In-stadium Wi-Fi a boon for iPad owners

Lincoln Financial Field just installed a 45,000-user Wi-Fi network that makes attending NFL games a special treat for iPad-toting football fans.

In-stadium Wi-Fi a boon for iPad owners - Jason O'Grady
The Eagles' iPad app displays a live video feed available exclusively while connected to the stadium's new Wi-Fi network. Image: Jason O'Grady

Ever go to a large concert or festival and not be able to get a single data packet on your iPhone? As a long-suffering AT&T customer, this has been the story of my life since the iPhone was released in 2007. Often times, I'd get zero packets on my AT&T iPhone while the Android device in my other pocket (usually on Verizon Wireless) would connect without issue. Obviously, your mileage will vary and a lot has changed since then, but sadly AT&T coverage is always abysmal at large events that I've attended.

I took my family to the Philadelphia Eagles home opener at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday and frankly, I had low expectations. Much to my surprise, the Linc (as it's affectionately known in these parts) had just completed the installation of a Wi-Fi network as part of a $125 million renovation. In addition to being able to withstand 45,000 simultaneous users, the new FreeEAGLESWiFi network came with a couple of extra niceties, which I cover below.

According to CNN, less than half of the NFL's venues are Wi-Fi enabled, despite a mandate from Commissioner Roger Goodell in May 2012 to outfit all 31 stadiums with Wi-Fi. The commissioner wants fans to be able to use their mobile devices in NFL stadiums for social networking and fantasy football.

In addition to Philadelphia, 11 other NFL stadiums are currently equipped with Wi-Fi:

  1. MetLife Stadium in northern New Jersey

  2. The Georgia Dome in Atlanta

  3. Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis

  4. Raymond James Stadium in Tampa

  5. Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans

  6. Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte

  7. Sun Life Stadium in Miami

  8. AT&T Stadium in suburban Dallas

  9. University of Phoenix Stadium in suburban Phoenix

  10. Ford Field in Detroit

  11. Soldier Field in Chicago

Screenshot 2013-09-16 21.41.12
Levi's Stadium, future home of the San Francisco 49ers, will open next year in Santa Clara, California, and is expected to offer speedy Wi-Fi and Web-based TV throughout. (Image: CNN)

Much to my delight, Lincoln Financial Field's new Wi-Fi network performed remarkably well on Sunday. I was able to log on with my iPad and iPhone and post pictures to Instagram and Google+ with ease. But the best part was the enhanced Eagle iPad app (free, App Store) which has new in-stadium features that are only available while connected to the new Wi-Fi network.

From a press release sent out by the team last Tuesday:

  • Fans will have the ability to stream the popular NFL Red Zone Channel live through the app, allowing them to watch action from around the league.

  • Live camera view of the player tunnel prior to the game, which will give fans a unique glimpse of the players pumping each other up right before they run onto the field.

  • Live stream of the video board, allowing the user to get a better view of the replays that are displayed on the big screen.

  • A dynamic stats channel that provides fans with updates from the Eagles game, as well as information and statistics from around the NFL.

  • Social media hub, which will make it easy to log on to various popular social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and others without having to leave the Eagles app.

  • Many of the original features remain, including news, game previews, video clips, photo galleries, fantasy stats, rosters, depth charts, bios, stadium information, and much more.

In addition to being able to access popular social networking sites (and fantasy football), the new in-stadium live video feeds were responsive and lag free. The network was amazingly robust the entire game, despite a postcard promoting the new Wi-Fi network (below) that was placed in the cup holders of all 69,000 seats in the venue.

The postcard the Eagles placed at all 69,000 seats at the Lincoln Financial Field. Image: Jason O'Grady

I will definitely be back for more games this season because of the new Wi-Fi network, and tip my hat to the Eagles ownership for ponying up the cash for the upgrade — even though it probably didn't have to.

Have you had any luck with Wi-Fi at large events?