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

Nationwide Arena tops 1.3 Terabytes in weekend wireless traffic for NCAA games

Nationwide Arena. Photos Credit: Columbus Blue Jackets

Nationwide Arena. Photos Credit: Columbus Blue Jackets

Like big events in other sports, the opening rounds of the popular NCAA men’s basketball tournament are producing lots of wireless data use by fans at the games, with one venue — Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio — recording more than 1.3 terabytes of combined Wi-Fi and DAS traffic during its two days of competition.

With second- and third-round games on Friday, March 22 and Sunday, March 24, Nationwide Arena saw 844 total GB of data on its internal Wi-Fi network, according to neutral host operator Mobilitie. The traffic was significantly higher for Sunday’s games, which featured Oklahoma’s win over Dayton and West Virginia’s victory over Maryland, with 711 GB of Wi-Fi traffic on Sunday that followed 133 GB used on Friday.

On the Nationwide Arena DAS, also hosted by Mobilitie, AT&T reported an additional 459 GB of traffic for its customers over the two days of competition, a total of 1.303 TB of combined Wi-Fi and AT&T DAS traffic. DAS traffic for customers of other wireless carriers was not reported.

For AT&T, only the KFC Yum! Arena in Louisville, Ky., had more AT&T DAS traffic for the opening round games, with a total of 515 GB used by AT&T customers over the two days of competition there. Other arenas with AT&T DAS reports included the Moda Center in Portland, Ore., (409 GB) and the Consul Energy Center in Pittsburgh (408 GB). We are still waiting for Wi-Fi reports from those arenas, if we get them we will update this post.

Stadium Tech Report: Mobilitie adds Wi-Fi to DAS at Columbus Blue Jackets’ Nationwide Arena

Nationwide Arena. Photos Credit: Columbus Blue Jackets

Nationwide Arena. Photos Credit: Columbus Blue Jackets

Like a team adding a star player to its roster, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Nationwide Arena will kick off their NHL All-Star Game showcase season this week with a new fan-facing Wi-Fi network from Mobilitie, adding to the DAS deployment previously installed by the same company.

The new network, which will use 263 access points from Wi-Fi gear vendor Aruba Networks, is set to go live for the Blue Jackets’ home opener on Oct. 11 against the New York Rangers. According to Jim Connolly, director of IT for the Blue Jackets, having the necessary wireless infrastructure in place is just the first step in a gradual expansion of features designed to enhance the fan experience inside Nationwide Arena. It also corrects a familiar problem with many existing large public facilities, the not-able-to-get-a-signal issue.

“Three or four years ago we noticed a big increase in mobile device use by our fan base,” said Connolly in a recent phone interview. “On the business side of the house we also realized that when the building was full, we had communication issues. You would try to make a [cellular] call, and it would never go through.”

Neutral host the only direction forward

Jim Connolly, director of IT, Columbus Blue Jackets

Jim Connolly, director of IT, Columbus Blue Jackets

Connolly said the decision to go with Mobilitie, with its extensive history of neutral-host DAS deployments, was in part due to the organization’s desire to steer clear of carrier-specific DAS infrastructures. Even though most major carriers will say they are capable of hosting other carriers on a DAS, there are also many known cases of carriers not working well together.

“If you go with a carrier DAS, you have the possibility of isolating part of your fan base,” said Connolly, explaining the team’s desire to use a neutral host for its DAS. What helped seal the deal for Mobilitie was its willingness to also build the Wi-Fi network for no cost to the team. Though DAS helps eliminate most cellular connectivity issues inside large venues, Connolly said the Blue Jackets were “leaning” to having both Wi-Fi and DAS.

“Bringing both Wi-Fi and DAS really elevated their [Mobilitie’s] bid,” Connolly said.

Ready for the All-Star Game

After deploying the DAS in April of 2013, Mobilitie and the Blue Jackets got the Wi-Fi installed over the last offseason, just in time for the year the team will be hosting the NHL All-Star Game and associated celebrations, on Jan. 24-25, 2015.

Hockey at Nationwide Arena

Hockey at Nationwide Arena

“The All-Star Game was definitely a motivator” to get the network finished, Connolly said. “We want to showcase the arena, let fans share via social media and not have any problems with connecting.”

Following the All-Star Game, Nationwide Arena will also host second- and third-round games for the 2015 Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, just another of the 200 to 225 events that fill the 18,500-seat arena (it seats more for basketball and concerts) on a yearly basis.

Opened in 2000, the facility was new enough that network installation wasn’t a huge issue, Connolly said.

“It’s a beautiful building — the DAS and Wi-Fi deployments were pretty straightforward, with room for conduits and space available for the head end room,” Connolly said. “It was relatively painless. We were fortunate enough to have adequate space.”

Building in features as you go

Another plus to having a combined provider for both DAS and Wi-Fi is the ability to have a more integrated view of what fans are using the networks for, via analytics.

“We want to be able to see who’s in the building, and who’s doing what,” Connolly said. “Do they want social networking? Do they want food and beverage deals? Do they want to see replays? The analytics will be able to tell us what’s going on.”

While the current Blue Jackets team app is mainly static information — there is a live audio feed and some live stats available — Connolly said that now that the Wi-Fi network is live, more features like live video and in-seat food ordering, or seat upgrades, can be considered.

“We’ll be trying to figure out how to incorporate more in-game aspects, such as giving more access to those who are here in the arena,” said Connolly, also mentioning the possibilities of adding live video, replays, or online concessions. “Over the course of the first year, that’s something we will be figuring out.”

Drop the puck, hockey's back!

Drop the puck, hockey’s back!