U.S.-based networking solutions provider Extreme Networks said that it registered a record-breaking level of Wi-Fi usage at the New England Patriots’ opening home game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on September 8. The peak data transfer rate was 23.24 Gbps during the unveiling of the Super Bowl banner, which beat the previous data record by 58 percent. In fact, it was the biggest network moment ever at a sporting venue, according to the company, which acts as the official Wi-Fi products provider of the National Football League (NFL).
Results gathered from Extreme’s Wi-Fi analytics platform show that fans at the 65,000-seat stadium used the Facebook app the most to share the key moment. iCloud, iTunes, Snapchat and Instagram were among the top five apps used overall during the game. The volume of social data transferred throughout the event reached 1.4 TB, an increase of 67 percent over the 2017 Patriots home opener.
Extreme’s Smart OmniEdge products, including ExtremeMobility access points and ExtremeAnalytics software, have been deployed at Gillette Stadium since 2012 to enable stadium Wi-Fi. Its hardware and analytics software elements provide the Patriots with reliable connectivity and real-time visibility into network usage, providing business intelligence that allows the six-time NFL champions to improve fans’ experience.
The analytics available to a company such as Extreme Networks provide valuable insights into patterns of mass data consumption. The fact that the data transfer is quite uneven and subject to significant moments such as the Super Bowl banner unveiling, for example, helps network providers know how to interpret overall statistics, and this granular approach certainly allows them to anticipate requirements and deliver the best possible service.
We would like to reflect a bit on the possible opportunities here for MNOs. The Patriots, a particularly successful and popular team, just notched a record for greatest data transfer during any sporting event anywhere. That makes it not only a historic moment in telecommunications but a teaching moment for mobile operators. We have known for quite a while that fans at sporting events have their eyes on their mobile devices just as much as on the field, and the sharing of such experiences is a major factor in data consumption. Therefore, it would be a good idea for MNOs to find some ways to benefit from this phenomenon.
Given that organizations like the Patriots provide high-speed and effective Wi-Fi for stadium-goers, it is potentially an uphill battle for operators to make headway in this environment. Paid service cannot, of course, compete with free Wi-Fi—unless, of course, the huge demand on these Wi-Fi networks proves too much and users want or need to fall back onto cellular. However, if MNOs can offer their subscribers some value added, such as zero-rated data during the game, or rewards or loyalty points in exchange for usage, they could possibly get access to some of this business. A co-branded social-media partnership enabling users to connect with other fans, or even a branding partnership with the team itself, could also be rewarding.
The analytics about which apps were most used during the game are also valuable to operators, in that they offer information that could be used in partnering with those apps in plans to zero-rate or discount data. Whatever approach is taken, though, we believe that the magnitude of mobile device use during major sporting events is in itself a call to action and innovation.