Ahead of last weekend’s Super Bowl LV, the three major U.S. carriers all touted network enhancements in and around Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
Now that the big game is over, network stats are coming out and testing results from Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) show that AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon each exceeded 1 Gbps for peak 5G speeds. And all three performed well above 5G results from 2020. Tests used a Samsung Note 20 5G device and were conducted at the Gameday Fan Plaza ahead of kickoff, and inside the stadium before, during and after the game.
T-Mobile improved significantly versus last year, but AT&T delivered the fastest peak and average 5G throughput at the 2021 NFL championship.
Peak 5G speeds, per GWS, at Super Bowl LV versus Super Bowl LIV:
AT&T: 1.71 Gbps in 2021 vs 878 Mbps in 2020 Verizon: 1.51 Gbps vs 924 Mbps T-Mobile: 1.09 Gbps vs 175 Mbps
AT&T also managed average 5G throughputs above the 1 Gbps threshold, according to GWS, hitting 1.26 Gbps. Verizon’s 5G average stood at 432 Mbps, and T-Mobile at 388 Mbps.
Blended 4G/5G speeds where 5G devices revert to 4G connections still showed AT&T in the lead at 975 Mbps, with Verizon at 425 Mbps and T-Mobile at 385 Mbps. That compares to the stadium’s Wi-Fi network that delivered 76 Mbps.
The carriers each have high-band millimeter wave spectrum deployed for 5G in at least some parts of Tampa and the Raymond James Stadium. Verizon invested $80 million in the Tampa Bay area ahead of the Super Bowl, while AT&T invested $75 million including FirstNet upgrades. T-Mobile had a mix of low, mid and high-band spectrum for 5G. Network enhancements will stick around even though the NFL championship wrapped up.
GWS reported high levels of carrier aggregation (CA), particularly for 5G, which helps boost capacity for sustained high-speeds. AT&T aggregated up to 8 channels – or 800 MHz of spectrum in the 39 GHz band for 5G – nearly three-quarters (74%) of the time. Verizon’s network utilized up to 6 channel CA – 600 MHz of spectrum in the 28 GHz band – 77% of the time.
T-Mobile touted deployment of its full “layer cake” 5G at the stadium, including 600 MHz, 2.5 GHz, and mmWave 39 GHz. Still, T-Mobile had fewer 5G aggregation channels, with up to 4 channel CA – 400 MHz of 39 GHz band spectrum – 73% of the time. According to GWS, T-Mobile also saw 5G 20% of the time using 80-megahertz at 2.5 GHz.
As for coverage, GWS found 5G on the most cell sites from AT&T (66 out of 67 distinct cell sites). Verizon had 81 cell sites, 63 of which delivered a 5G signal. At 41, T-Mobile had about half of the cell sites as Verizon, but a full 40 showed 5G.
There’s still the question of how many subscribers actually connected to 5G at the game. Fierce reached out to carriers and will update with any new information.
Operators themselves put out stats following the NFL championship.
According to Verizon, more than half (56%) of attendees were Verizon customers. Although fan attendance was limited this year because of the pandemic, the Raymond James Stadium was expected to be filled to around 30% capacity with 22,000 people. Using speed data from Umlaut, Verizon reported median speeds of 817 Mbps, which a spokesperson said incorporated all users - 4G and 5G - attending the event. Verizon saw speeds of multiple Gbps regularly throughout the event, the spokesperson added.
AT&T said fans used 2.7-times the amount of data per customer than the 2020 Super Bowl. Overall AT&T customers consumed 10.7 TB of data in and around the stadium on game day versus 10.2 TB at the Super Bowl in Miami. Verizon, meanwhile, said subscribers used 7 TB of data – equal to streaming more than 2,000 full-length feature movies or posting 7.3 million Instagram photos. The carrier saw a 28% bump in mobility in Tampa on February 7 compared to the same time on the Sunday before.
Nationwide, T-Mobile reported 40% more traffic for this year’s face-off between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with 5G device users consuming 25% more data than other customers.