Mobile data use soared at Super Bowl while some Internet traffic dipped

AT&T said traffic on its in-stadium network was nearly double last year's

Internet use fell in U.S. homes but soared inside the Superdome during this year's Super Bowl.

AT&T's mobile network in the Superdome got a workout, carrying 388GB of data over the course of the game, up more than 80 percent from the traffic AT&T measured at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis at last year's Super Bowl, the carrier said Monday.

People at the game hit the mobile network most between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Eastern time, an hour that spanned both Beyonce's halftime show and a sudden, temporary power outage, AT&T said. The outage didn't affect the carrier's network. During that time, AT&T customers in the stadium made more calls, sent nearly twice as many SMS messages and used about 10GB more data than during any other hour of the event. Data consumption in that one hour totaled 78GB, the carrier said.

The in-stadium network carried about 73,000 voice calls during the game, roughly equal to the number AT&T reported at last year's Super Bowl.

AT&T's statistics covered just its 3G and LTE cellular infrastructure in the Superdome, which included a distributed antenna system and 11 temporary "cells on wheels." Wi-Fi hotspots in the stadium also carried some of the mobile traffic, which wasn't included in the figures released Monday, AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said.

But while those lucky enough to be in the stadium were reaching out and consuming content, people at home were using the Internet less than usual, according to Sandvine, a maker of network gear. Sandvine's network policy control gear monitors application performance on networks, and the company sometimes collects aggregated data from participating customers.

Total Internet traffic in U.S. homes fell by about 15 percent from normal during the game, echoing a dip that occurred during last year's Super Bowl, Sandvine said. That result was based on figures from just one Internet service provider in the Eastern U.S., but Sandvine believes its statistics reflected a general trend, said Dan Deeth, a marketing analyst who wrote about the findings on the company's blog.

The dip most likely affected other big-screen uses of the Internet, which tend to be some of the most bandwidth-intensive, Deeth said. For example, people who were watching the game on TV weren't using their sets watching Netflix, which usually accounts for a big chunk of bandwidth, he said. In a broader study by the company covering the second half of last year, Netflix accounted for 33 percent of peak downstream traffic.

CBS did offer a browser-based video stream of its Super Bowl broadcast, which made up about 3 percent of all network traffic during the game, Deeth said. But that offering still trailed services such as Netflix and YouTube, he said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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