DenverBroncos.com sat down with Vice President of Information Technology Russ Trainor to talk about the Verizon and Comcast enhancements that fans will see at Sports Authority Field at Mile High this season. View photos from the tour he led at the stadium showing the upgrades here.
What role do Comcast and Verizon have in providing technology to the Broncos?
"Basically we have Comcast services for our network connections. There are high-speed network connections between Dove Valley and the stadium and then we have a high speed Comcast connection from the stadium to the internet that we use. That is primarily used for the Verizon wi-fi. So now the whole stadium is one giant Verizon wi-fi hotspot and its powered on the back end with an internet connection from Comcast. We also get Comcast HD TV service via fiber from them and then we do our phones as well."
What improvements did Comcast and Verizon install this year?"In 2012 we did a big stadium network uplift. We ripped and replaced that entire network down there, installed a high-density wireless network, and that is powered by an internet connection from the Comcast Metro Ethernet. We have a high-speed connection between our sites and that enables internal operations to function better. We have iPads now that you can take from here at Dove Valley to the stadium and over that link we can transfer video right to the iPad. We used to do tape back-ups for data. And now we do everything over the wire so we back up one another's site over the wire which is a big – I know it's not exciting to everyone – but it's exciting to IT because we get rid of all the tapes. And then all the applications and services that we normally were running over our older link, now it's just performing better and so the big key is – between our network upgrade and the Comcast Metro E there is a growth path there. As we offer more services to the fans, better social – from the fan perspective we're trying to let them watch more replays on their phones, on the Broncos mobile app and all that – that all gets extended through the Comcast Metro E extensions."
So what upgrades will fans see at games?"From a DAS perspective, Verizon and Sprint are both on the DAS.AT&T is currently installing their DAS system. T-Mobile, although they are not on the DAS they did increase their capacity and put newer technology in place to allow the T-Mobile users to get a better connection and of course we have the Verizon hotspot going. We're going to actually expand the wi-fi even further his year. We put more in the parking lots, more in the south stands and also more in the upper bowl. We want to keep increasing that experience for the fans, it's really all about them.
How many users will be able to access in-game wi-fi now?"On the wi-fi, we partner with Cisco to do this and do we can theoretically put 25,000 concurrent users on there, actually doing data transfer, uploading and downloading. Right now though we only have Verizon customers on there. We built it for all four major carriers, but only have Verizon on there now. Our hope is that in the next one-to-three years we get those other vendors, those other carriers on board and then we'll start to see those numbers hit 10,000 to 15,000, which it is built for.
What do these enhancements mean for the future connectivity for fans at the stadium?"That means 25,000 users doing something at one time, now. Our infrastructure is built to take that on and so is we need a high – those Metro E circuits from Comcast they can expand to 10 gigs. As we trigger some of those and we bring on and we have to provide a higher speed service for the fans, the core technology and the Comcast technology on the back end can easily be turned up. We put the infrastructure in place so we can build upon that and if we need more services more speed or performance on the back end we have it now in place."
For this season will just Verizon customers have access to the wifi?"For now and we are still in talks with the other folks and we're hopeful that they get on in the next year or so. I think they will because more and more people are using data on their phones. So at the Kenny Chesney concert that we had in July, we had nearly 1,500 Verizon wi-fi users on the network and it was actually the first time we noticed that the upload rate outdid the download rate at the concert."
Does this mean that fans will have an easier time uploading photos from the games to social media?"It's mainly the social media stuff, 'We are here at the game, let me take a picture, let me upload it.' We're able to provide that service now. But overall I'm happy where we're at. All four major carriers are at a better place. AT&T was one of the last big folks to come over and they're about 40 percent of our fans. Verizon and AT&T are right around 40 percent, give or take and so they're the last big folks to get on the DAS side and we're looking for like a mid-November launch with AT&T on the DAS."
So other providers will be onboard with the wifi later this season?"Yeah that's going to be live, we're going to try to get on with that depending on the weather. With all of these antennas going in they have to have right weather to get them installed and that's key right there."
How will Sports Authority Field at Mile High compare to other stadiums"I can't speak for all the other stadiums, and I'm curious about the San Francisco stadium for next year. I expect some good things coming from them. I don't mind if we take some of their ideas once they launch if they have some cool stuff that comes out. They're in the middle of a tech-central location. I think from where we're at now we're at a good point in technology-wise compared to other venues. And we're still driving, we're still adding. With all the uplifts we did this last year, I think we have the third-largest scoreboard, we have the IP TV system and the HD upgrades. We have the core pieces down. We have the new network at the stadium, we ripped out the network at Dove Valley put a new network in here like three months ago – two months ago. And so Comcast is helping us from the back end helping us getting those connections between sites and out to the internet – high performing robust systems there that can expand up to 10 gigs. I like where we're at from that perspective. And we'll keep looking, you know, it's all about the fans and getting them linked in, getting them connected, getting them more services, getting them the things they expect at home we want to be able to do that and more at the stadium."