Record-Breaking Wi-Fi Usage at Super Bowl LI

Ryan Hall Manager, Vertical Solutions Marketing Published 2 Mar 2021

Without a doubt, Super Bowl LI was certainly one to remember – and one for the history books. 

Battling against the Atlanta Falcons, the New England Patriots successfully overcame the largest deficit in Super Bowl history, scoring 31 unanswered points after trailing 28 to 3 in the 3rd quarter, eventually winning 34 to 28 in overtime. Speaking of which, Super Bowl LI also marked the first time the Big Game was decided in overtime. Lastly, it’s impossible to reference history without mentioning Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, who have now won the most Super Bowls of any head coach and quarterback in NFL history, respectively.

It may come as a surprise to hear that another set of records were broken during Super Bowl LI. These records didn’t take place on the field, instead they took place in the stands, on the concourses, and everywhere else within NRG stadium. What’s one thing that is available in all of these areas in the stadium? The answer: high-density Wi-Fi, and fans to use it, of course!

That’s right: Super Bowl LI made Wi-Fi history by being one of the most connected and engaged sporting events to date.

From the opening of the stadium to the conclusion of the trophy ceremony, Extreme Networks, the Official Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi Analytics Provider of Super Bowl LI, powered Super Bowl stadium with our purpose-built Wi-Fi solutions, delivering a high-quality connectivity experience for fans in-venue while also measuring the mobile engagement behaviors of connected users. 

Using the ExtremeAnalytics engine, reports demonstrate that 11.8 TB of total data was transferred during Super Bowl LI, a new record for total data usage. For comparison, the previous record for data transferred across a Wi-Fi network at a sporting event was 10.12 TB at last year’s Super Bowl. Extreme powered the Wi-Fi analytics for this Super Bowl, as well as the previous two Super Bowls (48 and 49). That said, this was the first time a Super Bowl leveraged both Extreme’s Wi-Fi infrastructure and Wi-Fi analytics solution.

It’s clear that data consumption continues to grow year over year, as documented in the 2017 Super Bowl LI Wi-Fi Infographic. Total fan engagement also continues to grow year over year, and this is where the network at Super Bowl LI broke another Super Bowl Wi-Fi record: at its peak, there were over 27K concurrent users on Wi-Fi – 41% more than Super Bowl 50! In total, over 35K fans were on the network throughout the game. 

You might be curious what exactly fans were they doing while on the Wi-Fi. Think: social networking. The popularity of fan engagement with social networks may not be very surprising, but considering 1.7TB of the total data was transferred from social networking engagements, a 55% increase in comparison to Super Bowl 50, it certainly underscores how active users are on social. Equally important, it validates the need to build robust, secure Wi-Fi networks like the one at Super Bowl LI to meet the habits of today’s highly-connected fan.

For sports teams and their venues today, it’s clear that the investment in a high-density Wi-Fi solution for their fans and for their business is now viewed as a necessity, not as a luxury. For the typical fan, Wi-Fi is an expectation: it should be readily available everywhere and anywhere they go – especially at a high-profile event like the Super Bowl. What may not be so obvious is the complicated process involved in designing and deploying such a network. For those wondering exactly what it takes to deliver a Wi-Fi solution for such an important event, I would encourage you to watch our Birth of a Super Bowl Wi-Fi Network, which demonstrates the critical, complex steps involved in a project of this magnitude. And it looks as though the results were worth the effort.

To learn more about how Extreme Networks teamed up with the National Football League and Super Bowl LI to deliver an outstanding fan experience, visit our Super Bowl LI landing page.

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