Extreme Networks has been selected as the official Wi-Fi and analytics provider for Super Bowl 51 set to take place on Feb. 5, 2017 at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX, and the stats expected for the big game are nothing less than record shattering.
Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA on Feb. 7, 2016 resulted in 10.1 TB of data transferred over the Wi-Fi network, which broke previous data usage for any sporting event in history. Now, Super Bowl LI is expected to easily reach numbers well over 10 TB, according to Norman Rice, executive vice president of global marketing, supply chain and corporate development for Extreme Networks.
To support the expected data usage for Super Bowl 51, NRG Stadium underwent a retrofit to install Wi-Fi, and Extreme Networks partnered with 5 Bars to install 1,260 access points throughout the stadium complex. In addition, Extreme Networks will have 20 employees on hand during the Super Bowl to assist fans with connectivity and access to the Super Bowl Game Day App.
"What we're seeing trending in general is consumer activities going up. More and more people are consuming more and more rich content. I would expect each year you'll see usage continue to increase and the limiting factor is the internet pipe itself," Rice said.
Earlier this year, in an interview with TechRepublic, Michelle McKenna-Doyle, CIO of the NFL, said she didn't see a stopping point as to how much data fans would use. The NFL implemented a new wireless standard initiative in 2013 to have each of the 32 NFL stadiums either retrofit or build a new stadium to provide Wi-Fi connectivity to fans to enhance their experience. At this point, only Qualcomm in San Diego, and O.co Coliseum in Oakland, CA have not added Wi-Fi, because both Qualcomm Stadium and O.co are seeking to replace their existing stadiums with new buildings in the near future, so spending millions to upgrade at this point isn't financially feasible.
As for data usage among NFL fans, "They will consume as much as you give to them. You have to decide at some point what is the right balance, but I think it's proven the point that Wi-Fi is a utility like water and power, and now it's not an optional thing that you add," McKenna-Doyle said.
Fantasy app usage on the rise
At Super Bowl 50, the 10.1 TB of data usage was the equivalent of 6,000-plus hours of HD video or almost 1.2 million 2 MB images. This was a 63% increase over the amount of data usage in 2015 at Super Bowl 49 in Glendale, AZ.
"Two years ago you'd see a terabyte or less of data during a game. You'd see 15,000 to 17,000 users and you'd see a different set of activities that users would be doing. lt starts with social and goes to gaming or fantasy and drops off from there into a variety of various things whether it's an app promotion or something to that effect," Rice said.
"Fast forward to today. We're seeing on average during a regular event 4 TB of data, and we're seeing somewhere in the neighborhood of, on average, 30,000 or more users on Wi-Fi and we're seeing a shift in the type of social activity. It was originally a lot of people sharing pictures and different types of things and now it's predominately video, people sharing video or consuming video through a social network. The types of social networks have shifted. Twitter has dropped off dramatically. Instagram went to the top right with Facebook, but Facebook has been waning. Last year, out of nowhere, FanDuel and DraftKings came to the top as people were playing fantasy sports and monitoring scores, and people were consuming video in relation to monitoring their score. It's pretty interesting to see how that behavior has evolved," Rice said.
Verizon providing DAS for fans
It's not just Wi-Fi service that's improved at Super Bowl 51. Extreme Networks partnered with Verizon to provide a neutral host distributed antenna system (DAS) to handle cellular service during the event.
"The neutral host DAS will work for all of the cellular customers. Verizon clients will get a priority over an AT&T client. That's Verizon's prerogative since they're the ones who made the investment. This entire system is new and it's a Verizon DAS system paired with our Wi-Fi system," Rice explained.
Events that are part of Super Bowl weekend in Houston are also included in the coverage, with Verizon providing temporary Wi-Fi coverage for Super Bowl Live in downtown Houston's Discovery Green. Massive crowds always converge upon events such as Super Bowl Live, which is the equivalent to Super Bowl City at Super Bowl 50, with more than 200,000 fans visiting on Super Bowl weekend in 2016.
This will be the fourth Super Bowl where Extreme Networks is the official analytics provider. Some of the trends spotted at NFL games include, in 2016, Snapchat emerging as the number one bandwidth intensive app in the 18 stadiums powered by Extreme Analytics.