Connecting the Big Games
The San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos talk stadium connectivity for the increasingly wired future.
Professional football is big business, and in the connected age, big business demands connectivity—the more, the better. From location-based alerts and ads transmitted from wireless beacons to nearby smartphones, to the unquantifiable but undeniable viral impact of photos, videos, and real-time reactions shared by fans with their social media followers all over the world, events like the Super Bowl can drive conversations (and sales) both near and far. But that's only if venue infrastructures can stand up to demand. With a 10-year deal signed with Comcast and NBCUniversal last month, the San Francisco 49ers hope their new Levi's Stadium will do just that.
Game day is about more than the game itself, as Mike Tighe, executive director of data services at Comcast, told me. And in addition to amenities like Jumbotron scoreboards and a better food selection at the concession stand, "connectivity has changed the game day experience too, because the technology-savvy fan demands another amenity—reliable, high-speed access from their mobile device at the game," he said. Indeed, carrier data traffic at last Sunday's Super Bowl XLVIII hit some all-time highs. According to Ars Technica, "AT&T reported that its customers used 624GB of data at the stadium," higher than at any other single-day sporting event the carrier has measured, while Verizon customers used 1.9TB of data on the Verizon network alone, a measurement that Verizon said does not include Wi-Fi.
To support the connectivity demand at the "massive and open" new 68,500-seat stadium, Comcast Business will provide redundant 10Gbps Ethernet Internet access and sponsor free Wi-Fi for fans, along with other voice and video services. "Internet applications such as social media and video sites will only increase bandwidth requirements and usage over the coming years," Dan Williams, senior director of technology for the San Francisco 49ers, told me. The infrastructure and services Comcast will provide will "enable us to scale throughput-wise to meet the needs of our employees and fans alike," he said.
The 49ers, opposing teams, and fans will have a chance to put Levi's Stadium to the test in the upcoming season, when the stadium opens. Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos may still be stinging from their recent defeat, but at least Mile High Stadium will experience some improvements during the off-season. Wi-Fi "has become very important for both internal employees, partner concessionaires, and most of all the fans," Russ Trainor, Denver Broncos VP of information technology, said. The Broncos are planning Wi-Fi upgrades in the Upper Bowl and Media Heavy areas of Mile High and hope to see AT&T and Sprint join the stadium's Wi-Fi system, which only Verizon customers can access currently. Additionally, Trainor said, "I can see us migrating to the new 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard in the next year or two as well."
Wireless coverage, throughput, and bandwidth have become important considerations for any enterprise thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices and the rise of BYOD. As the Internet of Things takes hold, these considerations will become ever more critical. From SMBs to the NFL, everyone needs to be connected. And with billions of dollars at stake, the NFL appears eager to make those connections happen.
Header photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Jude Chao is managing editor of Enterprise Networking Planet. Follow her on Twitter @judechao.