NFL exec: U.S. Bank Stadium Wi-Fi network ‘in a strong place’ ahead of Super Bowl LII

A Wi-Fi handrail enclosure at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Credit: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

Like many football fans, I was jaw-dropping excited while watching the Minnesota Vikings’ dramatic walk-off touchdown win in last Sunday’s playoff game against the New Orleans Saints. Unlike many football fans but probably more like our readership, my next thought while watching the celebrations was: I hope the Wi-Fi holds up!

According to a top NFL IT executive who was at the game, the Wi-Fi network at U.S. Bank Stadium was more than up to the load applied to it by the Vikings’ exciting win and victory celebration, a good stress test ahead of the stadium’s hosting of Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4. “There were an amazing amount of [Wi-Fi] connections” after the game’s end, said Aaron Amendolia, vice president of IT in the NFL’s office of the CIO, in a phone interview Thursday.

The “massive spike” in connectivity after the game’s exciting conclusion produced numerous social media posts from fans present, mainly on Facebook and Snapchat, Amendolia said. Though he didn’t have full networking statistics from the game, Amendolia did share one interesting number, the fact that there were approximately 37,000 unique connections to the Wi-Fi network during the game — a total greater than that at last year’s Super Bowl LI in Houston, where 35,430 fans out of 71,795 in attendance at NRG Stadium used the Wi-Fi at some point. Attendance at Sunday’s playoff game in Minneapolis was 66,612.

“I feel we’re in a strong place now” with the Wi-Fi network at U.S. Bank Stadium, Amendolia said. “We’re hoping to set some new records.”

Still no sign of bandwidth demand decline

Amendolia, part of the NFL’s networking team that ensures good connectivity at the league’s championship event, said testing work on the AmpThink-designed network (which uses Cisco Wi-Fi gear) started last year, and then ramped up through the current season.

Seen in the main concourse at U.S. Bank Stadium: Two IPTV screens, one Wi-Fi AP and a DAS antenna. Credit: Paul Kapustka, MSR

“Starting with the presason [games] we had staff sitting in seats, doing Facebook, visiting websites,” said Amendolia. “The unique architecture in each stadium makes Wi-Fi [performance] unique. We had people sitting in odd corners, and next to big concrete structures.”

Ever since Wi-Fi has been a part of Super Bowls, the total data used and numbers of fans connecting have steadily increased each year, always setting current records for single-day use of a large venue network. At Super Bowl 49 in 2015, fans used 6.23 terabytes of data on the Wi-Fi network at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.; the next year, it was 10.1 TB of Wi-Fi at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.; and last year at NRG Stadium in Houston there was 11.8 TB of Wi-Fi data used. (Cellular data use on stadium DAS networks has also increased apace, from almost 16 TB at Super Bowl 50 to more than 25.8 TB last year.)

What’s interesting is that networking usage totals for games the following NFL season usually increase as well, not to Super Bowl levels but surpassing marks from years before. For this season’s opening game at the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium, the Wi-Fi network there saw 8.08 TB of data used, a mark that trails only the last two Super Bowls.

“Super Bowls set the benchmark for the next season,” said Amendolia, who agrees that there may never be an end to the growth.

“Even if [current] usage levels off, there’s new technology like augmented reality and wearable glasses,” Amendolia said. “How does that change the future?”

NFL Stadium Tech Reviews — NFC South

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.

NFC SOUTH

Reporting by Paul Kapustka

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 4.57.13 PMNew Orleans Saints
Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Seating Capacity: 76,468
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the Superdome remains a signal of the region’s recovery. Inside the dome, the Wi-Fi installed before the most recent Super Bowl there is still going strong.

Atlanta Falcons
Georgia Dome
Seating Capacity: 71,280
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

Even as they wait for the technological wonder that is the coming next year at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (with fiber-based Wi-Fi from IBM and Corning), Falcons fans still have way better than average connectivity inside the Georgia Dome, where a Cisco-powered network provides access to mobile treats like instant replays from multiple camera angles.

Carolina Panthers
Bank of America Stadium
Seating Capacity: 74,455
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

Bank of America Stadium completely replaced its DAS solution during the offseason with a new Commscope ION-U system. The new DAS is owned by the Panthers directly and includes Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint as participants. Look for the stadium to completely replace its Wi-Fi system this coming offseason, with a new 1,200-AP network for the 2016 season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Raymond James Stadium
Seating Capacity: 65,890
Wi-Fi – Yes
DAS – Yes

Raymond James Stadium got free fan-facing Wi-Fi for the 2012 season, but since then we haven’t heard anything about upgrades to the system. With the college playoff championship game coming in 2017, however, you can probably expect to see connectivity improvements coming soon.

Stadium Tech Report — NFL stadium technology reports — NFC South

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 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.

NFC SOUTH

Reporting by Chris Gallo

Atlanta Falcons
Georgia Dome
Seating Capacity: 71,280
Wi-Fi – Yes, approximately 500 access points
DAS-Yes
Beaconing – No

Last year’s 4-12 record came as a surprise to Falcons fans after three straight playoff seasons. With lots of talent on the field, the fans are looking forward to a rebound year. And they’ll get to follow the team with ease as the multi-venue Georgia Dome features 500 Wi-Fi access points from Cisco.

Carolina Panthers
Bank of America Stadium
Seating Capacity: 74,455
Wi-Fi – Yes, 645 access points
DAS-Yes
Beaconing – No

Bank of America Stadium receives a Wi-Fi boost from AT&T in 2014. Now with 645-plus Wi-Fi access points, Panthers fans should find it a little easier to share that photo of Cam Newton’s touchdown celebration. Will they be able to do so for another home playoff game?

New Orleans Saints
Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Seating Capacity: 76,468
Wi-Fi – Yes, 600+ access points
DAS-Yes
Beaconing – No

Remember the blackout from Super Bowl XLVII? How could you forget? The Superdome doesn’t. Good thing the versatile venue was prepared to keep fans connected with a robust DAS and more than 600 Cisco Wi-Fi access points. Saints fans will have plenty to share on game days with a high-powered offense back in 2014.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Raymond James Stadium
Seating Capacity: 65,890
Wi-Fi-Yes
DAS-Yes
Beaconing – No

After installing Wi-Fi in 2012 and releasing an updated team mobile app in 2013, Tampa Bay delayed plans to enhance the stadium’s video boards in the offseason. The reason? The organization wants to supersize the upgrades with larger screen sizes and video replay capability. Owned by the Tampa Bay Sports Authority, Raymond James Stadium has secured the 2017 College Football National Championship game. This means Bucs fans can expect the game day experience to continue to improve in the coming years.

Fox Sports Go will live-stream Seahawks-Saints and Niners-Panthers this weekend; CBS will live-stream Patriots-Colts, Broncos-Chargers

Screen shot 2014-01-11 at 9.52.57 AMIf you’re a customer of a participating provider for Fox Sports Go, you can watch this weekend’s NFC playoff games either on the Web or on an Apple iPad using the Fox Sports Go website or mobile app. Here at Mobile Sports Report we love this kind of flexibility, since it lets us watch games on the big desktop PC screen if and when other family members want to use the main TV to watch Harry Potter movies. The Fox Sports Go website address is foxsportsgo.com, and the list of participating providers includes AT&T U-Verse, Comcast Xfinity, Suddenlink, Optimum, Midcontinent Communications, and Wow!.

CBS will also live-stream its coverage of the AFC divisional games this weekend, starting with the Colts-Patriots game at 8:15 p.m. ET on Saturday followed by the Broncos-Chargers game Sunday at about 4:40 p.m. Sunday. The games can be watched online at CBSSports.com’s NFL page, or via the CBSSports app, which I believe gets around the Verizon phone-ban by just showing the games via a web page. I did see a little disclaimer that says live streaming is only available via iOS devices. Someone out there give it a shot (I have an Android phone) and let us know if it works on an iPhone. You do not need to subscribe to any TV service to see the CBS live streams.

For Fox, Saturday’s Seattle Seahawks vs. New Orleans Saints game (4:30 p.m. ET start) and Sunday’s San Francisco 49ers vs. Carolina Panthers tilt (1 p.m. ET start) will both be live streamed, according to a Fox news release. To see the stream you need to validate your pay-TV subscription, and once that’s done you can watch all the other Fox games. The Super Bowl, which Fox is broadcasting this year, will not require a cable subscription.

Though the Fox Sports Go app is available for both the iPad and the iPhone, the Fox news release very specifically notes that the game is available only for the tablet version of the app. We are guessing here but we suspect that Verizon’s deal with the league for its NFL Mobile app — the only app for smartphone live NFL action — precludes Fox’s ability to offer live streaming to a phone-type device. All playoff games this weekend, including the AFC games on CBS (according to my phone), will also be available to NFL Mobile subscribers. NFL Mobile requires a Verizon 4G LTE phone and a $5 per month NFL Mobile subscription.

Someday, the league will get all these rights simplified. But not this weekend.

The NFL Metes out Punishment to Saints Players — This could be a Long Battle

After a week delay NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has come down on the New Orleans Saints players that were most active in the notorious bounty program installed by defensive coach Gregg Williams by suspending four players for various lengths of time.

Suspended without pay are Jonathan Vilma for the entire 2012 season, Anthony Hargrove (now a Green Bay Packer) was given an eight game suspension, Will Smith was suspended for four games and Scott Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, was given three games. Vilma’s was the most sever because he supposedly put his own cash up for anyone that would injure Brett Favre in the 2010 NFC Championship game.

The four players are not taking this sitting down and have already pledged to fight the issue in the courts as well as appealing the ruling. I did a quick look and cannot find anybody that has won an appeal from Goodell, I guess that might be because he has to decide if his original ruling was correct and he goes with his first impression.

The court battle could be a protracted affair and I wonder of a judge will order the league to let the players participate n games while the matter is being disputed? I wonder how Goodell will react to being over ruled by a judge, if that happens?

On top of the lawsuit and the appeal, the NFL Players Association has issued a short release that simply said that the NFL has still not provided it with details or specific evidence of these players involvement in the pay-to-injure program.

There is one other interesting aspect to this mess, and that is the numerous lawsuits against the NFL regarding concussions will take a good look at this program At least one of the has already cited the bounty program, that only leaves about 50 lawsuits and 1,200 plaintiffs to go!