Super Bowl traffic stats: Verizon leads at 4.1 TB, T-Mobile trails with 430 GB

The nation's largest wireless carriers offered some insights into how they prepared for Sunday's Super Bowl XLIX game between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, as well as how much traffic they saw on their networks during the game.

Perhaps the most interesting statistic to come from Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ), AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T), Sprint (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile was the total amount of data they recorded by football fans inside the University of Phoenix Stadium, where the game was held.

Verizon said its customers at the site generated 4.1 terabytes of data, up from the 1.9 terabytes of data its customers generated during the 2014 Super Bowl. AT&T, meanwhile, said it recorded 1.7 terabytes of data at the venue. (To be clear, it's difficult to compare traffic numbers like these directly since carriers don't measure traffic in the exact same ways. For example, AT&T said its figure included traffic from both indoor and outdoor systems, while Verizon said its numbers came from customers "at the stadium.")

Sprint didn't initially provide its traffic numbers, but after FierceWireless published this article with statistics from AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, Sprint decided to change course and provide specific figures for its traffic. "Our 4G LTE data usage in and directly outside the stadium on game day was 754 GB," wrote Sprint spokeswoman Adrienne Norton. Sprint also said the traffic was a 259 percent increase in traffic compared with last year's Super Bowl.

Finally, for its part, T-Mobile said its customers generated 430 GB of data. "Of the 430 GB of data used in the stadium, 33% was for web browsing, 24% for social media and 17% for video or audio streaming," the carrier said.

The figures are noteworthy considering the increasing demands that mobile users are putting on wireless networks, both cellular and Wi-Fi. That demand is reflected in a variety of statistics. For example, Cisco just reported that consumers in North America used on average 1.89 GB of mobile data per month in 2014, a figure that Cisco thinks will surge ahead to a little more than 11 GB on average in 2019. Perhaps more importantly, Verizon, AT&T, Dish and T-Mobile collectively plan to spend close to $44 billion on new spectrum via the FCC's recently closed AWS-3 spectrum auction to support users' demands for data.

As for the carriers' Super Bowl preparations, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint each offered insights into how they fortified their networks for Sunday's game (carriers often pay special attention to high-traffic venues to avoid network congestion). Verizon said it built new cell sites at the location, installed indoor and outdoor distributed antenna systems (DAS), added 13 mobile cell sites, added additional AWS spectrum carriers, and conducted other network improvements. AT&T said it added 13 new or upgraded permanent DAS installations and 10 mobile cell sites. Interestingly, AT&T added that the stadium was "the first venue in the country in which we deployed four carrier LTE coverage." For its part, Sprint said it added mobile cell sites and that, inside the stadium, it offered a 2X20 (40MHz) cellular system running on its 2.5 GHz spectrum.

Finally, T-Mobile said it "expanded backhaul capacity and put in place special event network parameters in and around the Glendale, AZ area to maintain T-Mobile's excellent 4G LTE coverage in this area."

Editor's Note: After this article was posted, T-Mobile CEO John Legere responded with this Tweet:

For more:
- see this Verizon post
- see this AT&T post
- see this Sprint infographic

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Article updated Feb. 4 with Legere's Tweet and Sprint's specific numbers.