Notre Dame’s new Wi-Fi, Mercedes-Benz Stadium first look — all in our new Stadium Tech Report!

We always get excited here at Mobile Sports Report when we have a new quarterly report out, but the stories, profiles and analysis in our Fall 2017 issue just may be our best-ever effort. With a detailed look at the new Wi-Fi network at Notre Dame Stadium, and a first look at the Atlanta Falcons’ new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, our Fall 2017 issue starts off with a doubleheader of deep information profiles and it doesn’t stop there!

In addition to Notre Dame and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, this issue also has a detailed look at the new football stadium at Colorado State University, which also has high-performing Wi-Fi and a neutral-host DAS deployment. We also take a look at the Wi-Fi renovation taking place at the Denver Broncos’ Sports Authority Field at Mile High, a network upgrade that should lift the Broncos’ home to the top of the list of NFL stadium networks. And we’re still not done!

Also in this issue is a well timed, deeply informed essay from Chuck Lukaszewski about unlicensed LTE and what it means to venues. Chuck, the top wireless guru at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, digs into this developing cellular/Wi-Fi issue and delivers some heads-up knowledge that all venue tech professionals should absorb. We also have one more profle in the issue, a look at a temporary Wi-Fi network being installed at the Los Angeles Coliseum. That’s a lot of reading, so get started by downloading your free copy today!

Part of the reason we’re able to bring you so much good content is the support we get from our industry sponsors. In this issue we also have a record number of sponsors, including Mobilitie, Crown Castle, CommScope, JMA Wireless, Corning, Huber+Suhner, American Tower, Extreme Networks, Oberon, Cox Business, 5 Bars, Boingo Wireless and Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company. The support of our sponsors allows Mobile Sports Report to not only do all the work necessary to bring you these great stories, but it also allows us to offer our reports to readers free of charge! We’d also like to welcome new readers from the Inside Towers community, who may have found their way here via our new partnership with the excellent publication Inside Towers.

Download the Fall 2017 Stadium Tech Report today!

Delivery of food and beverage to all seats off the menu at Levi’s Stadium

Screen shot from Levi’s Stadium app from 2015 showing active in-seat delivery option.

The ability for every fan in the house to order food delivery to their seat — one of the signature services of Levi’s Stadium since its opening — is now off the menu.

At Thursday night’s game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams, in-seat delivery of mobile-app orders of food and drink was only available to club seat sections at the Niners’ home stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., according to several sources close to the team and the stadium.

Though there is no official statement yet from the team, it’s believed that the in-seat ordering and delivery service — which worked well except for one major early glitch — was mostly popular in premium seating areas at Levi’s, but not widely used otherwise.

While the Niners provided delivery-order statistics for the first year of operation of Levi’s Stadium, since then they’ve only reported orders in vague terms, last claiming average order totals of between 2,000 and 2,500 per game during the 2015 season. It’s also not clear if those numbers included both delivery orders as well as mobile-device orders for express pickup, where fans use the app to place and pay for an order, and then go pick it up at an express window.

The most likely reason for cutting off the service to the full stadium is that fans simply didn’t use it, and at some point it made no sense to keep staffing a service that wasn’t producing any income. What’s still unclear is whether the move is permanent, or whether it could be replaced in time, given that since Levi’s Stadium has opened, the Niners have routinely made changes to how the stadium app works and what services it offers. What was also unclear was how many club seats are still able to order deliveries, and whether or not the express pickup option is also still available.

For Super Bowl 50, the NFL nixed the food part of the delivery service at Levi’s, limiting it to just drinks. However, Super Bowl fans did give the drink delivery and the ability to order food and beverages for express pickup a good workout, with 3,284 total orders, 67 percent higher than the top order mark for a Niners’ regular-season game.

An ambitious experiment

Early on, there was much enthusiasm from the Niners for the in-seat delivery service, and their ambitious goal to make it work for every potential fan in the 68,500-seat venue. While almost every major professional and large collegiate sports venue has some kind of delivery service for premium seats or expanded sections, there is no other football-size venue that has attempted what the Niners have offered at Levi’s Stadium the past three seasons.

Why the full-stadium delivery option never caught on at Levi’s Stadium is most likely due to many reasons, beginning with the fact that it’s still not something most fans expect, unless they are in premium seating areas. There is also the question of how many fans actually download and use the stadium app while at the game, another statistic not regularly reported by teams.

While the service has always been available at Niners’ home games, other events at Levi’s Stadium, like Wrestlemania 31, have declined to have the service available while others, like the Grateful Dead, chose to keep the service in place. According to the Niners, the choice of having delivery available was always made by the event and not by the team.

It’s interesting to note that VenueNext, the app development company started in part by the 49ers, does not have another customer among its growing list of pro team clients that offers full-stadium delivery of app-ordered concessions. Mobile Sports Report has learned that one VenueNext team may start offering drink delivery to fans, but it’s not clear if that will be a full-stadium option.

Another stadium app startup with food-delivery services, TapIn2, has systems to deliver concessions ordered via app to the lower bowl at the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Quicken Loans Arena, and for club-seat sections at the Cincinnati Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium.

Patriots, Extreme claim 8 TB of Wi-Fi used during NFL opener

Credit: Patriots.com

It looks like those NFL stadium Wi-Fi upgrades over the past couple years are paying off, with big numbers starting to roll in as the 2017 season gets underway. Tops on the numbers list so far is a report from Extreme Networks claiming a total of 8.08 terabytes of traffic was seen on the Wi-Fi network at Gillette Stadium for the NFL season opener, a 42-27 win by the visiting Kansas City Chiefs over the New England Patriots on Sept. 7.

The Patriots, one of several teams to significantly upgrade their Wi-Fi system before last season, saw a 5.11 TB mark during last year’s AFC Championship game, which (briefly) made the unofficial top 5 single-day Wi-Fi events list we’ve been keeping at MSR. Since then we’ve heard about a 7.25 TB game at AT&T Stadium for the Packers-Cowboys playoff tilt, and more recently a 6.2 TB mark seen at Notre Dame, for its Sept. 9 game against Georgia.

The Patriots’ 8-plus number came from an impressive number of fans using the network — according to Extreme, there were 41,377 unique users (out of 65,878 in attendance) on the network that day, with a peak concurrent user number of 33,909. Extreme also said the network saw peak throughput of 11.1 Gbps. These numbers are closing in on Super Bowl territory, with Super Bowl LI’s 11.8 TB mark now clearly in jeopardy when the big game rolls back around in Feburary. We are also waiting to see what the numbers are like from Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which hosts the Falcons’ regular-season home opener this weekend against Green Bay. Though there are no official reports yet, we have heard rumors that the MBS network did very well in preseason, so we’re guessing the list below will get a number of resets this season.

Got any numbers we need to know about? Send ’em in!

THE LATEST TOP 9 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. Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., Sept. 7, 2017: Wi-Fi: 8.08 TB
4. Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys, Divisional Playoffs, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, Jan. 15, 2017: Wi-Fi: 7.25 TB
5. WrestleMania 32, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, April 3, 2016: Wi-Fi: 6.77 TB
6. Super Bowl 49, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., Feb. 1, 2015: Wi-Fi: 6.23 TB
7. Georgia vs. Notre Dame, Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind., Sept. 9, 2017: Wi-Fi: 6.2 TB
8. Alabama vs. Texas A&M, Kyle Field, College Station, Texas, Oct. 17, 2015: Wi-Fi: 5.7 TB
9. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots, AFC Championship Game, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., Jan. 22, 2017: Wi-Fi: 5.11 TB

NFL Wi-Fi update: AT&T Stadium adds 667 APs

A row shot of the under-seat APs at AT&T Stadium. Photo: Dallas Cowboys

With today’s main NFL season schedule already underway, here is a quick update on all the NFL stadium Wi-Fi updates we know about that are either finished or still under construction for the 2017 season:

— AT&T Stadium, already the location of the biggest (by number of APs) stadium network we know of, is in the process of adding another 667 APs, a project scheduled to be finished in the next few weeks. According to John Winborn, CIO for the Dallas Cowboys Football Club, the new APs are all the Cisco 3800 two-radio models, and will be installed on the stadium’s 400-level seating area.

When done, AT&T Stadium will have 2,567 APs, with plans to add another 400 in the upcoming offseason. After that, said Winborn, AT&T Stadium will “be out of locations in the stadium to place additional APs without additional spectrum opening up.” (editor’s note: This post has been updated to correct an error in reporting that previously stated that 600 new APs had been installed.)

— In Atlanta, the fans are getting ready for the first regular-season game at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which will have nearly 1,800 APs total, many of those under the seats in the bowl.

— As previously reported in MSR, Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High is in the process of ripping and replacing its former Wi-Fi network, installing 1,470 new Cisco 3800s in a project scheduled for completion by late October/early November.

— In Philadephia, Lincoln Financial Field is in the process of switching from an Extreme Networks deployment to a new one using Wi-Fi gear from Panasonic. More details on this project are promised later this fall.

— In Seattle, the Seahawks’ IT team is adding additional APs to improve coverage in the four corners of the upper seating sections of CenturyLink Field, according to Chip Suttles, vice president of technology for the Seahawks. Suttles said a full offseason tuning assessment with gear provider Extreme Networks also saw a new channel plan put in place, and “multiple Wi-Fi antenna orientations to improve coverage.”

— Detroit’s Ford Field also got a Wi-Fi (and DAS) upgrade over the past offseason, a revamp that will now allow all visitors, and not just Verizon Wireless customers, to use the stadium Wi-Fi.

— Chicago Bears fans will finally have free Wi-Fi this season, after being forced to pay for access previously.

— Following the announcement that the Arizona Cardinals were switching from CDW to Cox Business as the exclusive technology provider for the University of Phoenix Stadium, the UoP Stadium network was set for some additional APs and some network tuning ahead of the NFL season, according to Mark Feller, vice president of technology for the Cardinals.

Anyone else we miss? Send us the info… and the speedtests!

Verizon: Still no data charges for live NFL streaming via NFL Mobile app

There’s less fanfare around the decision this year (and no official press release we can find) but according to Verizon for the 2017 NFL season the wireless carrier will continue its plan from last year and won’t charge its metered-plan customers for data used while watching live NFL games via the NFL Mobile app.

As we noted last year, some of the most-read stories in Mobile Sports Report history have been posts wondering about how much data customers might use watching a live football game on their phones. The answer now, for many Verizon customers, is easy: It’s still zero. You will still need to pay $1.99 a month again this fall to watch RedZone on your phone via NFL Mobile, but watching the live local and national-broadcast games (like Sunday night games and Monday Night Football) won’t chew up any of the gigabytes in your data plan. That is, if you have a data plan.

Where it may get tricky — and NFL Mobile and Verizon have a history of things not going quite as planned — is when it comes to customers on Verizon’s new “unlimited” plans. The first reply we got from our Verizon contact said, “Customers with metered plans will also enjoy games data free.”

But what about unlimited customers, we asked. Would NFL Mobile live-action data still be charged to them? This matters somewhat because the plans aren’t truly unlimited — some slowdowns to service can occur if you use more than 22 GB of data during a billing cycle. So it’s unclear to us what will happen if “unlimited” NFL Mobile users go past that number by say, watching every game possible over a cellular connection.

Does that mean that NFL Mobile junkies might actually do better with a metered plan than an unlimited plan? We have no clue. Here is the clarified second response to that question when we posed it to a Verizon spokesperson, so see if it makes sense to you:

Regarding unlimited; most of the time you’ll enjoy the same network experience after your line exceeds 22 GB during a billing cycle. If you exceed 22 GB…and you’re on a cell site that’s congested at that time, it may affect your streaming.

This may be just a small-potatoes quibble, but readers please let us know if things aren’t as free as they should be. What is helpful to know is this fact from the Verizon spokesperson: “Data usage from NFL Mobile may accrue real time when watching, but will be removed afterward in 24-48 hours.” Close watchers of data totals last year hit our comment boards with tales of being charged for NFL Mobile game-watching, but we believe it all turned out right in the end. But our comments space is always open if it doesn’t so please, NFL Mobile fans, keep letting us know what’s really happening out there.

As we also noted last year, many NFL Mobile veterans almost always seek a Wi-Fi connection when they are streaming NFL Mobile games, because better bandwidth and no data charges.

And remember: You can’t watch NFL Mobile live games on your tablet, because Verizon’s rights package only includes cellular phone-type devices.

Denver Broncos, Verizon bring Wi-Fi blitz to Sports Authority Field at Mile High

Railing-mounted Wi-Fi enclosures in the lower seating bowl at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any photo for a larger image)

Even as the team on the field seeks to regain its recent Super Bowl champion status, Denver Broncos fans will have something they can all cheer this season — vastly improved Wi-Fi networking service, which is now available to all fans and not just Verizon Wireless customers.

Even though we found good connectivity on our last visit to Sports Authority Field at Mile High two seasons ago, the caveat was that Wi-Fi was only available to Verizon customers, since the carrier couldn’t find another wireless provider who would chip in to fund the system. Fast-forward to later in 2016, when Verizon and the Broncos sought to upgrade the entire system and ended up picking a $6 million bid from Cisco to install a total of 1,470 new Wi-Fi APs, replacing the 640 APs in the old system, which started out with 500 Cisco APs in 2011 and added some more over the years.

The new network, which is scheduled to be fully completed by late October or early November this year, is already live in parts of the lower bowl at Mile High as well as in many concourse, suite and back-of-house locations. The big difference inside the hardware is the Broncos’ and Verizon’s choice of using the new Cisco 3800 APs, which can have two separate antennas in each device, basically doubling the amount of connectivity per unit. The new network will be powered by a new 10-gig backbone pipe provided by CenturyLink, replacing the 1-Gbps pipe that was previously used.

Close-up of a lower-bowl railing AP mount.

Cisco 3800s are proving to be a popular choice in venues lately, being picked for recent deployments at the San Jose Sharks’ SAP Center and at Notre Dame Stadium.

“The 3800 is a game-changer,” said Russ Trainor, the Broncos’ vice president of information technology, during a stadium tour Tuesday, citing its ability to connect more fans per device. Perhaps the most visually striking note of the upgrade is the huge amount of new railing-mounted APs in the building, with several per row not an uncommon sight in the lower bowl. Jason Moore, a senior IT engineer with the Broncos (and as Trainor calls him, a “Wi-Fi wizard”) said the enclosures are all custom designs from a local provider, with some of the fiberglass structures housing not just Wi-Fi but Verizon DAS antennas as well.

(Right now, the DAS situation at Mile High remains unchanged from our last visit, with all cellular carriers basically running their own operations.)

Going under-seat in bright orange fashion

The other new deployment method being used by the Broncos is under-seat placement, a tactic used for about 90 APs so far, half of those in the South end zone seats, where there are no overhead structures at all. Overhead AP placements are also being used in the main seating bowl, mainly to serve rows at the tops of sections.

No mistaking where the under-seat APs are at Broncos games.

Unlike other stadiums, who try to hide the under-seat APs as best they can, the Broncos have gone the opposite direction, painting many a bright Broncos orange to show up under the Broncos blue seats. “The mounting options are just about getting the APs as close to fans as we can,” Moore said. “Railing [mounts] work great. Under seat is new to us, and we’re excited to see how they work.”

In a quick empty-stadium test, MSR found Wi-Fi speeds in the south stands of 46 Mbps download and 47 Mbps up, on both the all-access and Verizon-customer SSIDs. In section 309, right at the 50-yard line, we got a Wi-Fi speed reading of 69 Mbps down, 75 Mbps up. Verizon execs at the tour said that like at other NFL stadiums where Verizon helps provide the Wi-Fi, Verizon customers will have reserved bandwidth and an autoconnect feature that links them to Wi-Fi without any sign-in needed. Trainor said the Broncos are still undecided how to approach the all-access Wi-Fi onboarding, though the team is leaning in the favor of having some kind of portal approach to gather information from fans using the service.

Of the 1,470 planned new APs (that count may change as final tuning is made, Moore said), the Broncos plan to deploy 920 of those in the seating bowl. With many of those devices having two 5 GHz antennas for each AP, the Sports Authority Field at Mile High crowds should enjoy one of the league’s top network experiences when all the work is completed.

Both railing and under-seat deployments are used to bring Wi-Fi to the south stands.

Those readers who closely track MSR stories for such stats should know that we are now working on a new chart to show not just the top numbers of APs in stadiums, but actual radios and antennas thanks to devices like the Cisco 3800 that have more than one per unit. (Any and all help with such counts is appreciated, you know where to find us!)

Like other stadiums, the network in the bowl at Sports Authority Field at Mile High will switch to only 5 GHz connections when complete. Even a few years ago, stadiums needed to still support 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi connections for fans, but the quick shift in consumer devices has shown that almost all mobile devices used these days have a 5 GHz radio.

A string of summer concerts at the stadium (which still bears the name of the now-bankupt and closed sporting-goods business as the Broncos search for a new title sponsor) kept the network deployment from being completed sooner, but Trainor and Moore said the incremental improvements are already being noticed. With both the old system and new system working simultaneously, Moore said that at last week’s college game between the University of Colorado and Colorado State University, the network saw approximately 35,000 unique users — more than the typical 25,000 unique connections during a Broncos game when only Verizon customers could use the network.

“Our goal and challenge is to connect as many fans as possible,” Moore said.

A smaller railing mount seen in the upper deck (300 level) seating section

Wi-Fi antenna mounts in the ceiling of the United Club

Wi-Fi coverage also exists for the fan-gathering area outside the stadium to the south

No Wi-Fi here, just white horses