Levi’s Stadium sees its second-highest Wi-Fi mark with nearly 6 TB at Niners-Vikings playoff game

The video board shows team captains assembling before kickoff at last week’s playoff game between the Vikings and Niners at Levi’s Stadium. Credit: Brian Nitenson, MSR (click on any picture for a larger image)

The first NFL playoff game at Levi’s Stadium last Sunday saw the second-highest Wi-Fi data usage mark for the venue, with 5.95 terabytes used, according to figures provided by the San Francisco 49ers.

While that mark may eventually be eclipsed at this weekend’s NFL Championship game against the visiting Green Bay Packers, the packed house of 71,649 fans who witnessed the Niners’ 27-10 victory over the visiting Minnesota Vikings spent a lot of time using the stadium’s Wi-Fi network, with 21,195 unique connections recorded by the Niners. The peak concurrent connection number was 15,075, according to the Niners.

Of all the big events at Levi’s Stadium since its opening in 2014, only Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7, 2016, saw more Wi-Fi used by fans, with 10.1 TB used that day. Last January, a crowd of 74,814 attending the college football playoff championship game between Alabama and Clemson used 5.1 TB of Wi-Fi data, the previous No. 2 mark at Levi’s. Other big-event totals included 4.5 TB used during Wrestlemania 31 on March 29, 2015 (with 76,976 fans in attendance).

DAS also strong

Speedtest of the DAS network during Sunday’s game. Credit: Keith Newman, MSR

While Levi’s Stadium still has the original number of approximately 1,300 Aruba Wi-Fi APs as the opening-day design, the cellular distributed antenna network (DAS) has undergone additions and improvements almost since the venue opened, including a significant upgrade from Verizon ahead of Super Bowl 50. Though we don’t have an exact count yet of the total of DAS antennas in the stadium, from visits over the past few years MSR has seen more DAS antennas each time we’ve visited, no surprise since the bandwidth demands from fans continue to increase.

MSR contributing editor Keith Newman was at Sunday’s game and got strong DAS speed tests on the main concourse and on the stadium’s top levels, in the 30 Mbps range each time. On the press box level on Levi’s Stadium’s west side, he got a mark of 116 Mbps on the download and 33.2 Mbps on the upload.

Below, some more photos from our field team at Sunday’s game. If you are at the championship game this week, send us some pix and speedtests!

Wi-Fi and DAS antennas visible on the stadium structures. Credit: Keith Newman, MSR

Niners fans getting their tailgate on before the game. Credit: Brian Nitenson, MSR

Taylor Swift shows card 3+ TB each, and push Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi past half-million user mark

Taylor Swift at Levi's Stadium. All photos: Levi's Stadium (click on any picture for a larger image)

Taylor Swift at Levi’s Stadium. All photos: Levi’s Stadium (click on any picture for a larger image)

Because her humungous stage kept Levi’s Stadium from filling to capacity, Taylor Swift’s Aug. 14 and 15 shows didn’t come close to setting a Wi-Fi capacity record at the venue, as some had predicted. But with almost 20,000 unique users the first night and almost 24,000 the second, the “1989” tour events pushed the cumulative Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi user number past the half-million mark, just more than a year after the venue officially opened.

Thanks to Levi’s Stadium owners and operators, the San Francisco 49ers, we have some very interesting statistics about Wi-Fi use at large outdoor stadiums. Now that 509,524 unique users have logged in to the Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi network during its numerous football and other events, the networking team has some interesting observations, including the fact that concertgoers use more bandwidth than football fans.

Over the 28 events hosted at the stadium in the 54 weeks (not counting this past weekend’s preseason game with the Dallas Cowboys) the Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi network has carried a total of 56.88 terabytes of data, according to figures sent to us by Roger Hacker, senior manager, corporate communications for the Niners. One of the more interesting tidbits was the sustained connectivity during concert events; from Hacker, these direct notes:

Concerts generate up to 65% more load per fan than sporting events.

o For 2014 NFL season, the average fan on Wi-Fi used 100MB.

o For One Direction and Taylor concerts, the average fan consumed 164MB.

Concerts are generating higher sustained loads on the network than sporting events.

o For One Direction, the network was over 2 Gbps for 1 hour and 15 minutes continuously.

o For Taylor the network was over 2 Gbps for a total of 1 hour and 10 minutes continuously.

At many venues with Wi-Fi, the so-called “take rate” or the number of users actually logging in to the network is one key piece of data about how well the system is working. The idea is, the better it works, the more people log on. At the Taylor Swift concerts, the take rates were among the highest we’ve seen: For the first show with attendance of 50,393, there were 19,963 unique users on the Wi-Fi network; for the second show the numbers were 23,885 out of 52,479 in attendance.

Breaking 3 TB twice in a row

Let it be said, that even though the Swift concerts didn’t beat the all-time Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi mark of 4.5 TB set by WrestleMania 31 back in March, each of the shows passed the 3 TB total mark, with 3.31 TB used on Aug. 14 and 3.807 TB used on Aug. 15. And remember, that’s with just a little more than 50,000 fans in the house, far fewer than the 76,976 who crammed in for the wrassling on March 31.

But even at other events that might not be as high on the “gotta do it” list, fans at Levi’s used the Wi-Fi in high numbers, as another of Hacker’s notes spells out:

On average, nearly 40% of people attending an event at Levi’s use the Wi-Fi.

For the first year, the average attendance at all events was 46,400 based on the VenueNext valid scans. (including smaller events as well as bigger events)

For the first year, the average unique wifi users per event was 18,200 (or 39% of attendance)

On-field Aruba Networks Wi-Fi AP at Levi's Stadium

On-field Aruba Networks Wi-Fi AP at Levi’s Stadium

Part of what might have made the Swift audience bigger users of Wi-Fi was a new, improved temporary Wi-Fi network for the field seats, an innovation crafted by Wi-Fi gear supplier Aruba Networks and the Levi’s Stadium networking team. By putting temporary Wi-Fi APs on both the walls surrounding the field level, on railings in the temporary seats and even underneath the temporary flooring, the stadium provides service to the premium-seat customers, a challenge for NFL stadiums who must keep regular Sunday-game networks from bleeding into the field area (because that’s where the league operates its own Wi-Fi network for game operations). For what it’s worth, we also heard from DAS supplier DAS Group Professionals who said they were going to have temporary DAS antennas on the field as well for the Swift concerts. No DAS stats yet, however.

Earlier this summer at the annual SEAT Conference, we had a very interesting panel discussion about which stats really matter when it comes to stadium Wi-Fi usage — though I will always remain a sucker for top-line totals, I do agree that there should probably be separate categories for events like the Swift concerts, the WrestleMania events, and regular football games. What is catching my attention more lately are numbers like the sustained connectivity and the unique and concurrent numbers of users, since in the end the bottom line on stadium Wi-Fi network performance has to be how many people are using it. A year in, it looks like the Levi’s Stadium network has passed a crucial test, in that people are both finding it and using it, even if they are not regular attendees or season-ticket holders. Those facts say a lot about how well the Levi’s Stadium system works, and should be numbers stadium tech professionals look to when assessing their own deployments.

More Swift shots below. Enjoy.




Grateful Dead fans use 4.5 TB of Wi-Fi during Levi’s Stadium shows

The magical "rainbow" at June 27 Grateful Dead concert at Levi's Stadium. Credit all photos: Levi's Stadium

The magical “rainbow” at June 27 Grateful Dead concert at Levi’s Stadium. Credit all photos: Levi’s Stadium

Fans at the two Grateful Dead concerts at Levi’s Stadium last weekend used a total of 4.5 terabytes of data on the stadium’s Wi-Fi network, not near a record total but about the same each night as a regular NFL crowd Wi-Fi total from the past season, Niners officials said.

Roger Hacker, the 49ers’ senior manager for corporate communications, said the fans attending the “Fare thee Well” concerts last weekend used 2.37 TB of Wi-Fi data on Saturday June 27 and another 2.13 on Sunday June 29, both marks well below the 4.5 TB record set by the WrestleMania 31 event in March. The separate Dead concert totals were also below the 3.3 TB mark set during the Niners’ home football opener last Sept. 14 against the Chicago Bears.

Grateful Dead stage view

Grateful Dead stage view

According to Hacker the Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi network saw 17,824 unique users on Saturday and 23,152 on Sunday, roughly around 20 percent of attendance each night (according to Hacker the concert attendance was 75,496 on Saturday and 74,947 on Sunday; the Levi’s Stadium attendance record so far is the WrestleMania 31 event, at 77,496.). The concert also saw the second use of the new Levi’s Stadium on-field temporary Wi-Fi network, which serves the temporary seats set on the stadium’s field. The 41 extra Wi-Fi APs, Hacker said, supported another 989 users Saturday and 1,050 users on Sunday. The field network used a mix of APs installed on the sideline walls as well as APs mounted on railings and underneath the floor surface.

Though there were more users on the network Sunday, there was more data used Saturday, most likely because of a somewhat magical rainbow that appeared over the stadium during the show, an atmospheric event that triggered the highest peak rate of usage, 2.29 Gbps. While the Levi’s Stadium app also was supporting in-seat food delivery for the concerts, Hacker did not have any food ordering stats to share.

Deadheads found the Wi-Fi at Levi's Stadium

Deadheads found the Wi-Fi at Levi’s Stadium

WrestleMania 31 resets Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi record with 4.5 terabytes of data used

WrestleMania 31 at Levi's Stadium, March 29, 2015. Credit all images: 49ers.com (click on any photo for a larger image)

WrestleMania 31 at Levi’s Stadium, March 29, 2015. Credit all images: 49ers.com (click on any photo for a larger image)

The biggest crowd yet at Levi’s Stadium also reset the venue’s Wi-Fi usage records, as the 76,976 fans at the March 29 WrestleMania 31 event used 4.5 terabytes of data on the in-stadium network, according to representatives from the San Francisco 49ers, the stadium’s owner and operator.

The WrestleMania mark eclipsed the previous Wi-Fi high-water figure of 3.3 TB, recorded during the Niners’ home opener at Levi’s Stadium on Sept. 14, 2014. However, the WWE event’s record should come with a bit of an interesting asterisk, since the Niners said they built a temporary ground-level extension to the Wi-Fi network that was used by approximately 3,700 fans who were sitting in seats on the field, surrounding the WrestleMania stage. The team also put in extra Wi-Fi coverage for the three temporary seating sections that were erected in the Levi’s Stadium southeast plaza, structures that will likely be part of the configuration for Super Bowl 50 next February.

WrestleMania competition

WrestleMania competition

“We considered the event a success from a Wi-Fi standpoint considering the temporary APs served almost 4,000 people and moved a large amount of data,” said Roger Hacker, senior manager, corporate communications for the San Francisco 49ers. “We moved a significant amount of traffic all the while seeing minimal negative comments on social media.”

In a related note, it seems like beefed-up train and bus service from light rail entity VTA kept lines and waits to a minimum, even with a record number of fans also using public transportation to the event. At the very least, the Levi’s Stadium team seems to be back on a positive path after some painful lessons learned during the Feb. 21 Coors Light Stadium Series hockey game. Remember also that WWE did not want in-seat food or merchandise delivery available during the event, which proabably helped make network operations easier.

Under-seat APs and handrail antennas

According to Hacker the field-level network used 76 extra access points, with 69 on the field level itself and seven more on the field-level walls. Hacker said a combination of picocell and handrail enclosures were used for the temporary network, which was necessary since the regular stadium-bowl configuration was never designed to handle traffic for events with fans on the field level.

wm4Hacker also said the temporary network had its own switching infrastructure, with eight portable switching pods connected by both fiber and outdoor Ethernet cabling. The results from the WrestleMania event, Hacker said, will help the Niners and Levi’s Stadium staff prepare for future events with on-field seating, like the concerts scheduled for later this spring and summer.

The Niners said their goal with the WrestleMania temporary network “experiment” (which they believe to be the first ever done for a large outdoor event) was to see whether the Levi’s Stadium under-seat design could be extended to the field for temporary events “in a cost-effective, safe and repeatable manner. From what we experienced with WrestleMania 31, every indication is that we will be able to do that.”

Some more network stats from the WrestleMania 31 event:

— The peak concurrent user mark was 14,800 on the Wi-Fi network at around 8:10 p.m.

— The Wi-Fi network carried 1.61 Gbps of average continuous bandwidth from 2:20 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., also a new stadium record

— The peak bandwidth usage was 2.474 Gbps at 7:10 p.m.

— Usage on the Levi’s Stadium DAS network was not reported.

Overhead shot of Levi's Stadium during WrestleMania 31, showing on-field seating

Overhead shot of Levi’s Stadium during WrestleMania 31, showing on-field seating

Levi’s Stadium won’t have in-seat food delivery for Wrestlemania 31

Screen shot of Levi's Stadium app with in-seat delivery option missing in action. Credit: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Screen shot of Levi’s Stadium app with in-seat delivery option missing in action. Credit: Paul Kapustka, MSR

When WWE fans invade Levi’s Stadium on March 29 for Wrestlemania 31, they will have to wrestle their own way to the concession stands for food and drink, because the in-seat food delivery feature of the Levi’s Stadium app won’t be available for that event, according to stadium app officials.

Louise Callagy, vice president of marketing for Levi’s Stadium app developer VenueNext, said Monday that the choice not to have in-seat food and beverage delivery was made by the WWE, and not by Levi’s Stadium officials, or by the San Francisco 49ers, or by VenueNext.

“Levi’s Stadium plays host to many shows and producers, and as part of that, these producers get to decide how they want to use the stadium and the Levi’s Stadium app,” said Callagy in an email reply. “We provide recommendations and they make choices. For Wrestlemania, we understand WWE chose to provide fans the option to order food and drink via Express pick up only, because they did not want to distract guests from the show with in seat deliveries.”

Since we haven’t yet talked to anyone from WWE, it’s unknown if the organization’s decision to “tap out” on in-seat delivery was influenced at all by the snafu that surfaced during the recent Coors Light Stadium Series hockey game at Levi’s Stadium, when a flood of in-seat orders apparently overwhelmed either the app operations or the runner staff, resulting in numerous orders being stalled and/or cancelled without explanation. The Wrestlemania event will be the first big-time professional or college event at Levi’s without the in-seat delivery service available since the Niners’ home opener last Sept. 14. In-seat delivery was available at all Niners’ home games this past season, as well as at two college games and at the hockey game on Feb. 21.

Taking a look at the Levi’s Stadium app on our phone on Monday, with its Wrestlemania 31 cover, the in-seat delivery feature is already gone from the top menu list of app functionality. What is still appearing is the “Express Pickup” feature, where fans at the stadium can use the app to order and pay for food ahead of time and then pick it up at the closest concessions window, theoretically avoiding the long lines that regularly plague all stadiums, including Levi’s.