Super Bowl 51: Were All WiFi Records Broken?

15th Mar 2017

Super Bowl 51 seems a considerable time ago – I have moved house and even watched all three episodes of O.J. Simpson – Made in American since then – but, as promised in part one of this blog, let’s embark on a rundown of the stadium WiFi and big game headlines.

Was Super Bowl 51 a record-breaking year for WiFi?

And how! This year’s NFL finale will be remembered for a host of reasons, but, in terms of connectivity, all previous watermarks were surpassed.

With the overall figure totalling a massive 37.6 Terabytes the event now holds the top-spot for the most recorded data used in a single day – just a little bit impressive, I think you’ll agree.

Staggering WiFi statistics

What is great about the Super Bowl, if you’re a bit of a wireless nerd, is that all data is recorded and published by the event network suppliers, Extreme Networks.

Extreme and NRG stadium officials posted a total of 11.8 Terabytes of data transfer, beating the Levis Stadium Super Bowl 50 figure by 1.7 Terabytes.

What about cellular?

Of the three cellular operators who have shared big game statistics, all have surpassed previous ‘highs’.

  • Verizon – 11TB (7TB at Super Bowl 50)
  • AT&T – 9.8TB (5.2TB at Super Bowl 50)
  • Sprint – 5TB (1.6TB at Super Bowl 50)

The overall cellular data transfer figure for Super Bowl 2017 stands at 25.8TB – although statistics for T-Mobile are missing – which is a 10TB increase on the previous year.

It was spectacular!

The stellar performance of the stadium’s connectivity is can only be surpassed by the events on the field. In a game which seemingly had it all, the Patriots overcame the largest points deficit in Super Bowl history to beat the Falcons 34-28…and in overtime no less!!

As events unfolded on the field, spikes in data usage and take rate were observed and recorded by Extreme Networks’ analysts, with increases during touchdowns, Lady Gaga’s halftime show and, I’m sure, after Julien Edelman’s physics-defying and, ultimately, game-changing catch with just over two minutes left on the clock in the 4th quarter.

Super Bowl 51 now also holds the records for both the number of unique network connections and the number of concurrent users.

Extreme’s analysis found that just a touch under half (49%) of the 71, 088 fans in attendance connected to the network and 27, 191 set the mark for the most users on the network at any one time.

Let’s take a moment to digest that last figure. Approximately 27, 000 concurrent users is nearly a 50% increase on that same total a year previous at the Levis Stadium in San Francisco.

If these particular statistics continue to increase at such an alarming rate, stadium Wi-Fi design will become notably more complex than it already is as engineers will need to account for even higher densities and tighter bandwidth controls.

Facebook by a country mile

Much like English Football, it seems Super Bowl 51 was a game of 'halves' – with 50% growth a reoccurring trend.

Of the record-breaking data transfer figure, 1.7TB were accounted for by social networking, which is a 55% increase on the previous year. It may come as no surprise that Facebook was far-and-away the most visited site, with very little to separate the rest (Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat).

Looking forward...

The NFL’s Super Bowl would appear to be in a unique position as the leading testing ground for high-density wireless deployments. Of course there are many stadiums and other public venues across the globe offering WiFi but there is something special about the way the NFL and their associated franchises are embracing wireless technology.

Not only is wireless connectivity through RFID changing the way the game is observed and strategised on the field, but understanding the way in which WiFi analytics, location-based marketing and the Internet-of-Things can be leveraged to create better fan experiences and returns of network investments puts the NFL in a league of their own.

What Next?

If you are planning to deploy an enterprise-grade wireless network or are experiencing problems with a existing setup, please feel free to contact Ensign Communications for a chat with our technical team.