How the network performed at Super Bowl 50

Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, saw a new record in mobile data used at the big game.

Super Bowl 50 network stats performance
Credit: Derek Walter

The 50th Super Bowl was filled with hype and high expectations. The young, upstart Cam Newton was facing off against the old veteran Peyton Manning. By all accounts, the game didn’t live up to its hype, as both defenses dominated, but it did see Peyton Manning hoist his second Lombardi trophy after one of the most tumultuous seasons any Super Bowl-winning quarterback has ever had.

What did live up to the hype, though, was the performance of the Wi-Fi network. I wrote a preview as to what to expect from Super Bowl 50 about a week ago and pointed out that this game was pegged to be the techiest Super Bowl ever. The game was in the heart of Silicon Valley, where everyone has the latest gadget and is technologically savvy. Also, the amount of fanfare surrounding the halftime show, the Super Bowl MVP, and Manning’s last rodeo meant people would be snapping pictures and uploading pictures at an unprecedented rate.

In my previous post, I interviewed Chuck Lukaszewski, VP of Wireless Strategy for HP Enterprise company Aruba (disclosure: Aruba is a ZK Research client), and we discussed how to build a Wi-Fi network to support an event of this magnitude. Based on the data I have seen from Levi’s Stadium and Extreme Networks, the official Wi-Fi analytics provider of the NFL, it appears the network performed far better than both Cam Newton and Peyton Manning. That is to say, it lived up to the hype.

Prior to the game, Lukaszewski said that, given the growth trajectory from previous Super Bowls, 10 TB seemed to be the expectation for wireless data used on-site at the game. It turns out that 10.1 TB of data was indeed the number, smashing the previous record of 6.2 TB from Super Bowl 49. Of that 10.1 TB, stadium fans used 9.3 TB on the “SB50FREE” network, while media consumed “only” 453 GB on their own dedicated network.

Levi’s also provided an interesting graphic (see below) that showed the top events that drove Wi-Fi traffic:

  • Super Bowl MVP ceremony (where Tom Brady was booed)
  • Lady Gaga singing the Anthem
  • Brandon McMansus’ 34-yard FG to open the scoring
  • Malik Jackson’s fumble recovery for the first TD
  • Halftime show with Coldplay, Bruno Mars, and Beyonce
  • McManus’ 30 YD FG in the 3rd quarter to make it 16-7
  • Cam Newton’s fumble
  • End of the game
  • Presentation of the Lombardi Tropy
  • Fans using the network to figure out how to get home (Maps, Uber, etc)
super bowl network chart

Other interesting facts courtesy of Levi’s was that the Wi-Fi set new records for utilization by the end of the second quarter, sending and receiving more data by halftime than Super Bowl 49 did for the entire day. Also, Levi’s broke another record by registering over 27,316 unique Wi-Fi users and a peak concurrent number of users, at 20,300. As a comparison, the Super Bowl last year had 25,936 and 17,322, respectively. Lastly, the official attendance of the game was 71,088, and 38% used the Wi-Fi system.

We’ve all experienced poor Wi-Fi at trade shows, hotels, and other venues. The lesson learned from Super Bowl 50 is that, if the proper pre-work and planning is done, users can have a great experience. Super Bowl 50 was certainly the high watermark for a sporting event, and the network performed, well, super. We’ll see how the network holds up next year at NRG stadium in Houston, where I’m sure fans will greatly exceed the 10 TBs of Super Bowl 50.

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