AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon go big for Super Bowl LVI

It’s once again AT&T vs. T-Mobile vs. Verizon in what’s become a high stakes game for wireless carriers in and around the stadium on Super Bowl Sunday.

AT&T is touting its three platform approach, with fiber, 5G and FirstNet. It added thousands of wireless network elements and thousands of feet of fiber in and around the stadium to prepare for the big day.

T-Mobile is ratcheting it up with a new ad featuring Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus giving a pitch for its 5G phones. At the stadium, T-Mobile deployed a brand new 5G system with upgraded 100 Gigabit backhaul and gear using its 2.5 GHz and millimeter wave spectrum.

In some ways, Verizon has the most to win or lose. Last year, Verizon extended its long-time relationship with the NFL with a new deal where it became the NFL’s “official 5G partner.” As part of the deal, Verizon became the official technology partner and 5G network of the league. The deal is for 10 years.

For Verizon, the engineering team typically starts working on a Super Bowl venue two years in advance. At this year’s SoFi Stadium in southern California, it’s using low-band spectrum, as well as mid-band CBRS 3.5 GHz and C-band 3.7 GHz, along with a mix of 28 GHz and 39 GHz millimeter wave spectrum.

Verizon invested $119 million in the stadium and surrounding Hollywood Park campus. It’s Verizon’s largest 5G stadium build to date.

“We always want our network, obviously, through our partnership with the NFL, to be the best of the best in the stadium,” said Eric Nagy, director of Sports Partnerships and Innovation at Verizon.

Because Verizon has so much mmWave in the stadium, that’s most likely what fans in the venue will be using. “Where we don’t have millimeter wave, in the very small areas where that may even be possible in SoFi because it’s quite frankly pretty darn ubiquitous when it comes to millimeter wave, you would pick up C-band,” Nagy told Fierce.

One of the most exciting 5G experiences for fans at the game is the multi-view, with the ability to see seven different camera angles all at once and rewind to see replays using Verizon’s multi-view in the NFL Ticketholder app. Verizon also is integrated with the NFL stats provider and AWS to pull in real-time stats about the players, he explained.

“We’re in lock step with them,” he said. “Our partnership drives that, absolutely. They have a lot of data, and we’re trying to figure out how you inform people more and more during the game, so that way they feel like they really know more of what’s going on.”  

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For the half-time show, Verizon partnered with Pepsi to deliver what they’re calling “the most immersive” show ever. For the first time, fans in the stadium and at home will be immersed in 360-degree views of the show from three different vantage points. 

In addition to two vantage points at either end zone, the main stage view consists of seven different 360-degree cameras edited together so viewers won’t miss a moment of the performance. Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar will take the stage, hopefully by storm.

But, of course, the real contest on the field is between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals.

An Atlanta resident, Nagy declined to say which team he’ll be cheering for, opting for the safe route. “I’m rooting for a great game,” he said, noting that’s it’s going to be tough to compete with some of the football that's been played in recent weeks. “We’ll see, but I’m just rooting for a lot of good scoring and a lot of good play.”