The newest, most state-of-the-art NFL stadium is ready to host the matchup on Super Bowl Sunday, and the expectation is that fans will once again break data usage records.
The glass-encased Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta will host the Super Bowl LIII showdown between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots on Feb. 3.
Every year the data usage numbers go up, and the same is expected at Super Bowl 53. Last year's Super Bowl 52 game between the Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles was the fifth year in a row that data usage broke records. Fans consumed 16.31 terabytes of data over Wi-Fi that year, and cell usage increased, too. There were 18.8 TB of data going over the Verizon network inside the stadium on game day last year, and AT&T reported 7.2 TB of data going over its network inside the stadium. Sprint combined numbers from both inside and immediately around the stadium, for a total of 9.7 TB on its networks during Super Bowl 52.
SEE: How the NFL and its stadiums became leaders in Wi-Fi, monetizing apps, and customer experience (TechRepublic free download)
In 2017, the Super Bowl 51 matchup resulted in 11.8 terabytes of data going through the Wi-Fi network at NRG Stadium in Houston. In 2016, Super Bowl 50 had 10.1 TB of total data used over Wi-Fi at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, which was a 63% increase of the 6.23 TB of data usage at Super Bowl 49 in Glendale, AZ in 2015. In 2014, there was just 3.2 TB of data used during the game.
More than 4,000 miles of network fiber at the stadium
Mercedes-Benz stadium opened in August 2017, and it uses IBM Cloud as the basis of a converged network with more than 4,000 miles of fiber on a passive optical network to support IoT-connected systems throughout the building. The 71,000-seat stadium offers 90 miles of audio cabling and nearly 2,000 wireless access points for Wi-Fi connectivity, as previously reported by TechRepublic.
The stadium includes a 360-degree, 63,000-square-foot HD Video Halo Board and more than 2,000 video displays throughout the building. The IT infrastructure is the heart and brain to the immense video presence within the stadium.
The stadium also houses a neutral host distributed antenna system (DAS) and all four major carriers—AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile—have signed on to it. This means that fans will have the option of using their cellular service with plenty of connectivity or switch to the stadium's Wi-Fi.
This year will be the sixth year in a row that Extreme Networks has been the official Wi-Fi analytics provider of the Super Bowl, and the expectation is that data usage will jump again as stadiums continually increase their capacity to support mobile devices from fans.
"Our metrics continue to show that data consumption rights, utilization—they continue to rise and rise, and it doesn't seem to show any signs of slowing down," said John Brams, director of hospitality, sports and entertainment at Extreme Networks.
Verizon expects to see data usage increase among their customers using the Verizon LTE service during the big game.
"We're anticipating that it will go up again just based on trends and data growth we've seen. We will, I imagine, be setting new records yet again," said Nicola Palmer, senior vice president of product development and 5G ecosystems at Verizon.
AT&T also expects growth in data usage among its customers, according to Marvy Moore, vice president and general manager for AT&T.
"I'd be surprised if it didn't. I know last year we had some results that there was more than 21.7 terabytes across the network in a two-mile radius of the stadium last year, which set a record. I expect this is going to be a record setting year. You think about how consumers use their mobile devices, it used to be that we just use it for phone calls and texts. Then we started checking email. Then we started with the social media. Then we started it's your connection to your life. Now it's the connection to your experiences and how you're able to bring people into your experience across the globe. With the amount of applications that now use video real time transmission, I'd be quite surprised if we don't set yet another record of the amount of data that'll be used during this event," Moore said.
Social data usage increases
Most fans upload images and video to social networking channels with Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn as the top five preferred apps, in order. The top streaming applications were iTunes, YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and Periscope. Extreme Networks saw a 65% increase in social data last year, compared to the previous Super Bowl. That's expected to rise again this year as well.
An interesting trend is that during the second half of the 2018-2019 NFL season, Bitmoji became a top five app among fans at games. Brams said many people don't even know what Bitmoji is, yet it managed to make the top five and is considered a social media app. "It really kind of came out of nowhere," he said.
Knowing which social media apps fans use can help a team with marketing and promotions.
"Now that teams have used our analytics to figure that out, now it's how do you market it? So for example, if you're a Patriots fan, can you now put your Pat's jersey on your Bitmoji as an example? So it's a new use for teams and organizations to utilize the data," Brams explained.
Analytics, Brams said, "are a tool that helps on the day-to-day network management side of the network. The teams are able to look at that and say, not only what are people doing, i.e. what applications are they using, what websites are they going to? There are some network optimization visibility tools in there that some teams utilize in terms of network response time, application response time."
- Patriots vs Rams: How to stream Super Bowl 2019 (ZDNet)
- How to watch the Super Bowl on your iOS or Android phone (Download.com)
- Super Bowl props bets guide (CBS Sports)
- The best Super Bowl TV deals (CNET)
- Throw a Baller Big Game Party with This Super Expensive Super Bowl Menu (Chowhound)
- Super Bowl LIII: Football players should be replaced by robots. No, really. (ZDNet)
- Why this year's matchup might be the last 4G Super Bowl in history (TechRepublic)
- Super Bowl 52: How the NFL and US Bank Stadium are ready to make digital history (TechRepublic)
- How a mobile app was developed in one day for New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (TechRepublic)
- How the NFL and NRG Stadium are preparing for record-breaking data usage during Super Bowl 51 (TechRepublic)
- NFL adopts HP's 3D-scanning tech to bring customized cleats to players (ZDNet)
- Photos: Sports stadiums go digital (TechRepublic)
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 People, W and Women's Wear Daily.