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AT&T traffic: College football vs. Swifties – guess who wins?

In case you haven’t heard, the Michigan Wolverines beat the Washington Huskies 34-13 on Monday night in the College Football Playoff (CFP) national championship game.

What does that have to do with wireless? Turns out, these mega events are all about driving big data for U.S. wireless carriers.

AT&T’s network moved 20 terabytes (TB) of data during the CFP Championship on Monday night, compared with 14 TB during last year’s final CFP game at SoFi Stadium. AT&T’s network team started planning for this year’s event as soon as that one was over.

“As the presenting sponsor of the College Football Playoff championship game, we want to create the best experience for fans,” an AT&T spokesperson said in a statement accompanying the stats.

Monday night’s game was played at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, the same venue as Taylor Swift’s Era Tour show on April 22 of last year, which pulled down 20.2 TB in one evening.

Put another way, Taylor Swift & fans beat the football crowd on the data field, so to speak.

However, as far as events go, the Houston Rodeo, which takes place at NRG Stadium over a span of three weeks, generated 382 TB for the entire duration last year. (We’re told this rodeo is BIG in Texas.)  

Still, the record for any single-day event at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, remains the Taylor Swift concert in April 2023 that generated 28.9 terabytes of usage. Therefore, Taylor wins again, even if her “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” didn’t take home a Golden Globe on Sunday night.

Anticipating data demands

At NRG Stadium, AT&T uses all of its licensed spectrum, from 700 MHz up to 3.9 GHz, including C-band, the spokesperson said.

That sounds like a lot, but the operator is anticipating even more demand leading up to the 6G era. Of course, like rivals T-Mobile and Verizon, AT&T wants to see more licensed mid-band spectrum brought to market.

During the Brooklyn 6G Summit last fall, AT&T EVP for Technology Chris Sambar talked about the record-high data demands from all those Swifties and the need to plan for even more demands in the future. 

Backbone traffic 10 years ago was 56 petabytes per average day and that increased to 624 petabytes per average day in 2023, a 10x increase. That’s all traffic on the network, and “it’s not unrealistic to think that’s going to happen again” in the next 10 years on the wireless network, he said.

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