Feb 03 2013

Super Bowl Wi-Fi Push Signals NFL’s Increased Focus on Technology

There’s a clear trend toward advanced in-stadium technology across the league.

The NFL is getting as serious about the quality of its stadium technology as it is about the quality of materials used to create footballs.

The Indianapolis Colts recently beefed up its wireless network at its practice facility, rolled out powerful servers to handle instant replay video, which is fed to fans through its mobile app, and rolled out increased connectivity in its Lucas Oil Stadium by doubling the number of access points.

But the NFL is poised to go big for the Super Bowl. Officials at the Superdome in New Orleans say that the stadium’s Wi-Fi network will be able to sustain 30,000 simultaneous connections during the big game, according to a report from Ars Technica. The details of the Superdome’s recent upgrade show how much improvement has been made in recent years.

The new, Super Bowl-scale Wi-Fi network was just put in this season, with trial runs in a couple of late-season Saints games and in the Sugar Bowl. The Super Bowl will be the first time the network is publicly advertised as available to all fans, so the load will be greater. No password will be required to get on the Wi-Fi network.

More than 700 wireless access points will distribute signals inside the Superdome. Another 250 access points will provide Wi-Fi outside the stadium, including in parking lots and in Champions Square. (Another 300 access points are in the adjacent New Orleans Arena, which hosts the city's pro basketball team.)

During the Super Bowl, the network will be able to handle up to 30,000 simultaneous connections, which should be enough. At last year's Super Bowl in Indianapolis, Wi-Fi from 604 access points supported 8,260 simultaneous connections at its peak, while 12,946 attendees were on the Wi-Fi at some point during the game. 225GB of data was downloaded and 145GB uploaded, with peaks of 75Mbps down and 42Mbps up.

As the adoption of mobile devices continues to grow at a steady clip, more sporting venues are racing to support the influx of mobile technology and enhance the in-game experience.

NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle recently spoke with the Wall Street Journal about the league’s approach to technology.

“Everyone is a mini network today,” said McKenna-Doyle in the WSJ article. “It used to be the [TV] networks you had to worry about. Now you have to worry about Joe Smith sitting in seat whatever, filming, sharing, streaming, blogging.”

McKenna-Doyle is already thinking about how the NFL can do even more for next year’s Super Bowl. She’s polling fans and considering increasing the data pipes that bring bandwidth to the venue.

Increasingly, the in-game experience is becoming one that exists on two planes: the virtual and the physical. One doesn’t replace the other. The two combined create a rich, interactive experience for fans that the league hopes will motivate fans to feel the rush of the crowd in the stadium and tweet about the exhilirating experience to friends and family on social media.

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/skooksie/8436381809/sizes/l/" target="_blank">skooksie/Flickr</a>