How Wi-Fi Won the Super Bowl 

A post-game data analysis on how the stadium network performed

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With a thrilling win over the New England Patriots, the Philadelphia Eagles are this year’s Super Bowl Champions, the first championship in their franchise’s history. Game-changers weren’t exclusively on the field during this year’s game; they were in the stands as well and they come with unique post-game analysis.

For the 5th straight year, Extreme Networks was named the Official Wi-Fi Analytics provider of the Super Bowl. ExtremeAnalytics provides granular insights into how the network performed throughout the event, as well as providing a detailed understanding of the mobile engagement behaviors of connected fans.

The analytics engine allows network managers to identify network interferences, usage spikes during key moments and, users use of social media and other apps, to name a few examples. For the NFL, all of this data enables the organization and its individual teams to create a quality, consistent in-stadium experience for fans. And it seems to be working, as Wi-Fi usage and satisfaction at NFL stadiums is on the rise.

Looking at how fans engage at Super Bowl games, overall usage continues to increase year over year. Specifically, the percentage of fans that accessed the Wi-Fi network during this year’s event was an impressive 40,033 fans, or 59% of those in attendance. This is a 10% increase from last year’s Super Bowl, during which 49% of attending fans accessed Wi-Fi.

Some other stats include:

  • The peak number of fans concurrently connected to Wi-Fi this year was 25,670, which is actually a slight decrease from Super Bowl LI (27,191).
  • Fans at this year’s Super Bowl LII transferred 16.31 TBs of data across the stadium’s network, and 2.6 TBs of that data was generated from social media.

See the infographic below for more info.

The inherent capabilities of networking technologies continue to improve, as does the sophistication and breadth of in-stadium Wi-Fi deployments. This correlates with the enhanced capabilities of devices today. Fans’ evolution of and increased reliance on their devices and applications naturally increases the amount of bandwidth consumed, placing heavier demands on in-stadium networking technologies. In the case of the Super Bowl, what’s interesting is how the total amount of transferred data is broken down and how outside factors influence Wi-Fi usage.

If we look at the previous two Super Bowls, the pre-event Wi-Fi usage is smaller compared to Super Bowl LII. Why is that? Super Bowl L and Super Bowl LI were hosted in Santa Clara and Houston, respectively, which have much warmer climates during the winter months and, as such, planned their pre-game festivities outside of the stadiums. Super Bowl LII in Minnesota saw a kick-off temperature of 3 degrees Fahrenheit, the coldest Super Bowl on record. Because of these conditions, the NFL planned a significant portion of their pre-game festivities to be held in-stadium to offer fans a reprieve from the frigid weather temperatures. For this reason, the transferred data pre-game Super Bowl to Super Bowl was comparably much higher, whereas the transferred data in-game remained relatively flat year over year.

Generally speaking, the inverse can also occur with in-stadium Wi-Fi usage. For example, if it’s raining during a game in an open-air stadium, you’ll likely see a significant drop in fans connecting to Wi-Fi. Understandably few fans want to risk a damaged phone due wetness (even to connect to Wi-Fi).

These were just a few Wi-Fi insights from this year’s Super Bowl, but they offer some compelling trends related to fan engagement moving forward, and underscore the importance of deploying in-stadium Wi-Fi connectivity as part of the fan experience. It also speaks to the power that Wi-Fi analytics delivers to teams and their venues.

Ryan is a Senior Vertical Marketing Specialist at Extreme Networks.

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Ryan is a Senior Vertical Marketing Specialist at Extreme Networks.