A (Data) Miner 49er Builds the NFL’s Premier Stadium Network


The San Francisco 49ers struck gold when they hired Dan Williams, former network engineer and technical operations chief for social media/data mining giant Facebook, as their VP of technology. Knowing a bit about how technology users consume and experience data, Williams designed the state-of-the-art network architecture for Levi’s Stadium, the major outdoor entertainment complex and new football stadium for the 49ers and their fans.

To start, there’s the 40Gb/s backbone that’s three to four times faster than the internet capacity at most sports stadiums. Levi’s Stadium has 400 miles of cabling—70 of which are just for WiFi service. The WiFi infrastructure is head-and-shoulders above what you will find at other NFL stadiums both in speed and the number of users who can simultaneously connect inside the stadium.

The stadium has seating capacity for 68,500. On average, 65% of fans use their smartphones at their seats. (Levi’s Stadium is located in Santa Clara in the center of Silicon Valley, after all, where smartphone addiction was born.) There are the 1,200 WiFi access points across the stadium and fully half of them (600) are in the lower bowl, which seats 45,000. That calculates as roughly one access point for every 100 seats within the bowl. Tech specialists rove the aisles to answer questions for anyone needing help logging onto WiFi. Fans use the WiFi network to check football statistics and to post on social media during timeouts. With a free mobile phone app they can order food and drink for pick up at a concession express line or for delivery to their seat. For those fans who just want to use their cellular service, antennas distributed throughout the stadium address the connectivity issue and improve the cellular signals.

Elsewhere, the in-stadium user experience is enhanced with flat-screen TVs in the luxury boxes and all major walkways, and two giant HD-quality scoreboards at the north and south zones of the stadium, for easy viewing from any seat in the house.

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