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CenturyLink Field was quiet and peaceful on Tuesday evening. That won’t be the case this Sunday.

iPhone owners outnumber those with Android smartphones by a 2-to-1 margin — at least according to Seattle Seahawks fans.

ciosummithawksThat’s one of the data points extracted from CenturyLink Field’s Wi-Fi network analytics, which spits out data from users who connect to the stadium’s wireless Internet service each Sunday.

Representatives from Bay Area-based Extreme Networks were in Seattle on Tuesday evening for the Seahawks CIO Summit, an event at CenturyLink Field that brought together top CIOs and industry leaders from teams like the Seahawks and Mariners, as well as organizations like Microsoft, The White House, and the NFL.

Extreme Networks helped implement the new WiFi network at CenturyLink Field before the start of the 2014-15 season and showed off some of the statistics it gathers from fans. One of the more interesting data points was the number of iPhone users compared to Android.

Here’s some information from the Seahawks vs. Panthers game last week. In the pie chart, the green is Apple (9,900 users) and the blue is Android (5,332):


That’s certainly not representative of smartphone operating systems in the U.S., as Android leads the way with about 52.1 percent market share.

But it does say something about the specific group of people attending Seahawks home games, and is an example of new data that the team can now see. Extreme Networks also tracks statistics like peak bandwidth, adoption rates, and unique Wi-Fi users — there are, on average, 16,011 unique users using the WiFi network at each Hawks game this season.

In the graphs below, the beige line is for CenturyLink — the others are from stadiums elsewhere with WiFi networks that Extreme supports.

IMG_4301 IMG_4303 IMG_4331 IMG_4309

Another cool stat — Extreme said it processed 2.7 terabytes of data during last Saturday’s playoff game against Carolina. The peak throughput was 1.4 gigabytes per second, which marked record for NFL stadiums with Extreme WiFi networks. That peak, for those interested, happened during and just after Kam Chancellor’s 90-yard interception return that sealed Seattle’s victory — and also caused some movements on the seismograph.

Extreme Networks also noted that, on average, 24 percent of fans at CenturyLink Field this season have logged on to the WiFi network (this also includes Verizon’s own WiFi network available in the stadium). The company has installed 757 access points, 162,000 feet of cabling, and 6,600 feet of fiber — this is necessary when you’re trying to provide WiFi to 70,000 fans in a 1.5 million square-foot space that’s full of steel, concrete, and of course, people themselves.

Making a multimillion dollar investment in a stadium WiFi network is certainly a big bet, but the Seahawks made it a priority after hearing from their fans.

I had trouble uploading this picture from CenturyLink Field while at last year's Seahawks vs. 49ers game.

“Less than a year ago, we didn’t even have WiFi in this building,” said Peter McLoughlin, president of the Seattle Seahawks. “But we met with our fan counsel, and this is something that was very important to them. They represent the interest of all fans. It’s gratifying to know that our fans can be connected while watching a game. It’s the best of both worlds.”

The NFL has made it a priority for every stadium to have a working WiFi network set up by this year. But some still don’t have the infrastructure ready, while others have a network that doesn’t always perform.

Jeff Tran, director of sports marketing and alliances at Microsoft, has tested out several in-stadium WiFi networks while helping teams with the Surface Pro 2 tablets on the sidelines and says the Seahawks offer a top-notch service.

“There’s a big delta between folks who do it right like the Seahawks, and others,” Tran said. “I haven’t been to every stadium, but I can tell you the experience here at CenturyLink Field is certainly world class compared to others.”

Chip Suttles. vice president of technology for the Seahawks.
Chip Suttles. vice president of technology for the Seahawks.

Chip Suttles, vice president of technology for the Seahawks, noted how the team’s front office was wary of making the big investment to install a WiFi network.

“It was like, why do we want to do it?” Suttles recalled. “There’s no direct return on investment on WiFi, and it’s not mandated by the NFL.”

But before this season — and just after the Hawks won their first Super Bowl — Seattle’s executives realized that the timing was right. Technology had advanced enough to the point where a company like Extreme Networks could install something that could support a high-density WiFi environment that, most importantly, could enhance the fan experience.

“It just gives us a platform to do all these things we can come up with now,” Suttles said. “Now that we have it established and it’s robust, tested, and tried, it’s just a matter of coming up with ideas. There are some things you have to invest in that don’t have a direct ROI, but lend to supporting the whole fan experience overall.”

Tuesday’s panels had in-depth discussions about improving the fan experience from a digital perspective, and we’ll have a recap of their comments later on at GeekWire.

Follow-up: How smartphones will change the experience of watching sports in a stadium

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