Post-Game Analysis: Levi’s DAS Easily Handles Record-Breaking Super Bowl Loads
Venue-Owned, ‘True Neutral’ DAS Proves Its Mettle During Super Bowl, Enabling All Carriers to Set Records for Capacity, Speeds
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a four-part series that reports on the role of the DAS in Sunday’s huge win for wireless communications. After this initial high-level report, look for our take on 1) How the Levi’s Stadium DAS leveled the playing field for the major carriers, 2) How Super Bowl 50 clarified the value of a venue-owned neutral host, 3) A look at some of the tactical deployments used to deliver triple the data speeds, and 4) A collection of answers to the many questions posed to the DAS Group Professionals (DGP) team in the days and weeks post-game.
Whether or not the Lombardi Trophy is in the hands of the team you were rooting for on Sunday, one thing’s for sure: If your buddy sent a selfie from Super Bowl 50, you received it – every gloating pixel. This, despite that the distributed antenna system (DAS) that successfully transported the photo out of Levi’s Stadium was being put to the ultimate test, handling record-breaking amounts of data as fans uploaded video, photos and texts, and otherwise documented every moment of the big game.
Record-Breaking Loads and Speeds
All told, the DAS data load from Sunday’s game at Levi’s Stadium totaled 230% more than what fans used at the Super Bowl in Phoenix last year. For perspective, by half-time, the DAS had transmitted or downloaded more data than last year’s game did over the entire day.
The DAS made the heavy lifting look easy. Despite the intense traffic, transmission speeds averaged three times faster than the record-breaking rates measured in Phoenix, according to an independent game-day analysis conducted by Bruce Morley of Wireless Metrix.
Success for All Carriers
DAS Group Professionals (DGP), which designed, built and manages the venue-owned DAS that’s laced throughout Levi’s Stadium to serve the cell carriers, considers Super Bowl 50 a landmark in the wireless connectivity world – not just because of the jaw-dropping loads and quicksilver data speeds, but because the nature of the truly neutral, owner-owned DAS allowed every carrier to put its best foot forward using the technology of its choice.
“Never before has the industry seen an instance in which every participating carrier felt its system performed best. In traditional neutral host scenarios, unlike the model we use, it is common for a carrier to feel that the system has inherent bias toward a particular carrier,” says DGP Vice President Vince Gamick. “DGP could not be more pleased that we produced a truly neutral host platform that afforded each of the carriers the ability to make the most of their respective systems. We are thrilled that they are all so satisfied with how their networks performed over the DAS.”
Each of the four majors (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile) reported huge successes for their subscribers. Data compiled from the major four cellular carriers shows that 15.9 TB of data was transferred via the DAS during Super Bowl 50, nearly 2.5 times the total from the previous record achieved at the last Super Bowl while all carriers also reported substantial increases in data speeds.
No Magic Bullet
Achieving this performance was never going to be easy: Although during 2015 the consumer electronics scene introduced many new factors and data uses that could weigh down a network, the equipment and software available for wireless builds remained much the same. The DGP team knew what this meant: data loads would be much higher, without a corresponding “quick fix” on the hardware side.
“We had to count on network solutions and smart, innovative engineering to get the job done,” explains Gamick. “There was no magic bullet to deal with the projected loads. We had to be very strategic in the deployment.” Gamick points to solutions like temporary DAS towers on wheels, higher performing traditional DAS antennas and a new under-seat deployment as examples.
The internet was abuzz leading up to the big game as tech writers and industry pundits watched curiously to see just how the DAS would hold up to more than 70,000 fans armed with high-resolution retina screens, video apps, Twitter and, of course, texts and traditional voice calls. (Unlike typical cell traffic, which tends to consume data in downloads, Super Bowl traffic is upload-centric as fans share selfies and videos with ticketless friends and family.)
The interest in how Levi’s Stadium would perform under pressure is easy to understand; the venue has made no secret of its desire to maintain its coveted status as the most technologically forward NFL venue. The stadium was built with the Silicon Valley in mind – the region’s level of tech adoption, usage and associated high expectations are legendary.
From the earliest days of construction, the team knew that Super Bowl 50 was a likely outcome. In anticipation, all infrastructure, wireless systems included, were built to the most advanced parameters.
Passing the Test
“The first Levi’s DAS build was record-breaking. It outperformed every NFL stadium during an independent audit, and that was before the system had been fully optimized,” says Gamick, referring to a recent RootMetrics report. “It was running at 60 percent, and it performed at number one out of 31 stadiums. But it still wouldn’t have been Super Bowl-ready without additional work.”
“The venue owners were very clear that they wanted the best game-day experience for all fans. We had to make sure fans could enjoy the game and share the fun without the frustrations of a busy network, dropped calls, etc. That was our number one task for the past year. The day of the test was on Sunday. I think we passed.” Gamick smiles.