You’re at a football game. Your team scores and you text your roommate. Then, you send a picture of the scene to your friends’ group text. Another touchdown! This one clinches the game. You get a video of the fan section going wild and post it to social media.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Data usage is spiking at sporting events. New technologies and mobile apps are giving fans more ways to enjoy the game – and more ways to share it. And at AT&T, we need to be ready to handle that behind the scenes. Let’s put this in context. Thousands of football fans from Alabama, South Carolina and across the U.S. flooded Glendale, Ariz., on Monday night to take in the 2nd annual College Football Playoff National Championship. In doing so, they set a new mobile data usage record for a college football championship game and for the stadium in Glendale on our network.

With crowds in Glendale looking to share their favorite plays, fight songs, quick videos and more from the game, we upgraded the cellular Distributed Antenna System (DAS) at the venue to provide the best possible fan experience. We also made permanent upgrades to additional DAS and cell sites, and even deployed temporary Cells on Wheels (COWs) to cover the game and other events throughout the greater Phoenix area.

As a result, we saw record-setting numbers:

  • Total data usage from the network serving the stadium and surrounding tailgate party areas was more than 1.9 TB.
    • 1.9 TB is the equal to more than 5.5M social media posts with photos.
  • We saw traffic spike compared to other recent football games:
    • Monday night’s data traffic was about 15% greater than what we experienced at pro football’s Big Game at the same stadium in Glendale last February.
    • Traffic edged out last year’s College Football Playoff National Championship game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas by about 37%.
    • Even more, data traffic was up a whopping 330% compared to the average college football game nationwide in 2015.
  • Mobile traffic from event-related activities taking place Friday through Monday in the greater Phoenix area, including fan fests, concerts, the game and more, totaled more than 18.1 TB.

This past fall, football again proved why it’s the king of sports. From the 641 games played at more than 95 pro and college stadiums where we have a venue-specific network, we saw more than 300 TB of total mobile data usage from our customers. That’s equal to more than 860 million social media posts with photos. That’s a lot of selfies!

The college chapter of the football season has come to an end, but more gridiron action awaits as we shift our eyes to Santa Clara, CA and the Bay Area where we’re hard at work to ensure our network is ready for fans heading out to the “Big Game.”

And ready for those texts, pictures and video posts of the Big Win.

Bill Smith
Bill Smith President - AT&T Network Operations, AT&T Services Inc