AT&T sees 9 TB of wireless data use at World Series

The latest statistic showing that wireless data use at sports venues continues to grow comes from AT&T, which said that it saw 9 terabytes of wireless data use on its networks at this year’s World Series games, an 80 percent increase from last year’s total of 5 TB.

According to AT&T, the biggest single-game use of this year’s series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros came during Game 2 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, where fans on AT&T networks used 1.5 TB of data. An AT&T blog post about the series has some interesting statistics about when data use surged, mainly right after dramatic events took place on the field.

Last year, AT&T said it saw 5 TB of data used on its networks at Wrigley Field and Progressive Field during the seven-game series between the Cubs and the Indians. We don’t have any Wi-Fi data yet from either park this year but it will be interesting to see what happened on the network at Minute Maid Park in Houston during the phenomenal Game 5, a contest that kept many baseball fans up late at night.

Verizon Wireless said it didn’t keep track of DAS statistics for this year’s World Series games.

Stadium Tech Report: Los Angeles Dodgers hit it out of the park with Cisco, Aruba Wi-Fi

Dodgers Stadium, the SoCal baseball shrine. All photos: Terry Sweeney, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

Dodgers Stadium, the SoCal baseball shrine. All photos: Terry Sweeney, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

Growing up in the Los Angeles suburb of Norwalk, Ralph Esquibel recalled playing outdoors while inside the Dodger game was on the radio. “I knew from the kinds of noises coming out of the house how the game was going,” he laughed. Esquibel, now vice president of IT for the Los Angeles Dodgers, may have wished for some similar indicators or guideposts as he began the wireless retrofitting of Major League Baseball’s third oldest stadium (after Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field) in early 2011.

Esquibel faced multiple challenges with Dodger Stadium. First, there was all that concrete to push signals through or around. There was the size of the Chavez Ravine venue and its far-flung parking lots, spanning more than 350 acres. The stadium also has few overhangs, a favorite place to attach Wi-Fi access points or distributed antenna system (DAS) gear. Then there’s Dodger Stadium’s capacity — 56,000 seats – the largest in the league and almost 30 percent larger than the average MLB stadium (42,790).

Esquibel’s biggest hurdle? ” Trying to achieve the network that we wanted but also maintain an appropriate budget for the solution,” he said. While Esquibel would not specify what the Dodgers spent, he did allow that it was “an 8-figure project.”

Coverage challenges in the best seats

Initially, the best seats in the house presented a coverage challenge; field and club level seats along the third- and first-base lines and the dugout lack any overhangs. So while phones in those sections could receive a short, directional beam sent from across the outfield, the upstream signal couldn’t get back to the AP across the field, said Esquibel.

Ralph Esquibel, VP of IT for the Dodgers, with the new Wi-Fi relief pitcher mobile.

Ralph Esquibel, VP of IT for the Dodgers, with the new Wi-Fi relief pitcher mobile.

“We wanted to guarantee a premium experience, regardless of the seat,” said Esquibel, who joined the Dodgers 6 years ago after working in IT at Toyota and Honda. So by using what he calls “a hybrid approach,” Wi-Fi APs and antennas are installed overhead where possible, but also under seats and in staircase handrails that divide the stadium’s steep aisles.

All told, nearly 1,000 APs from Cisco and Aruba Networks blanket Dodger stadium, its concession areas and parking lots. Horizon Communications helped the Dodgers with design and installation of the Wi-Fi and DAS.

The under-seat APs/Wi-Fi antennas on the club level are housed in NEMA enclosures about every 15 seats, set eight rows apart. Esquibel was concerned about losing real estate under those seats; he also didn’t want to create any potential trip hazard for fans. In addition, the Dodgers use Cat 6A cabling, whose thickness and rigidity couldn’t run up a stepped incline. Consequently, they drilled through concrete to snake the cabling through from the clubhouse underneath. “There’s no visible conduit leading into the enclosure,” Esquibel explained. The profile and footprint of the enclosure still leaves space for fans to place belongings.

Handrail Wi-Fi enclosure

Handrail Wi-Fi enclosure

It’s the same modus operandi for the enclosures housed in the stair rails, except there are two APs in larger enclosures at the top of each staircase on the reserve level and upper deck, then a single AP per enclosure as the stairways descend. Some 290 APs offer coverage on the reserve level, which by itself has a greater capacity than nearby Staples Center (18,118 seats), Esquibel told Mobile Sports Report. After 2 years of use, there have been no issues with the AP enclosures. “We power-wash the seats and stands after games and [the enclosures] are very resilient against the sun, water and wind,” Esquibel said.

He also acknowledged some early challenges with Wi-Fi. Part of the issue was working with Cisco’s CleanAir technology, which is supposed to minimize RF interference, if not eliminate it altogether. If an AP starts broadcasting over a frequency in use by another AP, for example, CleanAir helps it find another frequency. It took a few months to fully tune the network; some directional antennas needed a 10-degree adjustment, Esquibel said. Another challenge was having APs from more than one vendor. “If your network is 100 percent Cisco and all leveraging the same controllers, [CleanAir] will work perfectly,” Esquibel said. “If you have a mixed environment that pushes Wi-Fi in certain locations, it becomes a problem — there’s competition for frequencies.”

Coordinating the APs

A third-party leveraging a non-public frequency would switch channels, for example, causing the APs for public use to also switch channels. “What we had was a lot of bouncing back and forth,” Esquibel said, which affected performance. “So we assigned channels and frequencies for each AP, which still requires a lot of coordination.”

Under-seat Wi-Fi enclosure

Under-seat Wi-Fi enclosure

Since 2013, the stadium has been carved into 24 DAS sectors. AT&T, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless are the carriers presently using the DAS; Ericsson makes the DAS antennas. Stubborn Sprint relies on a tower adjacent to the stadium.

Dodger fans average anywhere from 500-655 megabytes of data use per game, according to Esquibel. During a busy game, the wireless networking accommodates 16,000 concurrent users; a slower event clocks in at 4,000-8,000. To test upload speed, Esquibel will push a 50MB video to Facebook. When there’s lots of available bandwidth, he gets 60 Mbps performance; on the low end, it’s closer to 4 Mbps. Esquibel said users are mostly streaming and posting videos and photos to social media; Dodger Stadium is the second most Instagrammed site in southern California, after Disneyland, Esquibel added.

The Dodgers have their own version of Ballpark, the in-stadium MLB app, which offers video replay and highlights; in-seat ordering of food and drink in certain areas; and stadium mapping. Check-ins on Ballpark are handled through a network of 44 iBeacons, which takes advantage of Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE) technology. Between Ballpark and social media activity, Dodger fans have run up as much as 700 MB data usage during games — and the network is ready if more demand is needed.

“We don’t do any rate limiting, so if we consume all our bandwidth we get a free upgrade, thanks to a clause in our agreement with our ISP, AT&T,” Esquibel explained.

To ensure a family-friendly and wholesome environment, the Dodgers use Palo Alto Networks 5020 firewalls for content filtering. “As we developed our SLAs, it was one of the first issues to pop up — no sexual content, no malware/phishing, and no illegal drug sites,” he said.

What’s on his wish list for the future? “I’d like geo-fencing within the Wi-Fi network so if I see someone enter a club, I can say hi or welcome them, notify them of specials, or flag points of interest around the stadium,” Esquibel said, like the World Series trophy case or giveaway locations for promotional items. Alongside all the other applications, wireless can be used as guideposts for fans and visitors to Dodger Stadium.

Stadium Tech Report: MLB stadium technology reports — NL West

Editor’s note: The following team-by-team capsule reports of MLB stadium technology deployments are an excerpt from our most recent Stadium Tech Report for Q2 2014, which focuses on Major League Baseball. 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.

NL WEST

Reporting by Chris Gallo

attparksign1San Francisco Giants
AT&T Park
Seating Capacity: 41,503
Wi-Fi: Yes, 1,289 access points
DAS: Yes, 196 antennas
Beaconing: Yes

The San Francisco Giants continue to be a pioneer in stadium connectivity. The club calls AT&T Park home, where it features over 1,289 Wi-Fi access points throughout the stadium. The park seats more than 41,000 fans, which means there is one Wi-Fi access point for every 32 fans when at full capacity.

AT&T has also installed 196 DAS antennas as part of its wireless network. Combined with Apple’s iBeacon technology, fans can easily order concessions or upgrade tickets with the MLB At the Ballpark app. When it comes to stadium connectivity, the San Francisco Giants set the standard.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Dodger Stadium
Seating Capacity: 56,000
Wi-Fi: Yes, 1,000+ access points
DAS:Yes
Beaconing: Yes

For the second consecutive year, Los Angeles Dodgers president Stan Kasten promised fans Wi-Fi would be installed by opening day. And the second time proved to be a charm. Dodger Stadium now includes more than 1,000 access points transforming the half-century old ballpark into one of the baseball’s most well-connected parks.

The 52-year-old stadium underwent a $100 million renovation a year ago, including improved connectivity and a cellular distributed antenna system. Fans can even take advantage of the MLB At the Ballpark app using their smartphone to pre-pay for parking and tickets to get into the game with iBeacons installed in Dodger Stadium.

San Diego Padres
Petco Park
Seating Capacity: 42,455
Wi-Fi: Yes, 423 access points
DAS: Yes, 460 antennas
Beaconing: Yes

After a significant upgrade in 2012, Petco Park features more than 400 Wi-Fi access points and more than 400 DAS antennas throughout the stadium. The San Diego Padres were also one of the first teams to install iBeacon technology.

The club is rolling out the technology slowly and experimenting with the MLB At the Ballpark app. When strolling through Petco Park, Padres fans can receive the day’s lineup card and real-time coupons for the team store. Backed by Qualcomm, the Padres are bringing a consistent connected experi- ence to its fans.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Chase Field
Seating Capacity: 49,003
Wi-F: Yes, 278 access points
DAS: Yes, 460 antennas
Beaconing: Yes

One of the more versatile stadiums in baseball, Chase Field turns 16 this season. Since 2011, the Diamondbacks have partnered with AT&T to make it easier to fans to enjoy the ballpark and game.

This season fans are encouraged to be part of the Ultimate Dbacks Digital Experience. This includes logging on to one over 200 different AT&T hot spots to order concessions with MLB At the Ballpark and watch instant replays of Mark Trumbo’s home runs using MLB At Bat.

Colorado Rockies
Coors Field
Seating Capacity: 50,455
Wi-Fi: Yes, 600 antennas (by July 15)
DAS: Yes for AT&T; Undergoing renovation and will have VZW and T-Mobile soon. Beaconing: Yes – Install will be complete by June 30.
The lone team in the NL West without Wi-Fi over the past few seasons, the Colorado Rockies are going to change that in 2014. The club plans to install more than 600 Wi-Fi access points by July 15. But that’s not the only upgrade to the 19-year old park.
The Rockies removed 3,500 seats in an $11 million dollar project to build the Rooftop Party Deck. This 38,000 square-foot area is open to all fans to socialize, grab a bite to eat, and watch the game. The best news is Rockies fans should be able to stay connected with iBeacon installs and improved DAS antennas also planned for deployment by this summer.

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.