NRG Stadium hit 4.11 TB on Wi-Fi for Texans-Raiders playoff game

NRG Stadium. Credit: Houston Texans Instagram

NRG Stadium. Credit: Houston Texans Instagram

In what became the last live tune-up before the Super Bowl, NRG Stadium in Houston saw fans use 4.11 terabytes of data on the venue’s new Wi-Fi network during Houston’s 27-14 playoff victory over Oakland on Jan. 7, according to the Texans.

Jeff Schmitz, vice president of information technology for the Texans, said that NRG Stadium also saw approximately 35,000 unique users on the network at the playoff game, a 48 percent take rate against the total attendance of 71,790. The peak concurrent user number for the game was almost 24,000 users, with all numbers setting season highs for the network that debuted at the NFL season start, according to Schmitz.

“The playoff game was definitely the biggest” network-traffic day for the Texans, said Schmitz in a phone interview. During the talk Schmitz clarified that the network went through a serious up-and-down stretch during the middle of the season, due to under-seat Wi-Fi AP enclosures that didn’t completely seal out moisture.

Under seat APs visible down seating row. Credit: 5 Bars

Under seat APs visible down seating row. Credit: 5 Bars

While MSR had previously reported on the issue, Schmitz clarified that the full replacement of the APs took place in late October, meaning that the network staff had to basically re-tune and adjust the network in the later months of the season.

But the 4.11 TB mark and the large number of connected users for the playoff game was a sign that the network was in fine shape for Sunday’s Super Bowl LI, where if history offers any guidance there might be another new record set for single-day Wi-Fi usage.

The number to beat is the 10.1 TB mark from Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium last February, part of a 26 TB wireless day (with 15.9 TB recorded on cellular and DAS networks).

Wi-Fi coaches staying for Super Bowl

Schmitz also said that the Extreme Networks “Wi-Fi coaches” would be on hand for Super Sunday, helping fans figure out how to connect to the Extreme-based network and its 1,250 APs.

“We thought we’d only keep the coaches (who roam the stadium helping fans with network issues) for half a season, but with the switch [in APs] we ended up having them there for every game,” Schmitz said.

Wi-Fi gear visible above concourse kiosk. Credit: 5 Bars

Wi-Fi gear visible above concourse kiosk. Credit: 5 Bars

Having the Wi-Fi coaches at the Super Bowl also makes sense since many fans at that game will likely be visiting NRG Stadium for the first time, as opposed to Texans season ticket holders.

Though NRG Stadium won’t have to contend with temporary structures like those built on the concourses at Levi’s Stadium last year, Schmitz said there is some extra network work ahead to make sure the auxiliary press box area has “beefed up” Wi-Fi as well as wired connections for media use.

Another thing missing from last year’s Super Bowl is the ability for fans in any seat to order beverage delivery via the game-day app. Though details of services for the Super Bowl app have yet to be fully announced, Schmitz said the only in-seat delivery would be for premium club-level seats, which in addition to app-based ordering will have live humans who can take orders from fans for in-seat delivery, something Texans fans have available during regular-season games.

“That service [fans ordering from servers] gets used the most,” Schmitz said.

NRG Stadium Wi-Fi ‘soft launches’ at Texans preseason game

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 10.35.17 AMThe Houston Texans gave their fans more to cheer about with a 16-9 preseason victory over the New Orleans Saints last Saturday, but what might have made a lot of people happy at NRG Stadium was the unofficial debut of the stadium’s new Wi-Fi network, which was available in a sort of “soft launch” mode.

We say “sort of,” because according to people who were at the game there was pretty heavy promotion of the new network’s availability, with bandwidth sponsor Comcast distributing flyers in seat cup-holders as well as making in-stadium announcements about the wireless connectivity. NRG Stadium had been one of the few NFL venues without Wi-Fi, but with the Super Bowl headed to Houston at the end of this season installing Wi-Fi became a priority.

Starting after the Final Four concluded this past spring, integrator 5 Bars and Wi-Fi gear provider Extreme Networks got busy, eventually installing approximately 1,250 Wi-Fi APs inside NRG Stadium. According to 5 Bars representatives, many of the APs in the seating bowl were installed under the seats, a deployment method that is becoming a trend in larger stadiums.

Though we don’t have any stats yet (since the network isn’t really “officially” launched) we did hear from network sources that there was a good uptake on the system, and we are looking forward to watching the Wi-Fi’s performance this season leading up to Super Bowl 51 in February. If any fans out there hit another Texans game anytime soon, send us a speedtest of the Wi-Fi!

5 Bars finally gets official nod for Wi-Fi deployment at Houston’s NRG Stadium; but will use Extreme gear instead of Ruckus

NRGstadium_1It took a long time, but wireless deployment firm 5 Bars was finally given the official approval as the company leading the installation of Wi-Fi at Houston’s NRG Stadium, which is scheduled to host Super Bowl 51 in 2017.

Though construction won’t be started until after the 2016 NCAA Men’s Final Four — which also takes place at NRG — the network is scheduled to be completed in time for the next NFL season, according to 5 Bars. The only change from previous reports about this deal is that 5 Bars will be using Wi-Fi gear from Extreme Networks, and not Ruckus Wireless, apparently due to the NFL’s preference to have gear it is familiar with at a Super Bowl venue.

Given the sensitivity of the process and the gear-switch outcome, and the timing of the holidays, it’s perhaps understandable that calls and emails for comments to the stadium authorities, the NFL, and both Ruckus and Extreme have not yet been returned. The best we can guess is that with huge wireless demands expected at all Super Bowls going forward, the NFL — which gets extremely involved in Super Bowl venue preparations and management — didn’t want to have to work with gear it was unfamiliar with for a “big game.” Extreme, which has an exclusive-supplier deal with the league, is currently being used in nine NFL stadiums, though not in any that have recently held a Super Bowl.

Monnie McGaffigan, senior vice president for 5 Bars, who did confirm that 5 Bars originally submitted a joint bid with Ruckus for the NRG network, said 5 Bars remains “extremely happy” with the Ruckus gear it used in its Wi-Fi deployment at Angels Stadium in Anaheim. But now that the end result is a switch to Extreme, she said that 5 Bars is “getting ready to get boots on the ground” in January, doing local prep work for when the deployment will start in earnest at the home of the NFL’s Houston Texans.

According to McGaffigan, the network will use approximately 1,100 Wi-Fi APs, with under-seat deployments used for a majority of the in-bowl APs. Backhaul for the network will use 5-gigabit Ethernet pipes that are burstable to 10 Gbps, McGaffigan said. Verizon Wireless, which runs the DAS at NRG Stadium, is also apparently going to have its own Wi-Fi bandwidth at NRG like existing deals it has in place at NFL stadiums including Green Bay’s Lambeau Field and Seattle’s CenturyLink Field.

For 5 Bars, the deal is a signature win, a big second step up from its Wi-Fi and DAS deployment at Angels Stadium. While McGaffigan said the small startup-ish firm based in Irvine, Calif., has some other interesting projects afoot — including wireless infrastructure for tollroads and downtown city areas — she said the company is “excited to win a big deal like this.”