Networking

Super Bowl 51 makes digital history with record-breaking data usage

Fans, staff, and vendors crushed previous records with 11.8 terabytes of data transmitted over Wi-Fi at Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium.

nrg-stadium-2.jpg
Image: 5 Bars

It wasn't just Patriots quarterback Tom Brady setting records at Super Bowl 51. NRG Stadium saw 11.8 terabytes of data traverse its Wi-Fi network during the Super Bowl in Houston on February 5, according to Extreme Networks, the Official Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi Analytics Provider of Super Bowl LI.

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Social media and streaming video from Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, and Twitter accounted for nearly 12% of the data, at 1.7 TB. This is an increase of 55% over social media and streaming during last year's Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Last year's Super Bowl had 10.1 TB of total data used over Wi-Fi.

The peak number of concurrent users reached 27,191 during the game, a 41% increase from last year. There were 49% of fans, or 35,430 unique users, on Wi-Fi at various points during the Super Bowl. The network sustained a throughput of 3.5 Gbps for over five hours and saw spikes up to 5.2 Gbps and 4.8 Gbps during the pregame and halftime show respectively—the fastest recorded for any Super Bowl game.

Last year at Super Bowl 50, the number of fans who logged onto Wi-Fi reached 27,316 unique users with a peak of 20,300 concurrent users. This topped Super Bowl 49's record of 25,936 unique users and 17,322 concurrent users.

SEE: How the NFL and its stadiums became leaders in Wi-Fi, monetizing apps, and customer experience (TechRepublic free download)

"Super Bowl 51 was the most connected one day event in history," said Norman Rice, executive vice president of global marketing, supply chain, and corporate development for Extreme Networks. "We beat last year's most connected game by using our differentiated high density wireless technologies, policy controls, and analytics to optimize connectivity."

There was another 11 TB of data going through the Verizon Network during the game, utilizing the Distributed Antenna System (DAS) in place to provide cellular service. The top shareable moments from the game were Lady Gaga's swan dive onto the Super Bowl halftime stage and the presentation of the Lombardi trophy just after the Patriots' overtime victory. This was a 57% increase over last year's usage of 7 TB, according to a Verizon spokesperson.

The top five uses among Verizon customers were uploading and watching video, social media, web browsing, uploading to the cloud, and sports apps such as NFL Mobile. The top three social media apps for Verizon customers were Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Among AT&T customers, there was another 9.8 TB of data going over the DAS, with data traffic 88% greater than at Super Bowl 50, when 5.2 TB was used by AT&T customers.

NRG Stadium had Wi-Fi installed just prior to the 2016-2017 football season, in anticipation of hosting Super Bowl 51. 5 Bars was the company that designed and installed the Wi-Fi for NRG and spent six months and 30,000 man hours to build the Wi-Fi system. There are 1,250 access points using Wave 2 802.11 AC and 105 switches with 70 miles of cable, including 58 miles of copper and 12 miles of fiber.

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Image: Extreme Networks

Three takeaways for TechRepublic readers:

  1. Super Bowl 51 broke records with 11.8 terabytes of data going over Wi-Fi at NRG Stadium.
  2. Verizon customers used another 11 TB of data on the DAS at the stadium during the Super Bowl.
  3. AT&T customers used 9.8 TB of data on the DAS during the big game.

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    About Teena Maddox

    Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...

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