5G at the Super Bowl has ‘dramatically improved’ since last year, GWS finds

The 5G experience at this year’s Super Bowl saw a dramatic improvement over what was available to users last year, according to testing by Global Wireless Solutions.

GWS tested the networks of AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile US and said that all three of them achieved faster maximum and average throughputs compared to last year, both on 5G alone and in 4G/5G throughputs.

GWS had network testers on-site in and around Raymond James Stadium, using Samsung Note 20 5G devices to test the cellular networks as well as the in-stadium Wi-Fi. Service was tested at the Gameday Fan Plaza before the game as well as throughout the stadium concourses and seating areas, before, during and after the game, during pre-game and post-game activities.

GWS found that AT&T’s 5G network had the fastest average download speeds in the stadium, at 1,261 Mbps; AT&T’s 5G network last year in Kansas City averaged 337 Mbps. Verizon held fast to second place both years, with its 5G average download speeds up from 200 Mbps last year to 432 Mbps this year. T-Mobile US’ 5G network recorded average 5G download speed of 31 Mbps last year, but reached 388 Mbps this year, according to GWS.

Those numbers differ from figures reported by Verizon, which said that its users consumed 7 TB of data and that its 5G customers saw an average download speed of 817 Mbps, with peak speeds in the stadium during the game reaching over 2 Gbps.   

In terms of infrastructure around the stadium, GWS said that it found 67 distinct AT&T cell sites and connected to 5G via 66 of them. Its testing techs were able to connect to5G on 62 out of Verizon’s 81 cells; and on 40 of T-Mobile US’ 41 sites. Carriers achieved their improved speeds in part by utilizing large swathes of aggregated spectrum: GWS saw a maximum of eight-channel carrier aggregation on AT&T’s network (800 megahertz of 39 GHz spectrum) nearly three-quarters of the time, and six-CA on Verizon’s network in the 28 GHz band. T-Mobile US was utilizing 4 CA, or 400 megahertz of spectrum at 39 GHz; GWS noted that it also saw 5G connections in 80 megahertz of T-Mob’s 2.5 GHz spectrum.

Peak 5G speeds for the three networks this year were 1.71 Gbps (AT&T), 1.51 Gbps (Verizon) and 1.09 Gbps (T-Mo), up from 878 Mbps for AT&T, 924 Mbps for Verizon and 175 Mbps for T-Mobile US last year, GWS reported.

Overall data usage at the game was still up compared to last year, despite the vastly reduced crowd of only about 25,000 people. AT&T said that its customers used 10.7 terabytes of data at this year’s Super Bowl, compared to 10.2 TB last year in Kansas City. Verizon, meanwhile, reported that

AT&T said that it spent $75 million to improve its network in Tampa ahead of the big game, including installing more than two dozen millimeter-wave antennas in and around the stadium and additional mmWave sites at Tampa International Airport and in downtown Tampa; it also brought in deployables for additional capacity. That’s on-par with the $80 million that Verizon spent in network upgrades.

In terms of infrastructure around the stadium, GWS said that it found 67 distinct AT&T cell sites and connected to 5G via 66 of them. Its testing techs were able to connect to5G on 62 out of Verizon’s 81 cells; and on 40 of T-Mobile US’ 41 sites.

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