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Super Bowl LII set football and Wi-Fi network records

Feb 28, 20184 mins
MobileNetworkingSmall and Medium Business

A record amount of data was transmitted over the Wi-Fi network at Super Bowl LII, showing there is no excuse for poor Wi-Fi today.

super bowl lii
Credit: NFL

Super Bowl LII was played about a month ago, and much to the chagrin of New England Patriots fans, the team lost despite a number of records being set by Tom Brady and his team. In a losing effort, the QB threw for over 500 yards, something that had never been done before. Also, no losing team has ever had as many yards or points. It was certainly one of the most memorable games in recent history, particularly for the long-suffering Philadelphia Eagles fans.

Records were also set in the stands with new highs in Wi-Fi network usage. For the fifth consecutive year, Extreme Networks was the Official WiFi Analytics provider of the Super Bowl, and its ExtremeAnalytics (formerly known as Purview) captured all the data transferred over the stadium Wi-Fi network. (Note: Extreme is a client of ZK Research.) The NFL and its individual teams have been using the data to better understand what fans do on their mobile devices during games in hopes of creating an overall better experience. Some of the highlights from the big game are listed below.

Wi-Fi usage exploded at Super Bowl LII

  • A record 16.31 TB of total data was transferred over the network. This includes 7.7 TB prior to kick off and another 8.6 TB after. This is almost a 5 TB increase over the 11.8 TB in 2017 and almost 5x the 3.2 TB seen in 2014. Each year has seen a bump in bandwidth, but the 2017 to 2018 increase was by far the biggest increase.
  • The level of engagement continues to grow. A total of 40,033 fans connected to the stadium Wi-Fi, which is 59 percent of the total fan base. There were a little over 25,000 peak concurrent users. In addition to a steady increase in bandwidth, each Super Bowl has seen a higher percentage of fans connect over Wi-Fi instead of using the cellular network. Super Bowls XLVIII through LI saw the percentage of fans that connected to Wi-Fi go from 16 percent to 25 percent to 42 percent and to 49 percent.
  • The use of social apps increased 65 percent from Super Bowl LI for a total of 2.6TB. This shouldn’t be a surprise, but Facebook was the social media winner with 1.3 GB of usage, followed by Snapchat (1TB), Twitter (257 GB) and Instagram (34.2 GB). 
  • The top application category, though, wasn’t social. Instead, it was one of the many cloud apps that exist today that consumed 8.9TB. Much of this was cloud storage, which accounted for 7.8 TB.
  • Streaming apps were popular, as well, accounting for 9 percent of all traffic. There was 1.2TB of iTunes traffic, followed by 145.5 GB of YouTube, 41.3GB of Netflix, and 12.4GB of Hulu. I’m not sure what people were watching on Netflix and Hulu during the game. I can only surmise they weren’t Justin Timberlake fans, so they caught up on their favorite TV shows at halftime.   

The below chart shows that all of the increase in data comes from pre-kickoff activities, which might seem odd. Extreme looked at this, as well, and explained that typically the NFL has several pre-game activities scheduled outside around the stadium. However, Minnesota is significantly colder than Santa Clara, Califorinia, (Super Bowl L) and Houston (Super Bowl XLIX), with a kickoff temperature of 3 degrees Fahrenheit, the coldest in the history of the game. Because of this, the NFL held several activities indoors, allowing people to connect to the stadium network instead of using the cellular network. However, a higher percentage of people did connect to the Wi-Fi network, which is what the NFL wants.

super bowl lii wifi network data Extreme Networks

High-quality Wi-Fi critical to digital success

These are certainly fun facts, but the main takeaway from this for network managers is that there’s no longer any excuse for a poor Wi-Fi experience. Success in the digital era is predicated on gaining new insights to improve customer experience and improve worker productivity. Given how mobile the world has become, a rock solid Wi-Fi network becomes critical to mobility and digital success.

I’m sure almost everyone reading this has experienced poorly performing Wi-Fi. Clearly, the technology exists for 25,000-plus people to connect concurrently in Minnesota’s US Bank Stadium. Any hospital, retailer, school, or other type of business should be able to deploy a network that gives a similar experience on a smaller scale.   


Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research, and provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long-term strategic advice. Kerravala provides research and advice to end-user IT and network managers, vendors of IT hardware, software and services and the financial community looking to invest in the companies that he covers.

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