UPDATED: Comcast, CenturyLink both providing Denver Broncos with upgraded Wi-Fi backhaul, Internet connectivity

DENVER--CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) and the Denver Broncos announced a three-year sponsorship deal, under which the telco will provide Internet and data connectivity at the team's stadium and training facility, ensuring redundancy for certain services already provided by Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA).

The CenturyLink contract starts with the upcoming National Football League (NFL) season. Now an official partner of the Denver Broncos, CenturyLink will install a 1 Gbps Internet circuit, with bandwidth up to 10 Gbps, at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver. "The new circuit, which will provide the Broncos with more than five times their current bandwidth, will deliver ultra-fast Internet traffic that will enhance fans' Wi-Fi experience at games or other events in the stadium," CenturyLink said.

The service provider will also deploy a 10 Gbps optical wavelength circuit for connectivity between the stadium and the Broncos' training camp facility in the Dove Valley area of Arapahoe County, Colo., enabling better data synchronization, faster communication, and enhanced disaster recovery and business continuity.

"CenturyLink is helping the Broncos accomplish one of its goals by providing a significant technology enhancement that will positively impact the game day experience," said Scott Russell, CenturyLink's vice president and general manager for the Denver market.

Almost a year ago, Comcast Business and the Denver Broncos announced that Comcast was upgrading the team's network infrastructure throughout the stadium and also the private fiber connection between the stadium and the team's headquarters and training facility. At the time, Comcast Business said the upgrade had increased network bandwidth by two-and-a-half times "with the ability to scale up to 10 Gbps in the future."

A CenturyLink spokeswoman provided incorrect information to FierceWirelessTech regarding the nature of the telco's deal with the Broncos, stating that CenturyLink's services would replace Comcast's. In fact, the Broncos have extended their relationship with Comcast, which is also providing upgraded bandwidth to the team.

After this story was published, a Comcast spokeswoman replied to an earlier FierceWirelessTech inquiry. "Comcast has renewed the services agreement with the Broncos" and will continue to provide 1 Gig Ethernet Dedicated Internet (EDI) service, eight primary rate interfaces (PRIs), as well as video services at the stadium and Dove Valley, she said.

"Denver Broncos and Stadium Management Company are very proud to continue a long standing partnership with Comcast and specifically Comcast Business," Brady Kellogg, vice president of corporate partnerships, Denver Broncos Football Club, subsequently told FierceWirelessTech.

"Not only will Comcast continue to provide network connectivity, but the size of their circuit will actually be increasing 5X for the 2014 season. Comcast Business will also continue to provide voice and video services for both the team's practice facility and stadium," he added.

"We have multiple partners to serve a variety of needs between corporate Internet, Wi-Fi backhaul, press needs. We approach it from a redundancy perspective, so that you have two partners in event there is outage--not that there has been a problem with any partner," Kellogg said.

"The most important thing is that we'll have two very substantial connection points to the Internet from the stadium, both of which are far larger than we've ever had before," he continued.

The improved in-stadium bandwidth should help fans' on-site Wi-Fi experience during games and other events. The stadium Wi-Fi network was installed last year via a partnership between the Broncos and Cisco. The network can theoretically handle 25,000 concurrent users and was designed to support data offloading by all four major wireless operators. However, only Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) has signed on to access the network, which it began using last season.

"I'm talking to Sprint (NYSE: S) currently, but they have not agreed to join the Wi-Fi system as of yet," Broncos vice president of information technology Russ Trainor told the Denver Post. "AT&T (NYSE: T) and T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) will not be offering Wi-Fi to their customers at the stadium this year."

In related news, Extreme Networks and PCM announced that the NFL's Tennessee Titans selected them to outfit Nashville's LP Field with Wi-Fi. "The partnership with Extreme will not only positively change the in-game atmosphere but will also allow us to garner deeper insights into how fans interact with their devices while they are in the stadium," said Don MacLachlan, executive vice president of administration and facilities for the Titans.

Extreme Networks was recently named the Official Wi-Fi Analytics Provider of the NFL. "The NFL is committed to utilizing next-generation technology to help improve the fan experience in stadium. Extreme Networks' Wi-Fi analytics technology is part of the NFL's overall plan to improve the stadium experience with enhanced Wi-Fi connectivity," said Michelle McKenna-Doyle, NFL CIO.

For more:
- see this CenturyLink release
- see this Denver Post article
- see this Extreme Networks release

Related articles:
NFL on stadium Wi-Fi: 'Technology just isn't where it needs to be'
NFL relaxes blackout rules; will offer free WiFi at stadiums

Story corrected July 28, 2014, to reflect information provided by Comcast and the Denver Broncos.