NFL Wi-Fi update: Cox Business signs tech deal with Arizona Cardinals; Panasonic replaces Extreme at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field

The Arizona Cardinals and Cox Business announced a new multi-year agreement that makes Cox Business the “exclusive technology solutions provider” for the team and its home stadium, the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. The new deal sees Cox Business replacing CDW as the main integrator for technology deployments at UoP Stadium, a venue that regularly sees big-time audiences for NFL games, Super Bowls, and the Fiesta Bowl.

While the Cardinals and Cox Business have been partners since 2006, the new deal calls for Cox Business to add in support and development of the stadium’s Wi-Fi and networking infrastructure, as well as to provide technical support. Previously, CDW handled those tasks at UoP Stadium.

On the other side of the country, Panasonic’s nascent big-venue Wi-Fi business got a win when the Philadelphia Eagles selected Panasonic to replace the Extreme Networks Wi-Fi deployment inside Philly’s Lincoln Financial Field this offseason. Though the Eagles declined to comment on the new deployment to MSR at this time, John Pawling, the team’s vice president of information, had this to say in a Panasonic press release:

“Upgrading Lincoln Financial Field’s Wi-Fi network is all part of our team’s ongoing commitment to providing the best in-game experience for our fans,” Pawling said in what Panasonic said was a prepared statement. “Our hope is that by staying ahead of the curve and collaborating with global leaders like Panasonic, we will have the ability to take the fan experience to the next level.”

Extreme, whose gear is currently used in nine other NFL venues, was part of a Wi-Fi deployment at the Linc done back in 2013, part of at $125 million renovation done at that time. Neither Extreme nor the Eagles would comment about the switch to Panasonic.

Stadium Tech Report — NFL stadium technology reports — NFC East

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 EAST

Reporting by Chris Gallo

Dallas Cowboys
AT&T Stadium
Seating Capacity: 105,121
Wi-Fi – Yes, 1,525 access points
DAS – Yes, 1,374 antennas
Beaconing – No

AT&T Fan Experience board with single message

AT&T Fan Experience board with single message

Everything is bigger in Texas – including connectivity. AT&T Stadium features 1,525 Wi-Fi access points and 1,374 DAS antennas. That’s enough cellular capacity to service the small suburb of McKinney, Texas. While watching Tony Romo target Dez Bryant, Cowboys fans will notice a new 130-foot LED display along the east platform. The AT&T Fan Experience board features 40 robotic panels that work in combination with other stadium displays to entertain fans all game along. And don’t forget the big TV hanging in the middle of the place!

New York Giants
MetLife Stadium
Seating Capacity: 82,500
Wi-Fi – Yes, 850 access points
DAS – Yes, over 600 antennas
Beaconing – No

The Super Bowl champions just three years ago, it appears their bunk mates’ play is rubbing off on the Giants. Like the cross-town Jets, the G-Men missed the playoffs for the second straight season last year. If it’s any consolation, the Giants still share one sports top venues in MetLife Stadium. AT&T and Verizon gave enough love and attention the stadium last year as host of Super Bowl XLVII. Over 600 DAS antennas, 850 Wi-Fi access points, Cisco StadiumVision with over 2,100 HD TVs around the concourse – that’s a recipe for a good time at a game, at least from a connectivity standpoint.

Philadelphia Eagles
Lincoln Financial Field
Seating Capacity: 69,176
Wi-Fi – Yes, 600+ access points
DAS-Yes
Beaconing – No

Lincoln Financial Field is one of the “greenest” stadiums in all of professional sports. And that’s not just because of the Eagles’ colors. All (100 percent) of the Eagles operations are powered by the sun and the wind. The stadium’s connectivity is something fans can get behind too. With over 600 Wi-Fi access points and a group of Extreme Networks’ “Wi-Fi coaches”, the Eagles are doing everything they can to make sure fans are connected at games.

Washington Redskins
FedEx Field
Seating Capacity: 85,000
Wi-Fi – Limited / club level only
DAS-Yes
Beaconing – No

A new coach, name controversy, and a $27 million dollar renovation underway at FedEx Field. It’s been an offseason full of distractions in the nation’s capital. The good news: The team just signed a deal with supplier Huawei to put Wi-Fi in the stadium, first in the club seats and then (hopefully) next year in the full seating bowl.

Stadium Tech Report: Wi-Fi + advanced stadium app helps Philadelphia Eagles ‘Linc’ with fans

Wi-Fi gear on the exterior of Lincoln Financial Field. Credit all photos: Philadelphia Eagles

Wi-Fi gear on the exterior of Lincoln Financial Field. Credit all photos: Philadelphia Eagles

With victories in their first three games, the Philadelphia Eagles are off to a fast start this NFL season. And from a networking standpoint, Eagles fans are keeping pace, with Wi-Fi connections at Lincoln Financial Field already surpassing last year’s totals.

Now in the second season of having full-stadium Wi-Fi available for fans, the Eagles’ technology team is pushing the needle forward, much like the high-powered offense head coach Chip Kelly runs on the field. An already advanced stadium app will soon get even more video features, including instant replay, to further enhance the game experience for the 69,176 fans who fill the “Linc” on home-game Sundays.

According to Anne Gordon, the Eagles’ senior vice president for media and communications, there were more than 21,000 fans using the in-stadium Wi-Fi network at the team’s Sept. 7 opening game, a total that surpasssed the 19,671 users on the network at the Eagles’ final game last season, a 26-24 loss to the New Orleans Saints in a wild card game on Jan. 4, 2014.

Anne Gordon, SVP Media and Communications, Philadelphia Eagles

Anne Gordon, SVP Media and Communications, Philadelphia Eagles

Along with the growth in user numbers is an even greater jump in the amount of data being used; according to Gordon, the Eagles’ Extreme Networks-powered Wi-Fi network carried 946 Gigabytes of data in the Sept. 7 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, up from around 400 GB used during the playoff game in January. Unlike some other stadiums with Wi-Fi networks, Gordon said that the Linc network regularly sees fans download more data than they upload — a reflection of the team’s strategy to provide a wide range of custom content for fans to help improve the game-day experience.

“We want to help them become better fans, and improve their enjoyment of the game,” said Gordon in a recent phone interview. “That was our vision from the beginning.”

But to get to that vision, the Eagles first had to give fans a way to get the content. That meant using some of the $125 million in recent renovation fees to build out the stadium-wide Wi-Fi network, which Gordon said eliminated past connectivity headaches for Philadelphia fans.

Build it, and show them how to use it

Screen shot of Eagles' stadium app

Screen shot of Eagles’ stadium app

“Prior to the 2013 season, there were real issues trying to connect mobile devices in the stadium,” Gordon said. “You might get a signal, but then walk 20 steps and lose it. When we talked to fans, improving the wireless network [in the stadium] was high on their list.”

Working with partner Extreme Networks, which now runs Wi-Fi networks in four other NFL stadiums, the Eagles had stadium-wide coverage ready to go before the 2013 season kicked off. But unlike some venues, which do little to promote their in-stadium networks, the Eagles and Extreme brought some more NFL flavor to their wireless experience in the form of “Wi-Fi coaches,” network-savvy people who roamed the stands in readily identifiable clothing, offering personal assistance to fans trying to connect.

“We put notes in the cup holders the first few games of last season, and then had the coaches with jackets that said ‘ask me’ on them,” Gordon said. That little bit of assistance, she said, spreads quickly.

“If you connect one person, that fan shows six more people in the row [how to connect],” Gordon said. “Our fans took to the network immediately.”

And just in case fans need a refresher, the team’s website has perhaps the league’s best help pages, with simple screen shots showing how to install, open and use the most popular features on the team app.

Out front with app features

As we found out in our recent report on NFL stadium technology deployments, there are many teams with stadium Wi-Fi networks, but the level of application and content delivery varies from team to team. With a feature lineup that includes in-stadium access to the NFL’s popular RedZone channel alongside a live feed from the stadium’s large video boards, the Eagles’ app was clearly among the league leaders when it launched last year. And soon, Gordon said the Eagles will add more live camera views and replay choices to the menu, developments made possible in part by the team’s close relationship with app designer YinzCam Inc.

“We have a unique relationship with YinzCam, and work hand in hand with them [on new developments],” Gordon said. “We’re blessed in that we get a lot of things in our app first.” The Pittsburgh-based YinzCam, which has designed team and stadium apps for a long list of sports-team customers, is a preferred team-app partner of the NFL, which was an early investor in the company.

Can you find the Wi-Fi access point?

Can you find the Wi-Fi access point?

With a long history of full houses, Gordon said the team doesn’t need to use its network or app strategy to try to put people in seats.

“We are continuously sold out, so thankfully we don’t have to sell tickets [with the app],” said Gordon, noting that some fans have had season tickets in their families for several generations. That fact allows the Eagles’ tech team to make their digital strategy “100 percent about improving the game experience,” Gordon said. “We’re giving them a reason to download and consume.”

Not possible without the network

With more than 700,000 downloads of the stadium app so far, it appears as if the Eagles have a winning digital strategy to match the team’s recent on-field successes. Now the biggest challenge may be finding enough Internet bandwidth to keep the fans supplied with the in-game content.

“We are definitely bumping up against our [bandwidth] pipe threshold,” Gordon said. So far, it looks like the campaign to use content to improve the experience at the Linc is working — along with the network that links it all.

“If the [Wi-Fi] network doesn’t work, people get frustrated and don’t use the app,” Gordon said. “The network is what had to happen to make this vision possible.”

Tennessee Titans pick Extreme Networks for LP Field Wi-Fi deployment

LP FieldThe Tennessee Titans picked Extreme Networks to provide a Wi-Fi deployment at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., becoming the third NFL team to choose Extreme gear for wireless connectivity.

Along with Wi-Fi integrator PCM, Extreme said in a press release Monday that it will bring both its Wi-Fi networking gear as well as its analytics software to the Titans, to provide a free-for-fans wireless network to all parts of the 69,143-seat LP Field. Previously, Extreme had built Wi-Fi networks for the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Extreme may have a leg up when it comes to securing more NFL Wi-Fi deals, thanks to a deal announced earlier this year under which Extreme is the league’s “official provider” of Wi-Fi analytics. Though the deal doesn’t automatically provide Extreme with any signed contracts, in the follow-me world of sports technology deployments one successful implementation plus an endorsement from the league means that at the very least Extreme is on most short lists when NFL teams are seeking Wi-Fi providers. The company is also known for implementing the Wi-Fi coaches idea, where network-knowledgeable employees roam the stands at games to help fans connect to the Wi-Fi.

“Our fans are our number one priority, so being able to provide an enhanced experience for them is a tremendous opportunity,” said Don MacLachlan, executive vice president of administration and facilities for the Titans, in a prepared statement. “The partnership with Extreme will not only positively change the in-game atmosphere but will also allow us to garner deeper insights into how fans interact with their devices while they are in the stadium. Extreme’s Wi-Fi and analytics solution is unparalleled and we are confident we will receive encouraging feedback.”

According to Extreme the network is scheduled to be live in time for the start of the season. The Titans’ first home game of the regular season this year is Sept. 14 against the Dallas Cowboys.

Philadelphia Eagles will test CrowdOptic’s Google Glass tech at Lincoln Financial Field

Indiana Pacers cheerleaders wearing Google Glass. Credit: Indiana Pacers.

Indiana Pacers cheerleaders wearing Google Glass. Credit: Indiana Pacers.

After successfully convincing several NBA teams to use its Google Glass infrastructure technology, San Francisco startup CrowdOptic has scored an NFL deal, with the Philadelphia Eagles agreeing to test the company’s wearable-device apps at their home stadium, Lincoln Financial Field.

According to a press release out today, CrowdOptic will work with the Eagles’ infrastructure provider, Extreme Networks, which brought high-quality Wi-Fi to the stadium last year.

So far, the CrowdOptic technology has been used by the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic to provide Google Glass views to stadium jumbotrons. While having such an intimate, new point of view is interesting, CrowdOptic’s technology actually goes much deeper than simple broadcast enhancement; it can also provide a “heat map” of what an aggregate of Google Glass wearers are looking at, a feature that has many possible future applications. However, it’s unclear how stadiums and arenas might eventually regulate or administer Google Glass wearing by fans, and whether or not fans will ever be able to “broadcast” their own Google Glass video views.

“We are looking forward to testing this technology and finding ways to incorporate it into our gameday presentation,” said Brian Papson, Eagles Vice President of Marketing, in a prepared statement. “Our goal is always to provide our fans with unique and behind-the-scenes perspectives through a variety of different sources and we’re excited about the potential of using Google Glass technology through CrowdOptic.”

Extreme Networks, NFL announce deal for Wi-Fi analytics

Extreme Networks and the NFL today announced a deal that makes Extreme the league’s official provider of Wi-Fi analytics, a non-binding agreement that simply makes Extreme’s diagnostics technology available to teams with Wi-Fi networks in their stadiums.

Extreme will also be the official provider of Wi-Fi analytics for the upcoming Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, one of four NFL facilities currently using Extreme’s analytics technology. Two of those stadiums, the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., and the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, use Extreme equipment for their entire Wi-Fi installation.

While the deal does not mean that the NFL will be paying for any team to install full Wi-Fi networks using Extreme technology and equipment, it does give Extreme a bit of a leg up and some league-approved exposure as teams continue to look for suppliers to help them build out their internal wireless infrastructures. Wi-Fi analytics technology, typically housed in back-end networking gear, helps provide real-time looks into network performance, along with detailed statistics about how customers are using the networks, from what types of content they are uploading or downloading, to how long they are staying engaged. Operators can use such performance statistics to fine-tune networks as well as to figure out strategies for providing compelling, engaging content and a better overall fan experience with wireless.

“Enhancing the fan experience is one the NFL’s top priorities and the decision to team up with Extreme for Wi-Fi analytics is a great step forward in achieving our goals,” said NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle, in a prepared statement. “We were impressed with Extreme’s implementations with the Patriots and the Eagles and we believe this agreement will help our clubs deliver on the high standards we have put in place to give our fans the type of experience they deserve.”

In addition to its own deployments for the Eagles and Patriots, Extreme is also providing Wi-Fi analytics at MetLife Stadium and at Ford Field in Detroit, even though the overall Wi-Fi infrastructure at those fields uses equipment from different providers. John Brams, director of sports and entertainment at Extreme, said analytics provide a key component of stadium networks, giving operators valuable insight into performance metrics and into how and what users are using the network do to.

“When you ask questions like how do you measure the return on investment for the network, to answer those questions you need the stats,” Brams said in a phone interview. “One of the biggest things teams can leverage is visibility into their environment.”