Super Bowl 53 is poised to make digital history

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The newest, most state-of-the-art NFL stadium is ready to host the matchup on Super Bowl Sunday, and the expectation is that fans will once again break data usage records.

The glass-encased Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta will host the Super Bowl LIII showdown between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots on Feb. 3.

SEE: CBS Sports’ hub for the Super Bowl

Every year the data usage numbers go up, and the same is expected at Super Bowl 53. Last year’s Super Bowl 52 game between the Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles was the fifth year in a row that data usage broke records. Fans consumed 16.31 terabytes of data over Wi-Fi that year, and cell usage increased, too. There were 18.8 TB of data going over the Verizon network inside the stadium on game day last year, and AT&T reported 7.2 TB of data going over its network inside the stadium. Sprint combined numbers from both inside and immediately around the stadium, for a total of 9.7 TB on its networks during Super Bowl 52.

SEE: How the NFL and its stadiums became leaders in Wi-Fi, monetizing apps, and customer experience (TechRepublic free download)

In 2017, the Super Bowl 51 matchup resulted in 11.8 terabytes of data going through the Wi-Fi network at NRG Stadium in Houston. In 2016, Super Bowl 50 had 10.1 TB of total data used over Wi-Fi at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, which was a 63% increase of the 6.23 TB of data usage at Super Bowl 49 in Glendale, AZ in 2015. In 2014, there was just 3.2 TB of data used during the game.

More than 4,000 miles of network fiber at the stadium

Mercedes-Benz stadium opened in August 2017, and it uses IBM Cloud as the basis of a converged network with more than 4,000 miles of fiber on a passive optical network to support IoT-connected systems throughout the building. The 71,000-seat stadium offers 90 miles of audio cabling and nearly 2,000 wireless access points for Wi-Fi connectivity, as previously reported by TechRepublic.

The stadium includes a 360-degree, 63,000-square-foot HD Video Halo Board and more than 2,000 video displays throughout the building. The IT infrastructure is the heart and brain to the immense video presence within the stadium.

Image: Mercedes-Benz Stadium

The stadium also houses a neutral host distributed antenna system (DAS) and all four major carriers—AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile—have signed on to it. This means that fans will have the option of using their cellular service with plenty of connectivity or switch to the stadium’s Wi-Fi.

This year will be the sixth year in a row that Extreme Networks has been the official Wi-Fi analytics provider of the Super Bowl, and the expectation is that data usage will jump again as stadiums continually increase their capacity to support mobile devices from fans.

“Our metrics continue to show that data consumption rights, utilization—they continue to rise and rise, and it doesn’t seem toshow any signs of slowing down,” said John Brams, director of hospitality, sports and entertainment at Extreme Networks.

Stream Super Bowl LIII, including the halftime show, live on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019 at 6 PM ET / 3 PM PT with CBS All Access and on CBS Sports.

Social data usage increases

Most fans upload images and video to social networking channels with Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn as the top five preferred apps, in order. The top streaming applications were iTunes, YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and Periscope. Extreme Networks saw a 65% increase in social data last year, compared to the previous Super Bowl. That’s expected to rise again this year as well.

An interesting trend is that during the second half of the 2018-2019 NFL season, Bitmoji became a top five app among fans at games. Brams said many people don’t even know what Bitmoji is, yet it managed to make the top five and is considered a social media app. “It really kind of came out of nowhere,” he said.

Knowing which social media apps fans use can help a team with marketing and promotions.

“Now that teams have used our analytics to figure that out, now it’s how do you market it? So for example, if you’re a Patriot’s fan, can you now put your Pat’s jersey on your Bitmoji as an example? So it’s a new use for teams and organizations to utilize the data,” Brams explained.

Analytics, Brams said, “are a tool that helps on the day-to-day network management side of the network. The teams are able to look at that and say, not only what are people doing, i.e. what applications are they using, what websites are they going to? There are some network optimization visibility tools in there that some teams utilize in terms of network response time, application response time.”

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Image: CBS

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