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10.1TB Superbowl 50 Data Record Shows ‘Maturity’ Of NFL Wi-Fi

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Superbowl data growth isn’t surprising, but will help NFL expand going forward, according to official Wi-Fi analytics partner

Superbowl 50 between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers was predicted to break all data records.

This was hardly a bold prediction given the huge growth in traffic in every walk of life, and even less so when tens of thousands of people want to share their experience of America’s annual sporting extravaganza.

Users of the Wi-Fi network at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley, consumed 10.1 terabytes on Sunday – a significant increase from the past two Superbowls. However the percentage of spectators connected to the network was fairly static at 42 percent, or 28,666 fans.

Wi-Fi maturity

290x195levisstadium2The NFL has been keen to get advanced networks and Wi-Fi into the 31 stadiums that host matches over the past few years in a bid to improve fan engagement and learn more about fans’ habits with the hope of attracting more people to games and boosting revenue.

For the past few years, Extreme Networks has provided Wi-Fi analytics for the league, helping it to understand how these networks are being used. Mike Leibovitz said the fact data consumption increased was “not Earth shattering”, but showed a maturity of the technology.

“It’s what we see in life in general,” he told TechWeekEurope, explaining that when the NFL wanted Wi-Fi installed it was simply to futureproof the stadiums. At the last two Superbowls, the network was installed in the leadup to the event. At Levi’s Stadium however, Wi-Fi had been in place for some time.

“In previous years, there wasn’t as much certainty. The proof is in the pudding. The networks are more capable and people are more comfortable.”

Network Trends

Extreme Network’s Purview Wi-Fi analytics platform can sit on top of any network, whether built by the company itself or a rival like Cisco, and is able to analyse application data, location data and device information and capture it into a single database.

And over the past three years, some clear trends have developed. Again, none are particularly surprising, such as a surge in demand during half-time, but knowing which applications and devices are being used can help the NFL with now it designs its apps, tailors offers and which social networks it uses.

For example, the best time to hold a contest or special offer could be via Facebook during the half-time show.

“From a business perspective, it gives the NFL a sense of what transpires over a game day,” said Leibovitz. “The same couldn’t be said three years ago, [the NFL] was just blind. It’s helping the league understand how the technology is being used and keep [the fans] coming back.”

Eighty-three percent of all devices connected to the network during Superbowl 50 were iOS and the remainder Android, while half of all social network traffic was through Facebook. However, while NFL Superbowl was a non-factor at Superbowl XLVIII, it is now a significant cause of data.

“At Superbowl XLVIII, we didn’t even report on Snapchat, it was statistically irrelevant,” he continued. “Last year we added it in and this year it grew significantly.”

Business showcase

Having the NFL as a customer is of course a useful showcase for Extreme Networks, in particular the ability to pinpoint problems with the network. PurView can show separate flows for application and network data to see which is fault.

“The finger gets pointed at the network,” laments Leibovitz, who says they can see whether problems are caused by an overloaded cloud service or a defective access point.

Of course, the stadium’s location in Silicon Valley has attracted the attention of the tech community amid claims it’s the most technologically advanced arena in the world. Leibovitz said he “tipped his hat” to Levi’s Stadium’s efforts, but would not get carried away.

“Leading up to the game, any technology company that had an interest in the game was pushing it,” he explained. “There was definitely added hype. Levi’s Stadium is trying to position itself as the mecca of stadium deployment.”

He is more excited about next year’s Superbowl in Houston, where, for the first time, Extreme Networks will have built both the network and deploy its analytics platform.

“Next year it will be an end-to-end platform,” he said. “The difference is actually kind of cool.”

Whereas with third party deployments, PurView sits in the core of the network, with an end-to-end architecture, Extreme Networks will be able to embed analytics within the access point and push out the edge of the network to get a “very powerful snapshot.”

“It’s very exciting for us,” he said. “There is clearly a difference with being an end to end provider where all the technology is yours.”

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