AT&T Data Use Explodes At The Super Bowl

We’ve all been there. You are at a crowded event, taking pictures with your smartphone and trying to share them on Facebook or Twitter but the damn photo just won’t upload. The data network you are using is clogged because too many people are trying to do the exact same thing you are: making phone calls, sending texts, uploading pictures and streaming video. With everybody trying to do the same thing at the same time, nobody can actually do anything.

The Big Arena Problem

Like other mobile carriers, AT&T has been working on solving this “big arena” problem for a while. It has been working to improve its DAS – Distributed Antenna System – for several years and has been moving to place it in venues across the country, including Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and the TD Garden in Boston. For the Super Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Sunday night, AT&T had its DAS system up and running with 11 temporary COWs (Cells On Wheels) towers to help the data flow.

So, when the lights went down on the Super Bowl, fans were still theoretically able to make phone calls and tweets to their heart’s delight.

Blackout Boosted Data Usage

According to AT&T, the busiest data traffic came during the halftime show when Beyonce was performing - and during the blackout itself. AT&T users consumed 78GB of data on the in-stadium network during the hour, more than twice what they did during the busiest hour of last year’s Super Bowl in Indianapolis. 

During the 34-minute power outage, AT&T users sent twice as many texts, consumed 10GB of data and made more phone calls than they did at any other hour during the game. This makes perfect sense considering that the users were living in the middle of a live news event and had nothing to do but putz around on their phones while the stadium lights returned. 

Total data usage for the entire event was 388GB on the in-stadium network. That is a lot of photos, even for the 71,024 officially in attendance at the game (many of which were likely not AT&T users). That was an 80% increase in traffic from the Super Bowl in Indianapolis. In addition, AT&T users made more than 73,000 calls during the Super Bowl. Even if everybody in the stadium was an AT&T user, that is more than one call per person. In likelihood, it was probably more like three or four per AT&T user.

Of course, many of these numbers are artificially high because of the extended delay in the middle of the game. Judging data from the Super Bowl or any other singular event can lead to suspect conclusions. But if there is one thing to take away from the Super Bowl in New Orleans in relation to AT&T’s cellular traffic - it is that more and more people have smartphones and they are using them more and more. This was the dominant theme of mobile in 2012 and it continues into 2013 and beyond. 

Top image: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana, courtesy Wikipedia.