Light Reading

Must Haves for the Big Game? DAS & WiFi

Doug Lodder

It's that time of year again. Trash talking abounds, epic appetizers are being planned, and (friendly) bets are placed. Super Bowl XLVIII is here.

Its also the time of year when we hear about what upgrades have been made to the hosting stadium's wireless network to handle the data onslaught. (New York's MetLife Stadium has the honors this year.) (See The No-Streaming Bowl.)

According to a report by CNET, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Verizon Wireless , T-Mobile US Inc. , and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) all began preparations more than a year ago for this year's big game, with AT&T and Verizon each deploying more than 500 DAS antennas throughout the stadium, and T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint all planning to roll cell-on wheels (COWs) at the event. A Verizon executive told New Jersey's Star-Ledger that the carrier quadrupled the capacity of the stadium's network ahead of the big game. (See Carrier WiFi's Not Winning in Sports Arenas.)

If the NFL has its way, big game connectivity will be standard in all league stadiums by the end of 2014. The league issued WiFi and cellular connectivity standards in late 2013, dictating minimum network performance levels, citing fan retention and creation of new marketing opportunities as key drivers for the mandate.

Though the NFL is mum about its specific requirements, forward-thinking stadiums are already investing in network upgrades. Chicago's Soldier Field's neutral host DAS system was recently upgraded in partnership with AT&T and Boingo Wireless Inc. , doubling network capacity, and with enough DAS equipment to serve a town of 88,000.

The network was upgraded in time to support massive data traffic during an emergency weather evacuation in November, and to serve an increasingly mobile audience: Our data shows that 95% of sessions on the stadium WiFi network were via mobile, and that sessions are up 80% year-over-year. Also, the San Francisco 49ers are said to be planning a stadium network at their new Levi's Stadium that will cover more than 68,000 spectators, with no lag time in uploads and downloads.

While many NFL and big league stadiums are upgrading to high-powered DAS and WiFi systems, today's university stadiums and campuses are in need of major league solutions. These locations serve the highly connected young adult population, and some of their fan bases are as large and rabid as major sports franchises (and as a USC Trojan alum, I speak from experience).

Though they don't have an NFL-like mandate, university stadiums may be the next to go "pro" with their wireless to meet the following challenges:

Fan retention
College students are one of today's most connected groups. A recent study from Educause found that more than 76% own a smartphone, and more than 58% own more than three Internet-connected devices. If their constant connectivity comes to a screeching halt when they get near the football stadium, they might just watch the game on their HDTVs from their dorms. In 2013, attendance at college football games was down for major conferences, including the Southeastern Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference, among others. The reason? The Bleacher Report posits that lack of connectivity might be a leading cause.

Funding network upgrades
Mobile technologies have ushered in a whole new era of BYOD on campuses, taxing existing networks and tapping IT budgets developed before the dawn of the iPhone era. Universities today are struggling to handle the capacity demands of students, and are working fast to upgrade their networks quickly to ensure that students and faculty can connect.

Installing a neutral host DAS network on campus and in stadiums can help offset the costs of network upgrades. Carriers can help fund DAS installations and upgrades, or pay "rent" on systems at major campuses or major teams' home fields. Revenue share from DAS networks can help bolster campus IT budgets and enable further investment in campus infrastructure.

Building for the future
Universities were blindsided by BYOD. To avoid the capacity crunch that many are currently experiencing, forward-thinking university IT executives are looking to build networks that can grow and shift with the rapid changes in mobile usage.

Building complimentary DAS and WiFi networks helps take advantage of both licensed and unlicensed spectrum, and provides a "fail safe" capability in times of peak usage. The symbiotic relationship between the networks enable a pressure release valve on campus -- the DAS network can relieve strain on the WiFi network, and vice versa. The coming Next Generation Hotspot protocols will allow on-campus mobile users to transition seamlessly between WiFi and cellular without user intervention -- wherever a user goes, their connection just works. (See WiFi Passpoint: Ready for Prime Time.)

Monetizing mobile
Universities will soon learn from the Barclays Centers and AT&T Parks of the world, and they'll want to start reaching their fans on the last piece of unbranded real estate in the ball park -- the mobile phones in their palms or pockets. Deploying a high-density WiFi network alongside a DAS in a stadium can enable fan mobile use, like social networking and video streaming, along with delivery of WiFi sponsorships and targeted brand messages. Through WiFi-enabled, location-based services, a stadium may even enable concessions orders right from the stands. Teams can reach fans through push notifications in custom apps, or solicit feedback from patrons via surveys.

It's eight months until the college football season starts again, and season predictions are already starting. Here's mine: Major university IT departments will be conducting "training camps" of their own to whip their networks into shape and get connected fans in the stands come fall 2014.

— Doug Lodder, Vice President of Business Development, Boingo Wireless Inc.

(7)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/24/2014 | 1:24:08 PM
Re : Must Haves for the Big Game? DAS & WiFi
Using unlicensed spectrum is a good way for handling mass data at peak hours; however this also means there is a less aim for security and sensitive data might be misused.  Also, using the self adjusting mobile networks is a nice idea, and configuration is possible. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/3/2014 | 9:35:52 PM
Re: NFLs WiFi and cellular connectivity standards
What do the experts think about Hotspot 2.0  (802.11u)?  Is there finally a synergy between WiFi and Cellular?
User Rank: Blogger
2/3/2014 | 3:24:41 PM
Re: NFLs WiFi and cellular connectivity standards
Sarah - From what I can gather, the network was up for the challenge.  There were far more tweets complimenting the guest Wi-Fi network than disparaging it (I favorited and retweeted some @dmlodder).  AT&T released an article about consumption from their customers yesterday versus prior years but it does not delineate between DAS and Wi-Fi consumption.   ( 

User Rank: Blogger
2/3/2014 | 2:36:50 PM
Re: NFLs WiFi and cellular connectivity standards
Good questions, pzernik. Brazil's policies were brought up on last week's feature on WiFi in stadiums too:
User Rank: Blogger
2/3/2014 | 2:34:24 PM
Re: NFLs WiFi and cellular connectivity standards
Thanks for the great post, Doug! Good follow on to what we talked about last week. Any indication of how WiFi performed at the Super Bowl last night? The WiFi reports I've seen have been dominated by the fact that the statium's internal WiFi log in credentials were accidentially broadcast on national TV!
User Rank: Blogger
2/2/2014 | 5:07:08 PM
Re: NFLs WiFi and cellular connectivity standards
pzernik - I do not have a copy of the NFL's WiFi and Cellular standards that I can share.  Sorry.  The strategies employed by professional sports teams vary.  Most understand the need for a robust wireless network, but struggle to identify how to pay for it.  In some cases, where existing sponsorships exist, the carriers will pay for the network.  In most cases, the carriers are not willing to pay for a WiFi network.  This leads to many instances where to the true synergies of deploying a combined cellular/WiFi network are not achieved.  
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/2/2014 | 4:52:01 PM
NFLs WiFi and cellular connectivity standards
Hi Doug.  Do you have a link to the NFLs WiFi and cellular connectivity standards?  Also, what are other sports franchises doing for their fans/stadiums?  Are they even footing any of the install costs or do they expect the carriers to pay for these very high cost systems?
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
More Blogs from Column
Cord cutting is a real and present threat to pay-TV, but it has been an erosion, not a landslide.
They go together hand-in-hand in many networks but the relationship is strained – is there a way to improve the efficiency of an OpenStack and OVS deployment?
The comms industry is rallying to the cause of open, independent interoperability testing.
Data analytics and revenue assurance are growing in strategic importance for the cable industry.
The introduction of IoT applications is supposed to make life easier for homo sapiens. But things are off to a bad start, according to Accedian's Scott Sumner.
From The Founder
Light Reading's conference in November will attempt to answer all of the big questions around white box networks. No pressure...
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE in Budapest ITU 2015

10|13|15   |   03:26   |   (0) comments

ZTE Chief Architect David Huo discusses the company's progress on the 5G front.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Close-up on ConfD

10|12|15   |   10.21   |   (0) comments

Tail-f's Renée Robinson-Stromberg tells Steve Saunders about the powerful ConfD management interface.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Women in Comms: Highlights From Dallas

10|12|15   |   2:23   |   (1) comment

The best soundbites, quotes and words of wisdom from leading women from Intel, AT&T, Verizon and Genband at our recent WiC breakfast in Dallas.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
NetNumber Founder on Managing Signaling Control

10|12|15   |   6:36   |   (0) comments

NetNumber Founder and Chief Strategy Officer Doug Ranalli describes the essential complexity of real-world signaling-control and how NetNumber enables carriers to bring signaling-control "under-control". Learn why virtualization alone isn't the answer.
LRTV Documentaries
Verizon Gets Proactive on App Performance

10|12|15   |   04:50   |   (0) comments

SDN is turning traditional service models around to allow Verizon to measure and deliver performance at the application layer. As Shawn Hakl, VP of enterprise networking and managed solutions for Verizon, explains, the carrier had to develop new skill sets and change some of its internal operations, but the payoff was happier enterprise customers.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Tail-f, Cisco & What the Future Holds

10|9|15   |   8:17   |   (0) comments

Steve Saunders meets with Tail-f's Director of Technology, Carl Moberg, in Stockholm to discuss becoming part of Cisco, ETSI MANO, virtualization and the need to combine science and business in order to create opportunities for service providers.
LRTV Interviews
Broadband Forum Embraces SDN & NFV

10|9|15   |   02:42   |   (1) comment

At Gigabit Europe 2015, Robin Mersh and Kevin Foster from the Broadband Forum explain how the industry body is adapting to meet the SDN, NFV and cloud needs of the access network sector.
LRTV Interviews
Top Tips for FTTH Operators

10|8|15   |   02:26   |   (1) comment

At Gigabit Europe 2015, Ventura Team co-founder Richard Jones talks about some of the key business case considerations for FTTH network operators.
LRTV Interviews
M-net Calls for FTTx Unity

10|8|15   |   03:45   |   (0) comments

At the Gigabit Europe event, Jörn Schoof from M-net, the Munich city network operator, calls for industry collaboration on fiber broadband access rollouts.
LRTV Documentaries
The Business Case Challenge for NFV

10|7|15   |   03:47   |   (0) comments

Virtual CPE is one of the early success stories for network functions virtualization, as service providers are finding flexible, programmable CPE solves a lot of logistics problems and reduces their cost. But even here, Masergy Communications faced a business case challenge, says CTO Tim Naramore.
LRTV Interviews
JT Offers Some Gigabit Lessons

10|7|15   |   4:08   |   (1) comment

Barna Kutvolgyi, managing director, Global Consumer, at JT, the incumbent operator on the island of Jersey, talks about how other service providers can learn from his company's gigabit broadband rollout experiences.
LRTV Interviews
AT&T's Chiosi on the Potential of Open Source

10|6|15   |   06:27   |   (0) comments

AT&T Distinguished Network Architect Margaret T. Chiosi talks to Light Reading's Carol Wilson about the potential for open source technology to liberate communications service providers.
Upcoming Live Events
October 14-15, 2015, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA
November 5, 2015, Hilton Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA
November 17, 2015, Santa Clara, California
December 1, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 2, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
All Upcoming Live Events
Network appliances have a strong value proposition in today's networks and will continue to do so in the NFV and SDN-enabled networks of tomorrow.
Hot Topics
Dell Buys EMC for $67B in Biggest Tech Deal Ever
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 10/12/2015
Cord Cutting? 'Fraid so.
Brett Sappington, 10/7/2015
Cisco Makes 'Martian' Connection
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 10/9/2015
Dell Kicking EMC's Tires
Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 10/8/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
With so many new and exciting communications technologies now under development, it's easy to get caught up in the industry's escalating hype cycle. That's why the ...
Last week saw a big day in the 15-year history of Light Reading when Editor-in-Chief Ray Le Maistre and I were invited to interview the Deputy Chairman and Rotating ...
Cats with Phones
"What?! I'm on with Finisar about their stock price tanking" Click Here
Live Digital Audio

Think NFV is just about virtualization? Think again!

Network architects are learning that there's a lot more to the technology than first thought – more complexity, that is; but also, more potential benefits.

On May 29th 1 PM ET, Steve Saunders, founder and CEO of Light Reading, will be drilling into the "pains and gains" of NFV with Saar Gillai, SVP & GM, HP Communications Solutions Business at Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) (HP). He has defined a four-step NFV model describing a sequence of technology innovation. It's a must-read doc for any network architect looking to get to grips with their NFV migration strategy. Join us for the interview, and the chance to ask Saar your NFV questions directly!