Inside Verizon's Super Bowl Command Center

IDG News Service | Jan 29, 2016

More than 100 engineers will make sure the tweeting, sharing and streaming works without a hiccup

During Super Bowl 50, fans in the stadium will send a mass of selfies, tweets and status updates. This is where Verizon makes sure that’s all possible.

This Silicon Valley center is the heart of Verizon’s network control for the Super Bowl. Around 100 engineers will monitor the company’s cellular network at the stadium and around San Francisco on Super Bowl Sunday to ensure it copes with demand, and demand is expected to be big.

Organizers say a million visitors can be expected, so Verizon has added 46 small cells and 10 macro cells in San Francisco and around Levis Stadium in Santa Clara to help handle that anticipated surge in demand.

Phillip French has helped mastermind Verizon’s planning.

“The difference between a Super Bowl versus most other events is we’ll see probably 5- to 6-times the traffic in the stadium during the Super Bowl game. Last year we saw 4 terabytes of data usage just on Verizon’s network. We’ve built the network to support much more that. We anticipate 6 terabytes of data usage.”

This room and another like it will house some 100 engineers who will be able to see at a glance the performance of key cell sites inside and outside the stadium and in San Francisco.

The monitors provide a real-time view of the number of users on each tower, and Verizon can make small adjustments to distribute the load if one area is getting maxed out.

The goal: enable visitors to tweet, stream and Instagram to their heart’s content without any problems.

Some of the towers are easy to spot, like this one on San Francisco’s Embarcadero. It’s a powerful base station to serve a wide area. There are also cells that cover smaller areas and these are well hidden. The round area at the top of this light pole is a small cell, and there’s one hiding behind this fake masonry on the front of this building.

Verizon said some are temporary, but many will remain after the Super Bowl.

On San Francisco’s Market Street, it all adds up to a pretty good service.

Of course it’s not just Verizon that’s done this. AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint have all put in extra capacity and they’re very competitive.

Verizon has people walking around measuring competitor networks and they’ll be inside Levis Stadium on game day too.


Verizon uses each Super Bowl as a learning experience and staff from Houston, scene of Super Bowl 51, will be in town to see what they can learn.

“Last year, we were really surprised by how much data grew. You would think in a contained stadium, most stadiums are in the 70- to 75,000 range of fans, that data could only be so big or there could only be so much data used, but even here at Verizon we’re surprised by the data growth. This year our learning has been the importance of small cells for capacity offload.”

So, when the Denver Broncos take on the Carolina Panthers on February 7 and you see social media posts from the stadium, spare a thought for the engineers, who’ll be hard at work.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that I will miss 98 percent of the game, I will record it.”

In Silicon Valley, Martyn Williams, IDG News Service.