Super Bowl 54 was a landmark event, and not merely because the Kansas City Chiefs won their first title in a half-century.
The Chiefs, who were 1.5-point favorites in the Super Bowl betting odds, rallied in the fourth quarter to defeat the San Francisco 49ers 31-20. However, the real winners on the day were NFL fans.
Last year’s Super Bowl at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium was the first 5G Super Bowl. For the first time in Super Bowl history, the stadium and much of the surrounding city, including such hot spots as the airport and the downtown area of Miami, were outfitted with 5G technology through a partnership between the NFL and Verizon.
“I can’t imagine going through these experiences and not being excited about the technology and what it will enable for sports and for the NFL and NFL fans,” Verizon’s Chief Product Development Officer Nicki Palmer told CNN Business. “It’s fantastic for fans because it brings the latest tech to their fingertips.”
With Super Bowl 55 on Feb. 7 at Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium looming on the horizon, both sides of this partnership viewed Super Bowl 54 as a test run for 5G technology. After all, it was still relatively new to the general public and the fact of the matter was that most people who attended the game probably hadn’t yet upgraded their mobile devices to 5G.
Still, it was an ideal method to try out new ideas associated with the technology to see what worked, what came up short, and where they can improve the product for future games.
Inside The Stadium
With 4G technology inside a packed stadium, there are always issues to overcome. Gathering together massive crowds of people in one location would generally cause the network to suffer from congestion. Due to that excess demand on the service, wireless speeds suffer slowdowns.
On the other hand, 5G delivers a signal at around 100 times the pace of any existing 4G network. That means it’s able to handle hundreds more connected devices without slowing down.
A 5G network delivers download speeds of up to one gigabit per second. The result is that social media posts are uplinked quicker. For those fans who are choosing to access their tickets, as well as make payments and order concessions via their mobile devices, the entire process is much faster and vastly more user friendly.
Verizon invested $80 million and devoted two years on location in South Beach to build out 5G in the stadium and in other parts of Miami. They also beefed up the 4G network in order that even fans without 5G devices would still experience a much better connection to their network.
“Our goal is that as we think about the fan experience in the stadium, we’re always thinking about: How are we enhancing their experience?” NFL Chief Revenue Officer Renie Anderson told CNN Business.
“MetLife Stadium” by Wikimedia is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
As well, the NFL introduced a new feature called OnePass. Through this fan engagement app, those in attendance were able to watch a live stream of the game featuring multi cameras offering five different angles to view the action. This technology enables spectators attending a game to see views of the play from beyond their own seat.
They can also pause and rewind play, enabling fans in the seats to create their own instant replays. The app also allows fans to track down the closest washroom to their seats, and the nearest concession stand, along with up to the minute wait times for both locations. When the game concludes, it makes it easier to locate your car in the parking lot, and provides the best route to your vehicle from your seat.
In essence, it’s like getting the best of both worlds – a view of the action in person with the fewest possible aggravations, plus all the perks of staying at home and watching the game on television.
“We love to bring technology to life for our customers and, certainly, NFL fans,” Palmer told Fox Business. “So, when we think about what this next generation of technology will do . . . it is so transformational.”
All of this technology is designed to make the fan experience inside the stadium on game day much more enjoyable and interactive. The NFL hopes that as 5G technology grows and more people access it, they’ll be able to continue to develop methods to increase fan engagement and continue to make the Super Bowl as super for the fans as it is for the winning team.