Wi-Fi upgrade producing solid results for Denver Broncos at Mile High

A fan walks by a railing wireless enclosure in the upper deck of Broncos Stadium at Mile High during the Oct. 1 game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any picture for a larger image)

As the Denver Broncos’ Wi-Fi network upgrade nears its final steps of completion, solid coverage around the venue now known as Broncos Stadium at Mile High is producing Wi-Fi data totals averaging more than 6 terabytes per game, according to statistics from the team.

During a recent game-day visit to Mile High, Mobile Sports Report got consistent high-bandwidth readings for Wi-Fi throughout the venue, and into the parking lots as well. Multiple speed tests recorded bandwidth marks in the high double-digits of megabits per second, even at the top reaches of the stands as well as in other hard-to-cover areas, like concourses and plazas.

And even as Russ Trainor, Broncos’ senior vice president for information technology, and his networking team put the final tuning touches on an expansion that will end with somewhere near 1,500 Cisco Wi-Fi APs installed throughout the building, the football (and concert) fans who have shown up lately are already finding ways to use lots of Wi-Fi data. In the first three home games of the Broncos’ current regular season, Trainor said the Wi-Fi network has seen total single-day usage numbers of 6.4 TB, 6.3 TB and 6.2 TB, the latter coming during the exciting Monday Night Football game Oct. 1 versus the Kansas City Chiefs.

More APs coming for gate areas, concourses

“We still have a few more APs to add,” said Trainor in a quick interview during the Chiefs game, which MSR attended. And while Trainor added that the team is also planning to step up its promotion of the network, many fans are finding it already, as proven by some other high-water marks this year that include a peak of 32,837 concurrent users during the home opener on Sept. 9; peak throughput of 10.83 Gbps on Sept. 16; and the most unique connections, 42,981, on Oct. 1.

Parking lots are well-covered at Mile High

Because many of the new APs are the new Cisco 3800 Series with two radios, Trainor is confident the Broncos Stadium network is far from maxing out.

“We still have room to grow folks onto the system, and we’ll continue to advertise that network for the fans,” Trainor said.

During our visit at the Oct. 1 game, MSR was impressed the moment we got out of our car in the parking lot, when we recorded a Wi-Fi mark of 28.3 Mbps down and 56.5 Mbps up. As a Verizon customer we were automatically connected to the stadium’s Wi-Fi network, one of the perks that came with Verizon’s investments in the Wi-Fi and DAS networks at the stadium.

Inside the premium-seating United Club area, we got a Wi-Fi mark of 48.0 Mbps / 70.3 Mbps, even as fans crowded the open dining hall during pregame. We also saw some cool new food-station kiosks along one wall, each with its own connected display for menu items as well as a touchscreen payment system (a turnkey deployment from Centerplate, Tapin2, and PingHD) that eliminated the need for additional concessions staffers.

Up on the top-level concourse we saw APs every other wall section with two antennas pointing in opposite directions, coverage that produced one mark of 31.8 Mbps / 68.2 Mbps even as fans crowded the stands to get food and drink before kickoff. According to Trainor the concourse areas will get roughly a doubling of coverage with more APs next year, to support a plan to move to more digital payment methods.

A good look at the hardened, single-cable Wi-Fi APs in the walkway ramps area. According to the Broncos these use POE (power over Ethernet), cutting down on the conduit needed.

Out in the upper-level stands (Section 541, row 5) we got a Wi-Fi mark of 36.0 Mbps / 29.6 Mbps, in an area where we could see APs pointing down on the seats from the top-level light standards as well as in railing enclosures. Some areas in the upper deck are also covered by under-seat APs, which also are used in the south end zone stands where there is no overhang infrastructure.

We also got good connectivity in an often overlooked area, the walkway ramps and escalators behind the seats, where the Broncos installed some APs that use power over Ethernet and weather-hardened enclosures since those areas are more open to weather. While riding up on an escalator we not only stayed connected but got a test mark of 26.4 Mbps / 37.6 Mbps.

Keeping crowds of fans connected

In perhaps one of the biggest stress tests we could find, the Mile High Wi-Fi had no problem keeping fans connected. Just before halftime we planted ourselves on the outdoor plaza behind the south stands, and waited for fans to crowd the area during the break. With a Wi-Fi mark of 38.4 Mbps / 35.7 Mbps second five minutes into the halftime break, we were still able to easily view video highlights of the first half even as everyone around us was using their phones to check email or to connect with friends and family.

As the second-half kickoff neared, we walked into the main concourse underneath the west stands and still stayed solidly connected, with a mark of 33.0 Mbps / 59.1 Mbps in the middle of a thick crowd of fans who were either waiting for concessions or walking back to their seats.

With a high-water mark of 8.1 TB for a Taylor Swift concert earlier this spring, the new Wi-Fi network in Broncos Stadium at Mile High showed that it’s more than ready for big games or other big events. Some more photos from our visit below!

Nothing like Monday Night Football!

Fans gather on the south stands plaza during halftime

Close-up of an AP install on the back wall facing out into the south stands plaza

United Club dining area with single-stand kiosks in back

Single-stand food kiosk with its own display and self-service payment terminal (from PingHD)

AP deployment on top-level concourse

AP deployment (on post) in lower concourse area

Seahawks see 4.1 TB of Wi-Fi usage for Monday Night game vs. Bills

Seahawks fans at CenturyLink Field during Nov. 7 game. Credit: Seahawks.com

Seahawks fans at CenturyLink Field during Nov. 7 game. Credit: Seahawks.com

With the Seahawks starting to gain momentum for another playoff push, the Wi-Fi network at their home of CenturyLink Field is getting a good workout as well, with 4.10 terabytes of data used during Seattle’s 31-25 win over the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 7.

The Monday Night Football game, an exciting, close contest, also saw a total of 35,808 unique clients and a peak concurrent user number of 23,281 on the Extreme Networks-powered Wi-Fi network at the stadium, according to Seahawks IT officials. The game set an attendance record for CenturyLink Seahawks games, with 69,084 in the seats, breaking the old record of 69,080 from last season.

According to information from all the games so far this season (see below), the CenturyLink Field Wi-Fi has been seeing strong and growing usage, with unique numbers starting out in the high 20,000-user level and edging up each week. Upload totals also seem to be growing, with maybe the team’s improved record as the impetus.


Friday Grab Bag: 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium isn’t a fit for MNF

The San Francisco 49ers will be playing in a brand new stadium next season but no matter how well the team performs on the field it looks unlikely that it will have any home games broadcast for Monday Night Football, at least for the first season.

The soon to be finished facility — in Santa Clara, Calif., well south of the team’s namesake city — does not have enough of its own parking spaces and is planning to use neighboring office lots for its weekend games but these spaces are in use when the fans start to arrive for the games on weekdays. According to a report in the San Jose Mercury News the team isn’t asking for any of the sought-after prime-time MNF games or the Thursday night games until it can figure out how to fit all the fans’ cars in lots jammed by the folks who work in Silicon Valley.

One option the team is now considering is asking its neighbors to change their work hours to accommodate the team. Wonder what Marissa Mayer thinks about that idea?

BlackBerry history
If you are one of the few, the proud, the remaining BlackBerry users this is a pretty interesting read from Bloomberg. It is an oral history of the rise and fall of the BlackBerry, a device that probably did more than any other to kill the pager and usher in the age of smartphones.

Bloomberg conducted dozens of interviews to get a good picture about the rise of the platform and then its sad decline. Interesting to see if any of the current tech behemoths will follow the same path.

Google Glass takes another hit
Google Glass may be banned in another state as Illinois is now considering banning drivers from using the wearable computing devices, joining Delaware, New Jersey, West Virginia and Great Britain as well as sundry businesses and bars.

Mobile Marketer makes a spirited defense of the technology but it seems to me that they missed the point in a few places: they are not the same as a security camera and does anybody honestly believe that having a second image in front of a driver’s eye will make them safer?

A Heisman tale
As the college football season winds down the talk about who deserves the Heisman always starts coming to the forefront. Should they look at more than just offensive players, did so and so’s stats really put him in the race.

Well the Washington Post has taken a different tack and did a very interesting piece on the history of the first 78 trophies, where they are now and how they got there. It’s a fun read.

NBA to embrace its inner geek
Baseball in the last decade or so has undergone a revolution in the way that stats are looked at, with the time honored numbers such as RBIs, Wins and HRs getting re-evaluated in terms of how they relate to the team and individuals performance.

Football is also undergoing that same revolution to a smaller extent and now the NBA has joined the fun with the launch of NBA.com/stats web page that will feature detailed box scores and video from all of its games.

Super Bowl will be no walk in the park
The rules for parking, tailgating and generally schmoozing at the upcoming Super Bowl in New Jersey are out and it looks like if you are attending you had better leave the house early if you don’t want to miss the game.

No walking through the parking lots, you must either drive or take mass transit, no tailgating or BBQs allowed and a host of other restrictions. Who says that NFL stands for No Fun League?

Verizon Suffers NFL Mobile Failures on Opening Day

Did you have problems connecting to the Verizon NFL Mobile app Sunday? If so, it’s not your phone — it’s Verizon, which once again proved that it wasn’t ready for the opening day of the NFL season.

As a Verizon customer and a longtime NFL Mobile customer as well, I’ve experienced much frustration over the past couple years due to glitches with the app and programming for it. When it works I am amazed at the ability to watch live football on my phone. But how can two companies, the NFL and Verizon, which make billions in profits each year, have such consistent failures? Does anyone there care if the app actually works or not?

On Sunday I downloaded the new version of the NFL Mobile app, then tried to connect to watch RedZone for the afternoon game endings. I got an authentication failure, which surprised me since I had done everything possible beforehand (turned on all location services, turned off Wi-Fi) to make sure Verizon knew where my phone was.

After going through a half-hour of support hell waiting (including, ironically, a Drew Brees commercial telling me how great NFL Mobile is) I finally got a technician to tell me that because “so many people” were using the NFL Mobile app, Verizon’s network basically went kablooey, and that massive amounts of NFL Mobile users weren’t able to connect. Imagine that! People wanted to watch the NFL today! That’s like not stocking Elmo toys the week before Thanksgiving, or any similarly stupid move. The Verizon rep also told me that “because of high call volume” Sunday there weren’t enough technical reps at work to handle the NFL Mobile outage.

I will give the Twitter reps at NFL Mobile customer support a small bit of respect for finding my tweets and trying to respond, but really — this just shouldn’t happen. Not when the NFL itself says that more people are going to its websites via mobile than via desktops. The biggest app for the biggest sport simply shouldn’t have network failures. And reps shouldn’t be whining that too many people are trying to use it as the reason why it failed. Unless we all get a month’s credit on our Verizon bills.

Is “hiccups” on a server a new technical term? Is there a “hiccup reset” button?

As of 5 p.m. Pacific Time, it still wasn’t working for me. But the support folks found time for humor.

So — Verizon can pay the NFL a billion bucks for NFL Mobile rights, but can’t keep enough engineers on staff on Sundays to make the thing work? That’s fail with a capital F. Which is the grade we give Verizon for its performance on what is probably the sports world’s most-used app. And they’re locked in for four more years. Now I know what a Cleveland Brown fan must feel like.

UPDATE: At 5:42 p.m. Pacific Time NFL Mobile finally authenticated my device. Just in time to watch Tony Romo be Tony Romo.

NFL, Verizon Introduce New NFL Mobile App

New NFL Mobile app; photo courtesy of NFL.

New NFL Mobile app; photo courtesy of NFL.

If you, like me, enjoy watching live NFL action on your Verizon smartphone, things are probably going to be a lot better this season as the league and Verizon have teamed up for a full refresh of the NFL Mobile app, which will also be available to smartphone customers of other carriers, with the only catch being that those customers won’t have access to live game action.

In a phone interview with Manish Jha, General Manager of Mobile at the National Football League, we learned about a whole bunch of new bells and whistles, maybe things you won’t necessarily notice, like improved back-end design and more up-to-date score information. What hasn’t changed for the 2013 season is the $5 monthly fee Verizon will charge its smartphone customers to view live NFL games on Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights, along with NFL network coverage and (perhaps most important) live RedZone coverage on Sunday.

(Don’t dismiss the RedZone coverage. If you live in California, like we do, you can sometimes get a full extra live game or two on Sundays because they are the only ones still going on.)

If your phone is from AT&T, or Sprint, or T-Mobile, you won’t be able to watch live action but you also won’t have to fight to find an NFL app that works well to bring you things like video highlights, replays, scores, and fantasy stats. Jha said the NFL and Verizon teamed up to produce one app to rule them all, the new NFL Mobile app which you should be able to find in the operating system app store of your choice. Also built into the new version of the app are some of the features from last year’s experimental Thursday Night Xtra app, which we never felt was fully baked; hopefully some of its interesting social media ideas are better fleshed out this time around.

“We want to make this the definitive NFL experience for a smartphone,” said Jha. And well should the NFL pay a lot of attention to mobile access: According to Jha, during last season mobile traffic to all NFL Internet sites surpassed desktop Internet traffic, even as that latter figure also increased.

Read that again: Mobile traffic to NFL sites eclipsed desktop traffic last year, even as desktop traffic grew. So now you have an idea why Verizon paid $1 billion to keep the rights for 4 more years as the NFL’s exclusive mobile carrier.

The only thing we still argue about is the league and Verizon’s decision to keep live cellular action off tablets; the Verzion NFL Mobile live access only works for devices they consider “phones,” though Jha even admits that such a definition may be a short-time thing, given the trend of phones getting big phat screens.

“We’re staying on top of trends, watching what comes out of Silicon Valley,” Jha said. “Right now we’re being pragmatic, trying to strike the right balance between serving fans and creating value for our sponsor.”

Verizon Kills Free NFL Mobile, Now Charging $5 per Month

Last year when Verizon was heavily promoting its new 4G LTE network, football fans who bought new smartphones that used the network got a great benefit: Free access to Verizon’s NFL Moble app and its limited schedule of live coverage, including Thursday night, Sunday night and Monday night games.

But without any fanfare — and without any visible information, until you load the app and try to watch a game — Verizon is now charging $5 per month to watch live games, according to the splash screen that greeted me when I tried to watch some preseason action Saturday night while my daughter was monopolizing the TV in the living room.

Though Verizon paid a bundle for rights to mobile access to NFL games, I will bet anyone a pint that it’s a contract that won’t be renewed whenever it comes due. From what we have seen so far it’s pretty obvious that the NFL is moving in a baseball direction, with its new watch online packages looking a lot like the MLB.com packages that make baseball hundreds of millions each year.

Though you will need a Verizon contract to watch games on a mobile/cellular device this season, we expect that by 2013 there will be a much wider range of options to watch NFL games online or via cellular devices — and they will likely cost a lot more than $5 a month, so we’re not going to bellyache too much here (though reviewers on the App Storses are already po’d). But it would be nice if Verizon was more honest and put the $5 per month charge somewhere folks could see it. The app may be free to download, but don’t be fooled. Your days of free NFL on mobile devices is over.