San Francisco's new stadium to allow 68,500 WiFi connections at once

New Orleans' Superdome, venue of the most recent Super Bowl, got a new WiFi network installed for football's biggest event that was designed to handle 30,000 connections at once. While that sounds like a lot of wireless traffic (and it is), that will be nothing compared to what is being built for the San Francisco 49ers football team.

The team is getting an all-new stadium slated to open for the start of the 2014 NFL season. It will have a lot of fancy features, one of them will be beneficial for anyone wanting to save on their wireless data bill. According to Ars Technica, the stadium will have a WiFi network made to service all 68,500 fans in the stadium at once.

Of course, this effort is being built in a city that's basically on the tip of Silicon Valley so it's not much of a shock to learn that some extra effort is being made to make the stadium's WiFi network better than anywhere else. While the team behind the network is keeping some details of their WiFi design a secret, they do say that the stands, suites and even the stadium's walkways will have WiFi access. They also claim that there will be no limits in terms of uploading or downloading data from within the stadium.

As far as how many access points will be put in place, the team is also keeping that a secret, saying that it will be between "zero to 1,500." By contrast, the Superdome had about 700 access points in the stadium and another 250 outside. The San Fransisco stadium's network team has not yet decided whether or not to add WiFi access outside in places like parking lots.

Source: Ars Technica | Image via San Fransisco 49ers

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The new stadium is in Santa Clara not San Francisco. Santa Clara is in the Silicon Valley. Right next to San Jose. It makes sense this will be a very advanced stadium.

Yeah - 68,500 wifi connections all bottle-necked by a 1.5 MBps pipe

And you think hotel Internet access is bad...?

RBDx3 said,
Yeah - 68,500 wifi connections all bottle-necked by a 1.5 MBps pipe

And you think hotel Internet access is bad...?

Most hotels I've been to have your standard consumer internet package of 20-120mbps. Here in Holland at least. Which is usually fine for a whole hotel (they aren't that large) unless one or 2 start unrestricted torrenting.

How do you know what kind of connection the hotel has? Really small hotels might use a consumer connection, but only REALLY small hotels. 10-15 active users (and I don't mean heavy, just active) will bring a consumer connection to its knees, doesn't really matter what rate they claim. I suspect most hotels that are not in the middle of nowhere probably have a 100mbps fiber/Ethernet connection, but that is a pure guess, I don't really know.

As for the stadium, probably three 2-gigabit connections, load balanced, at least that is how I would design it. You would also want to use traffic shaping to prevent users from abusing the connection. Anyone with a calculator will quickly point out that is less than 100kbps per user, but with that many users that should be more than enough, not everyone will be using the connection at the
same time. In fact, that might be massive overkill now that I think about it considering the usage pattern of stadium users. Two 1-gig connections might be fine. Then again, people are going to hit it hard during half-time, hard to say.

lexp said,
Who needs Wi-Fi if 3G and LTE are not slower?

Have you ever tried to use 3G or LTE inside a packed stadium? They would need to have as many Microcells as Wifi to make it usable for data, and no carriers in the world (that I know of) implement such an expensive setup of 1500+ cell sites in the one stadium because there is no return in it for them just to make a subset of their customers (sportsfans who physically go to matches) happy for a few hours (during games) each month when really hey should be watching the game (which is why they are there in the first place) and they still pay their monthly subscription anyway.

If they just have a handful of cells in there (as they usually do) then everyone in the stadium is literally sharing the same internet connection. An LTE cell can do say 150Mbps peak if you are lucky. Say split the cell into 16 Microcells. 150*16=2400Mbps to share. 2400/68500 people = uhhh not going to have a good time.

Before I read the 1500 estimation , I calculated 2,140. 68,500 / 32.
I suspected a cap of 32 max clients per AP.
Man they must be using some heavy duty APs, would love to have that IT budget!!!!!!

I think that they are betting on that some people will not be using their devices or will actually watch the game. Optimistic I know!!

Not so much difficult as it is expensive to do. It is simply a case of spreading out the APs with low power output to make Microcells joining up together than just one big cell (Which there would be nowhere near the amount of bandwidth available in the spectrum). Challenges: Network Design, where to place the APs. Configuration: Power output level not too great so it doesn't interfere with other AP cells on the same channel, and optimal layout of different channels so they don't overlap on the same channel. Rollout, automating the configuration so it doesn't take forever. Backend network, wiring up all the APs and the topology to connect them together. Backhaul, making sure there is enough bandwidth connecting all those people to the Internet. The Equipment costs itself.

If they are looking at 1500 APs, that's about 50 devices per AP/Cell.

Very expensive but doable. When there isn't a game on, all that backhaul (Their multi gigabit internet connection) would go to waste. It would make sense to run a Datacentre that handles CDN when companies need extra capacity for non-game times.

That is not true. Wireless does not scale well at all. A single access point might be able to support 20-100 clients pretty well, depending on bandwidth needs. 30 access points can do 600-3,000 without much more work, but beyond that, you have to start thinking about signal saturation. I am very interested in how they plan to fit that many radio signals is a small area. Highly directional antennas perhaps, so that the same frequency can be used in multiple places at the same time seems like a much. I wonder if they plan to only allow 802.11n signals, because they require less (air) bandwidth for the same amount of data.

You are on the right track with lower power levels, but it isn't just a matter of spending money on APs and then spacing them out. A lot of thought and planning must be done. Probably would require a spectrum map to be made, and I don't mean simple colored circles placed over a floor plan. I mean walking around with equipment to simulate the data and measure how it propagates.