Verizon strikes 10-year, 5G technology deal with NFL

Football stadium lights and field
Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband service is already available in parts of 25 out of a total of 30 NFL stadiums. (efks / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Verizon and the NFL struck a 10-year partnership where Verizon will be the “official 5G partner” for the NFL. Verizon Business Chief Revenue Officer Sampath Sowmyanarayan said the arrangement is not just your typical marketing partnership; rather, it’s a technology collaboration. The companies did not reveal a dollar amount related to the contract.

Verizon has already worked with the NFL for more than 10 years. But the relationship has always been based on short-term contracts. This 10-year agreement will give both companies time to do research and development to create new 5G use cases that impact areas such as fan experience, public safety, concessions and crowd management. 

Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband service is already available in parts of 25 out of a total of 30 NFL stadiums. Sowmyanarayan said that a few of the stadiums are not owned by the NFL clubs, so that’s why the agreement doesn’t cover all 30 venues. Verizon also has deals with 18 NFL teams.

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For the stadiums, Verizon provides miles of fiber, distributed antenna systems (DAS) and small cell antennas. The carrier will tap all of its spectrum: low-band, C-band and mmWave to provide the 5G coverage. Verizon does the RF planning in-house, said Sowmyanarayan.

When it outfitted the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa with 5G for the 2021 Super Bowl, the company spent about $80 million for the upgrades. Sowmyanarayan said every stadium is different, so the costs to provide 5G vary. But he said the $80 million is a good “ballpark” figure for upgrades to these NFL stadiums.

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5G use cases

One of the 5G technologies the companies have already created is an app where fans can watch the game from up to seven simultaneous, different camera angles. Fans just need to download their team’s app. Verizon did a version of the app at the Super Bowl this year.

Another potential use case involves pairing light detection and ranging (Lidar) technology with Verizon 5G Edge to help venue owners gain real-time information on crowd patterns, so they can make immediate decisions to help improve the flow of people. 

“The NFL has embraced innovation for decades to bring fans closer to the game from instant replay technology to outfitting players with microphones,” said Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg, in a statement. “Our longstanding relationship, and swift delivery of 5G connectivity in 90% of stadiums, has created new ways to bring fans even closer to the action. As we embark on the next 10 years, our work with the NFL will continue to enhance and transform not only the fan viewing experience, but also has the potential to improve player training and overall venue operations.”

Besides the NFL stadiums, Verizon is providing its 5G network to more than 60 sports and entertainment venues across the country.