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While fans flock to their TVs, wings in hand, service providers and telecom vendors will be busy managing the network infrastructure to ensure the best possible experience for viewers at home and at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
February 9, 2024
Sunday afternoons spent watching football while clutching cheap pizza and lite beer have all led up to the blissful moment in American culture – Super Bowl LVIII, this Sunday. The San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs, football and Taylor Swift fans are all ready for their day in the sun on February 11.
While fans flock to their flatscreen TVs with buffalo wings in hand, service providers and telecom vendors will be busy managing the network infrastructure to ensure the best possible viewing experience for fans at home and on-site at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. From providing a private network for coach-to-coach communications to connecting fans to social media, the Super Bowl promises to be a busy day for the telecom industry.
Ahead of kickoff, Light Reading took a look at the network infrastructure powering the Super Bowl:
1. Verizon deploys 250 mmWave 5G radios
In the months leading up to the Super Bowl, Verizon ramped up network testing and put the final touches on its wireless infrastructure at Allegiant Stadium.
Verizon supports over 75 large public venues in the US with 5G connectivity, including Allegiant Stadium. Verizon has deployed about 250 millimeter wave (mmWave) radios to provide 5G coverage to seating areas, suites, lounges, the press box, concourse areas and entryways at the Stadium.
In this suite, the black box on the right is a mmWave radio.
Each suite also has its own 800 megahertz (MHz) 5G mmWave radio, and attendees will also have access to C-band with 160MHz of spectrum. (See Connecting the gridiron: Verizon's 5G network at Allegiant Stadium; and Behind the scenes with Verizon 5G at Super Bowl LVIII stadium.)
Verizon beefed up its fiber infrastructure as well – Verizon Test Force has deployed additional fiber to the stadium for a total of 547 miles of fiber in Las Vegas.
The Verizon Frontline team will also be on site at the Super Bowl to staff joint Emergency Operations Centers – along with federal, state and local agencies – and coordinate with local first responders. (See Verizon's Frontline team suits up for Super Bowl LVI.)
2. Coach-to-coach communications
In 2023, Verizon began connecting NFL coaches on the field with a private network. As the National Football League's (NFL) official private wireless network for coach-to-coach communications, Verizon is connecting coaches across 30 NFL stadiums. At Allegiant Stadium, Verizon is using a 4G LTE network to connect coaches.
Verizon found that coaches for the Miami Dolphins were struggling with old technology for coach-to-coach communications, Verizon VP Andrea Caldini told Light Reading in a recent podcast. (See NFL coaches using private 3.5GHz CBRS network.)
In some open air stadiums, providing wireless connectivity on the field is difficult because of available radio coverage, she said. In response, Verizon proposed a private network service for coaches to communicate during football games. (See Verizon VP Andrea Caldini on managing private 5G for venues.)
"We put together a solution that could be put on the field and then taken away because there are concerts and other things at stadiums," said Caldini. "The coaches put the headsets on and communicated over private 5G… they were amazed with how clear the voice was over the private network."
3. Comparing AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile's 5G Super Bowl strategies
Ahead of last year's Super Bowl, Signals Research Group (SRG) analyzed the 5G strategies utilized by AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, which hosted the Super Bowl in 2023. (See AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon diverge on 5G Super Bowl strategies.)
As for T-Mobile, the SRG analysts recorded a total of 140MHz of 2.5GHz spectrum deployed at State Farm Stadium, reported Light Reading's Mike Dano.
"AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon each offered both 4G LTE and 5G signals, and that roughly 75% of the operators' collective capacity was allotted to 5G," reported Mike.
AT&T's 5G network included a range of spectrum bands: mmWave, C-band and 3.45GHz. Verizon operated the most extensive millimeter wave (mmWave) network in and around the venue, according to SRG's findings.
"Based on the amount of spectrum they recorded on Verizon's network, the operator's total network capacity reached 45.7 Gbit/s," wrote Mike. "That's ahead of AT&T's 28.3 Gbit/s and T-Mobile's 35.9 Gbit/s."
T-Mobile President of Technology Ulf Ewaldsson recently spoke with Light Reading contributor Rob Pegoraro about T-Mobile's 5G deployments in Las Vegas. T-Mobile differs from Verizon in that the company isn't using mmWave spectrum in Las Vegas. Providing network coverage for the Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix in November 2023 was tougher than prepping for the Super Bowl, said Ewaldsson. (See T-Mobile's networking chief talks 5G in Vegas, baby.)
"You prepare the arena and you prepare the parking lot, and maybe some of the other gathering points, which is normally hotels around the Super Bowl," he said. "But for the Formula 1, it's a much bigger project."
4. MatSing deploys 60 antennas at Allegiant Stadium
At Allegiant Stadium, Verizon is deploying MatSing large sphere antennas, which are high-capacity, multi-band antennas used in venues and events. These antennas can support the sub-6 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum, including the C-band.
The large black object is a MatSing large sphere antenna, a high-capacity, multi-band antenna used in venues and events.
MatSing has deployed a total of 60 lens multibeam antennas to provide connectivity to the field, stands and surrounding parking lots, and support the local wireless networks for AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. DAS Group Professionals (DGP) deployed the lens antennas at the Stadium.
"MatSing lens antennas ideally serve our needs for a multi-carrier neutral host distributed antenna system (DAS) network at Allegiant Stadium," said Steve Dutto, DGP President, in a statement. "To add to the existing network, a leading carrier required C-Band overlay in the venue and with just 16 MatSing's multibeam lens antennas we were able to cover the field and stands for C-Band for the carrier."
DGP deployed an additional 14 MatSing lens antennas to provide connectivity to several parking lots and "enhance the tailgating experience," added Dutto.
5. There's always NFL Sunday Ticket
For the majority of Americans, a seat at Allegiant Stadium for the Super Bowl will be out of reach. Verizon prepped for just that scenario and launched a promotion last July for select mobile customers and home broadband subscribers to receive a free year of NFL Sunday Ticket. The NFL Sunday Ticket package (for the 2023/2024 season) carries a value of $449, reported Light Reading's Jeff Baumgartner. (See Verizon pitches free 'NFL Sunday Ticket' to some new subs and upgraders.)
YouTube TV recently passed the 8 million subscriber mark, a success likely boosted by providing subscribers with access to the NFL Sunday Ticket. Analysts with MoffettNathanson believe "YouTube TV has clearly benefited from its access to the NFL Sunday Ticket package, along with some 'lingering disruption from the Charter/Disney dispute'," reported Jeff. (See Google, NFL strike exclusive deal for 'Sunday Ticket'; and Disney vs. Charter: Who came out on top?)
Senior Editor, Light Reading
Kelsey is a senior editor at Light Reading, co-host of the Light Reading podcast, and host of the "What's the story?" podcast.
Her interest in the telecom world started with a PR position at Connect2 Communications, which led to a communications role at the FREEDM Systems Center, a smart grid research lab at N.C. State University. There, she orchestrated their webinar program across college campuses and covered research projects such as the center's smart solid-state transformer.
Kelsey enjoys reading four (or 12) books at once, watching movies about space travel, crafting and (hoarding) houseplants.
Kelsey is based in Raleigh, N.C.
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