field
Seating Capacity: 80,735
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

Wi-Fi has finally come to the NFL’s frozen tundra, courtesy of a deployment from Extreme Networks and backed also by Verizon Wireless. Like in Seattle, fans in Green Bay will be able to access two separate Wi-Fi networks – one for Verizon customers, the other for all other cellular customers. Verizon is also the host of the neutral DAS, which counts AT&T as a customer. (See cover story profile.)

Chicago Bears
Soldier Field
Seating Capacity: 61,500
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

The home of Da Bears remains the only NFL stadium we know of that still charges for Wi-Fi use – the network, provided by Boingo Wireless, costs fans $1.99 per day. AT&T and Boingo also recently updated the already-robust DAS around the stadium, adding coverage for tailgating areas as well.

Detroit Lions
Ford Field
Seating Capacity: 65,000
Wi-Fi – Yes/limited (Verizon customers only)
DAS – Yes

Verizon customers at Ford Field will have access to Wi-Fi, but customers from other carriers are out of luck.

Minnesota Vikings
TCF Bank Stadium
Seating Capacity: 52,000
Wi-Fi – Limited / in select areas only
DAS – Yes

As Vikings fans wait for the opening of the new U.S. Bank Stadium – which is supposed to have the latest in stadium Wi-Fi – they will spend one more year without Wi-Fi at TCF Bank Stadium. UPDATE: According to AT&T, the DAS installed in 2014 was upgraded this season, from 10 to 17 sectors. Several Vikings home games this season have seen 200+ gigabytes of data on the AT&T network on the DAS, according to AT&T.

Extreme Networks, NFL announce deal for Wi-Fi analytics

Extreme Networks and the NFL today announced a deal that makes Extreme the league’s official provider of Wi-Fi analytics, a non-binding agreement that simply makes Extreme’s diagnostics technology available to teams with Wi-Fi networks in their stadiums.

Extreme will also be the official provider of Wi-Fi analytics for the upcoming Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, one of four NFL facilities currently using Extreme’s analytics technology. Two of those stadiums, the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., and the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, use Extreme equipment for their entire Wi-Fi installation.

While the deal does not mean that the NFL will be paying for any team to install full Wi-Fi networks using Extreme technology and equipment, it does give Extreme a bit of a leg up and some league-approved exposure as teams continue to look for suppliers to help them build out their internal wireless infrastructures. Wi-Fi analytics technology, typically housed in back-end networking gear, helps provide real-time looks into network performance, along with detailed statistics about how customers are using the networks, from what types of content they are uploading or downloading, to how long they are staying engaged. Operators can use such performance statistics to fine-tune networks as well as to figure out strategies for providing compelling, engaging content and a better overall fan experience with wireless.

“Enhancing the fan experience is one the NFL’s top priorities and the decision to team up with Extreme for Wi-Fi analytics is a great step forward in achieving our goals,” said NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle, in a prepared statement. “We were impressed with Extreme’s implementations with the Patriots and the Eagles and we believe this agreement will help our clubs deliver on the high standards we have put in place to give our fans the type of experience they deserve.”

In addition to its own deployments for the Eagles and Patriots, Extreme is also providing Wi-Fi analytics at MetLife Stadium and at Ford Field in Detroit, even though the overall Wi-Fi infrastructure at those fields uses equipment from different providers. John Brams, director of sports and entertainment at Extreme, said analytics provide a key component of stadium networks, giving operators valuable insight into performance metrics and into how and what users are using the network do to.

“When you ask questions like how do you measure the return on investment for the network, to answer those questions you need the stats,” Brams said in a phone interview. “One of the biggest things teams can leverage is visibility into their environment.”