Wi-Fi: Solving the Mystery of the Disappearing College Football Fan

Notre Dame football fans are legendary, and they’ve just hit a new record. They’ve hit the highest Wi-Fi traffic number ever recorded for a single-day college event, according to Mobile Sports Reports. At the Fighting Irish’s September 9th home game against Georgia, the Wi-Fi network saw 6.2 Terabytes of data traffic. That’s roughly equivalent to 1,620 hours of high-quality video! That’s impressive. What’s also impressive: attendance for the game was near capacity.

This is good news because it could mean the beginnings of a change for declining college football attendance. At the end of 2016, NCAA reported that home attendance at all major college football games was down–for the sixth consecutive year. The attendance decline is slowing, down by less than 1 percent in 2016 from 2015, thanks in part to college athletics departments taking a look at what fans want and trying their best to deliver.

Just a few years ago, very few professional stadiums and even fewer college stadiums provided free fan Wi-Fi. But schools are now fighting for fan’s attention from a competitor that is hard to beat: the cozy confines of a fan’s living room. So, beginning around 2012, teams began putting together plans to encourage fans to attend and engage, attempting to make the live game experience as comfortable and easy as the couch.

Enter Wi-Fi. It’s an amenity that many of us value over food and sleep, according to some studies. And it’s crucial, for many college football fans, for sending celebratory selfies, videos of victories, and photos of football fun. Beyond just straight Wi-Fi access, teams are also developing apps to help fans order concessions from their seats, offer in-venue reporting and use data to learn more about who is coming to games and what they need.

The real game changer for networks in these stadiums is the emergence of live video. From Facebook Live, to Snapchat and Instagram stories, consumers today expect to be able to share where they are and what they’re doing via video at any time. Facebook reports that 1 in every 5 Facebook videos is a Live broadcast. And more often than not, those live broadcasts are happening on university and college campuses (including in stadiums). In fact, in 44 states, colleges and university campuses are in the top 5 most instagrammed places in that state. For college football, this could translate into bigger sales: according to New York Magazine, 67% of live video viewers are more likely to buy a ticket to a concert or event after watching a live video of that event or a similar one.

Depending on the size of the stadium, that means that 70,000-100,000 fans could be accessing their phones at once. That type of use cannot be handled by cellular providers alone. Even best-in-class Wi-Fi networks today need to be calibrated carefully to handle the increasing terabytes of data fans expect to throw around.

This situation is where Max WiFi shines: it makes better use of the limited spectrum available and can handle more devices, transmitting at the same time on one access point. And not only will fans in Max WiFi-enabled stadiums experience faster, more reliable connections, but they’ll get better battery life, too. Because Max WiFi is so efficient, devices don’t need to work as hard to connect to a network or to send a livestream, meaning they can stay online longer.

We’re looking forward to transforming college gameday with Max.