New Data Record Set at Big Game by the Bay

February 08, 2016
By John Donovan

After 21 weeks in the making, the “Big Game” was the center of the sports universe. Fortunately, the golden anniversary game in the Golden Gate City lived up to the hype.

If football is king, it shows in the data. Each year, fans light up the stands with glowing smartphones as they post, snap and share from the game. Fans at the stadium in Santa Clara on Sunday used more than 5.2TB, setting a new mobile data usage record for any championship sporting event or football game on our network.

Just like the game, the data didn’t disappoint reaching record-setting numbers:

  • Total data usage from the network serving the stadium and surrounding tailgate party areas was equal to more than 15M super selfies.
  • We saw traffic spike compared to other recent football games
    • Sunday night’s data traffic was about 205% greater than what we experienced at pro football’s Big Game in Glendale last February
    • Even more, data traffic was up a staggering 882% compared to the average pro football game nationwide in 2015.
    • At kickoff alone, we saw more than 202 GB of data cross our network. That’s enough to watch the longest punt return in Big Game history 145K times.
  • But here is the real mind-blowing number. Mobile traffic from event-related activities taking place Saturday 1/30 through Sunday 2/7 in the Bay Area, including fan fests, concerts, the game and more, totaled more than 28.4 TB. That’s equal to 81M social media posts with photos.

Breaking data records is something we’ve come to expect at football games. Regular season data usage climbed 55% from 2014 to 2015 at pro football stadiums across the country. And usage already grew 37% from just the 2015 regular season to the playoffs on AT&T venue-specific mobile networks.

That’s why for more than a year we’ve been working to get our network ready for the “Big Game,” and all the tailgates, parties and concerts that come with it. We made a long-term investment of more than $100 million to boost our network capacity in Northern California last year. That includes more than $25 million in network enhancements just for the data surge expected in the Bay Area for the “Big Game.”

We upgraded our Distributed Antenna System (DAS) at the stadium to provide 150% more LTE capacity compared to the start of the 2015 season. We also made 25 additional DAS upgrades, deployed 9 Cell on Wheels (COWs) and enhanced or built 39 new cell sites to handle expected increased wireless network demands across the Bay Area at places like hotels, airports, convention centers and other busy areas.

And it wasn’t just in the Bay Area where people were talking about the “Big Game.” Leading up to the San Francisco showdown between Carolina and Denver, fans were talking about the teams across the country.

Using Nanocubes, AT&T Labs’ open source data visualization software, we analyzed the social chatter. After taking into account millions of data points, we created the animated line graph below which shows how the social media conversation for each team was trending in the weeks leading up to the “Big Game.” In the end, Carolina accounted from 52.5% of the Big Game chatter from January 24 – February 5.

The 2016 sports year is off to a great start. And we’ll be there with a strong network as fans continue to share all the unforgettable moments.

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