Wi-Fi scores like Villanova during Final Four at Alamodome

Confetti rains down from the scoreboard after Villanova beat Michigan in this year’s Final Four championship game at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (Click on any photo for a larger image)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — The new and temporary Wi-Fi networks inside the Alamodome were as hot as national champion Villanova Monday night, with many speedtest marks in the 50-60 Mbps range for both download and upload throughout many points in the stadium.

We’ll have more details and perhaps some final tonnage numbers coming soon, but before we crash late night here in the Alamo city, where Mobile Sports Report was live in attendance at Monday night’s championship game of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, we wanted to share some impressive stats we saw while logging numerous steps up and down the sections of the venerable Alamodome before and during Villanova’s 79-62 victory over Michigan.

It was a pretty packed house with 67,831 in attendance Monday night, and for Wi-Fi it really was a tale of two networks: One, for the fixed or permanent seating in the football-sized facility, and another for the temproary network that serviced the wide expanse of floor seating brought in by the NCAA for its crown jewel event of men’s hoops. With about 200-plus Wi-Fi APs serving the closest seating sections, we still saw some super-healthy speedtest readings, like one of 55.9 Mbps download and 58.7 Mbps upload in the north stands in row DD, just past the band section and media sections behind the north hoop.

A good look at the court from the north end on the 300 level concourse

At center court on the side where the network broadcast teams sit, we got a speedtest of 34.3 Mbps down and 34.3 Mbps up in row JJ of section 112. Since we thought we heard Jim Nantz calling our name during pregame activities we scrambled down to row J, but Jim was called away before we could confirm his question. Instead we took a speed test there in the celeb seats and got an official mark of 1.65 Mbps / 7.61 Mbps, but did see a 10 Mbps download mark appear on a second test before the speedtest app encountered an error.

As far as we could tell, whatever designer and deployer AmpThink did for the on-floor seats it seemed to work pretty well. But as we are writing this that network is being dismantled, perhaps not to be used again until next year’s men’s Final Four, scheduled to take place at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Handrail enclosures and Gillaroos

Up in the permanent seats, the network AmpThink installed during a permanent renovation of the Alamodome earlier also performed well, even in some of the hardest places to reach. At the top of the lower-bowl seating section, where MSR took a peanut break in the first half (since our media seat was, ironicially, the only place in the stadium where we couldn’t get any kind of a Wi-Fi connection) we got a mark of 65.6 Mbps / 62.5 Mbps.

A handrail Wi-Fi AP enclosure in one of the higher seating sections.

But even when we climbed into serious nosebleed country — and we do mean climb since the Alamodome has no escalators anywhere for fans — we still got good Wi-Fi connectivity, thanks in part to some handrail AP enclosures we saw above the VOMs leading to the top-section seats, and some Gillaroo antennas on the upper back walls pointing down. Above the VOM leading to section 343 in the stadium’s northwest corner we got a mark of 30.5 Mbps / 20.8 Mbps, and up near the roof in row 22 of section 342 we still got a mark of 17.5 Mbps / 9.84.

Other places where coverage really shined was in the stairwells and on the concourses; along the top-level 300 section concourse we got a pregame mark of 57.1 Mbps / 58.2 Mbps even as crowds chanting “Go Blue!” and “Nova Nation!” made traffic an elbow-to-elbow affair. In another stairwell, we stopped to catch our breath and got a speed test of 64.9 Mbps / 68.2 Mbps.

Overall, the permanent and temporary networks seemed to have performed well under the pressure of a bucket-list event, the kind where fans roam the concourses during pregame with phones overhead, taking videos to be shared later. According to Nicholas Langella, general manager for the Alamodome, preliminary reports said there were 12,500 unique connections to the Wi-Fi during Saturday’s semifinal games and another 12,300 connections during Monday’s championship game. On the DAS side of things, AT&T reported 2 terabytes of data used on their network during Saturday’s semifinals, and another 1.1 TB used during Monday’s game. We are still waiting for other carriers to report DAS numbers, as well as for final total Wi-FI usage numbers. For now enjoy some more photos from our visit.


Approaching the Alamodome from the freeway

A good look at how the NCAA floor seats extend out in the end zone area

Another look at the floor seating sections, this time along courtside

Courtside is selfie city

Gillaroos on overhangs in the permanent seating section

Zoomed in for a good look at the court

The human eye view from the same spot

Picture taking is the primary activity pregame

In case you forgot which event you came to see

Final Four final score: 17.6 TB (at least) of wireless data used at University of Phoenix Stadium

We finally have the Wi-Fi numbers from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament Final Four weekend at the University of Phoenix Stadium, and they are big — a total of 11.2 terabytes of data used during the two days of competition, according to the stadium network crews running the operations for the NCAA. Combined with AT&T’s reported DAS total of 6.4 TB, that means the total wireless usage so far is at least 17.6 TB — and that’s not including DAS numbers from Verizon Wireless, Sprint or T-Mobile, which if we had them would probably push the total far higher.

Just on the Wi-Fi side of things, the Saturday semifinal games this year produced enough single-day traffic (6.3 TB) to sneak into our unofficial Top 5 list for Wi-Fi events, barely edging Super Bowl XLIX, which saw 6.2 TB of traffic in the same building a couple years earlier. Granted, the Final Four has more fans in attendance and more time with two games compared to one, but it’s still a sign (to us, anyway) that wireless use by fans at big games of all types is continuing to grow. (It’s cool to see the comparison between a Super Bowl and a Final Four in the same venue, as well. Looks like the network operators there keep improving from big game to big game.)

According to the network stats provided to us, the Final Four crowd on Saturday saw 38,520 unique users connected to the Wi-Fi at some point, with a max concurrent user total of 20,675. On Monday night’s championship game, those numbers were 31,458 uniques and 19,861 max concurrent users. Attendance for the two sessions was 77,612 for Saturday’s semifinals and 76,168 for Monday’s championship, which were both second-highest ever numbers, according to a cool NCAA infographic that has some more stats on TV and internet viewership.

See you next year in San Antonio, NCAA… to see if the connectivity pace keeps increasing!

THE NEW TOP 8 FOR WI-FI

1. Super Bowl 51, NRG Stadium, Houston, Feb. 5, 2017: Wi-Fi: 11.8 TB
2. Super Bowl 50, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., Feb. 7, 2016: Wi-Fi: 10.1 TB
3. Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys, Divisional Playoffs, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, Jan. 15, 2017: Wi-Fi: 7.25 TB
4. WrestleMania 32, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, April 3, 2016: Wi-Fi: 6.77 TB
5. NCAA Men’s Final Four, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., April 1, 2017: Wi-Fi: 6.3 TB
6. Super Bowl 49, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., Feb. 1, 2015: Wi-Fi: 6.23 TB
7. Alabama vs. Texas A&M, Kyle Field, College Station, Texas, Oct. 17, 2015: Wi-Fi: 5.7 TB
8. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots, AFC Championship Game, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., Jan. 22, 2017: Wi-Fi: 5.11 TB

AT&T: Fans used 2.28 TB of cellular data during Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 11.45.34 AMAs the march toward the Final Four continued, fans at the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 venues for the men’s NCAA basketball tournament used a combined 2.28 terabytes of data on the AT&T networks in those venues, according to AT&T. The highest weekend total came from games at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, where 680 GB were used, according to AT&T.

Combined with the 3.6 TB of data AT&T said was used on its networks at first- and second-round sites, that makes a total of 5.88 TB used so far on AT&T cellular and DAS networks at the various hoops arenas. We’d like to hear from other carriers as well, but none have contacted us so far.

Data totals at this weekend’s Final Four in Houston should be interesting, since the host venue, NRG Stadium, doesn’t yet have a Wi-Fi network. Both AT&T and Verizon have beefed up cellular coverage in and around the arena, but without Wi-Fi it may be hard for fans to top last year’s total of 11 TB used at the Final Four at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Remember — all Final Four games this weekend are on TBS, not CBS! Of course you can also stream the games if that’s easier.

AT&T: NCAA Men’s hoops sites used 3.6 TB of cellular data

Screen shot 2016-03-21 at 10.45.42 PMWhile your bracket was busy getting busted, AT&T said it saw more than 3.6 terabytes of cellular data cross the networks at the eight stadiums hosting the first rounds of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament last weekend.

In Providence, R.I., at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, AT&T said it saw 926 GB of cellular data cross its networks there during the first round games, a total perhaps helped by the Yale-Duke game in the second round. Stay tuned for more data updates from NCAA regionals as well as from the Final Four. And any other carriers that want to send their numbers along, please do so!

NCAA hoops sites get wireless upgrades to handle tourney traffic

The two "sliced" balls in the center are AT&T's new "Ten-Ten-Antenna," so called because it delivers 10x the cellular coverage of any previous such device. Photo: AT&T

The two “sliced” balls in the center are AT&T’s new “Ten-Ten-Antenna,” so called because it delivers 10x the cellular coverage of any previous such device. Photo: AT&T

In addition to ticket sales and hotel revenues, you can count on an NCAA basketball tournament crowd to bring wireless demands to host stadiums these days. To prepare for the expected crush, wireless carriers, third-party integrators and venues themselves have bolstered both DAS and Wi-Fi networks, especially at NRG Stadium in Houston, site of the men’s Final Four April 2 and 4.

NRG Stadium, also home to the NFL’s Houston Texans, is slated to host Super Bowl LI next Feburary, and as such will be getting a new Wi-Fi network built by 5 Bars with gear from Extreme Networks ahead of the biggest big game. Unfortunately for data-hungry hoops fans, construction on that network won’t start until after the Final Four, meaning it will be cellular-only for the fans and followers at the championship weekend games.

But connections for customers of major carriers should be fine, since AT&T has already spent $25 million on Houston-area DAS upgrades, including at the stadium itself as well as at the convention center and other areas hosting Final Four activities. There will also be a portable Cell on Wheels, or COW, outside the convention center, where AT&T’s ball-shaped directional antennas will be bringing extra capacity to the scene.

Verizon said that it has already spent $40 million on improving its cellular infrastructure in and around NRG Stadium; inside the venue Verizon said its updated DAS deployment has 783 antennas, able to handle four times the capacity of the previous infrastructure. Outside the stadium Verizon said it has implemented an outdoor DAS to cover parking lots and tailgating areas. Verizon said it is also targeting downtown areas and the Houston airport for improvements ahead of Super Bowl LI.

At some of the regional tourney sites, third-party neutral host ExteNet Systems has been busy as well, adding capacity to some of its stadium DAS deployments as well as to one Wi-Fi network it runs at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, R.I. At the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa, ExteNet recently added U.S. Cellular to its DAS deployment, the first venue in which U.S. Cellular has been an ExteNet customer. Other ExteNet deployments that will see men’s or women’s NCAA games this year include the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis; and the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn.

In Denver at the Pepsi Center, a new (but not yet publicly announced) Wi-Fi network using Avaya gear should get a good test if it is live for the regional games there this weekend. With all these and more, if any fans or venues want to send speedtests in or post-games stats, we’ll happily print them.

AT&T: Final Four sees 1.52 terabytes of DAS traffic, almost double last year’s total

Lucas Oil StadiumSometimes we feel like a broken record when talking about data usage at big events — is the total ever going to stop growing? Not at the Final Four, apparently, where this year AT&T saw almost double the traffic on its in-stadium DAS, even at a smaller venue, the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

According to AT&T, its customers used a total of 1.52 terabytes of data on the in-stadium DAS at Lucas Oil Stadium during the three Final Four weekend games, a huge jump from the 885 GB of DAS traffic AT&T saw on its network at the last Final Four, held in AT&T Stadium. Remember, these numbers are for AT&T cellular customers only, and does not include traffic for any other wireless carriers or for the Lucas Oil Stadium Wi-Fi network. We have calls and emails in to the various players to see if we can get more numbers, but for now AT&T’s almost-double growth is pretty interesting.

Normally we’re not big fans of infographics but the one accompanying the AT&T press release about Final Four traffic is pretty interesting, since it simply shows just how much data use at big events keeps growing. AT&T’s DAS traffic numbers for the last four Final Fours (New Orleans, Atlanta, Texas and Indy) start respectively at 376 GB for 2012, then jump to 667 GB for 2013, then to 885 GB last year and the 1.52 TB mark this year. Maybe the release of the new iPhones this past fall helped with the ever-increasing totals, or the fact that new rich media applications like Vine and Instagram are gaining in use? And with new livestreaming video apps like Meerkat and Periscope joining the fray, how will wireless networks at large venues hold up?

For AT&T, big events now mean lots of resources not just inside the building, but in the surrounding public areas as well, to better handle the big crowds as they move about the event locale. Like it did for the recent South by Southwest festival in Austin, AT&T brought its big-ball antenna to Indy for the weekend, and supplemented downtown coverage with outdoor DAS deployments and improvements to the outdoor Wi-Fi hotspots it built for Super Bowl XLVI held at Lucas Oil in 2012.

AT&T Infographic about Final Four DAS data use

AT&T Infographic about Final Four DAS data use