Superbowl mobile traffic: T-Mobile network proves fastest in Phoenix Stadium

Arizona Cardinals
More people than ever before tuned in during the Patriots’ defeat of the Seahawks last weekend. And while Superbowl itself proved more popular than it ever has been on TV, it was in and around the venue where we get the most interesting mobile network story of the weekend.

First up, we talk speed. T-Mobile’s network in the University of Phoenix Stadium area proved to offer the best download speeds of the four major national carriers:

JohnLegere_2015-Feb-04

T-Mo’s speeds were a solid 1.8Mbps faster than its nearest rival, Verizon. At 13.2Mbps, it was also 4.4 Mbps faster than AT&T and more than double the speed of Sprint’s network in Phoenix Stadium during Superbowl.

According to a Fierce Wireless report, in order keep performance high, T-Mo “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.”

But that’s where the positive news ends for T-Mobile. Of all four carriers, its customers used the least data. T-Mo customers used around 430GB of data in and around the stadium, with a third of it attributed to web browsing, a quarter used for social media and 17% for video/audio streaming.

As for the other networks, Sprint customers used a total of 754GB. That’s a huge 324GB more than T-Mobile customers used. And even that is dwarfed by the data consumed by Verizon and AT&T customers. Big Red customers at the stadium used a massive 4.1 terabytes of data, more than double what they used the year previous. In comparison, AT&T customers used 1.7TB.

Each of the four carriers installed indoor and outdoor antenna systems, mobile cell sites and made other infrastructure improvements to ensure their customers at the game could stay connected the entire game. And although the magenta-colored subscribers didn’t use as much data, at least they experienced faster speeds than all the other spectators at the Superbowl.

Source: Fierce Wireless

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  • John Doe

    Obviously they used more data there are a lot more Verizon and AT&T customers than T-mobile. And there are probably more people on sprints network with unlimited plans since its cheaper than T-mobile, I think Leger said it was about 30%. But this would explain why T-mobile’s network was the fastest, because its the least congested not because T-mobile has the most innovative network.

    • ChristianMcC

      As I’m seeing, Sprint’s unlimited plan is the same price as Tmo’s, at least for Family plans which often is the cheaper option, $100 for first 2 and $40 for each additional line, though it’s kinda hard to tell where it might end up with all the registration fees. The site kinda requires you call or go in stores to get the real prices, unlike what I’ve experienced with Tmo, so hard to make a true comparison…

      • Hector Arteaga

        A lot of people can get company discounts, I used to get a 23% discount through my employer with Sprint. So my bill did go up when I moved to T-Mo. I had two lines unlimited on Framily. I know they also discount this plan of issue. Anyway, at some point, I decided that T-Mobile having a tower right next to my house was worth the extra cost.

        • TK – Indy

          Just never leave those 3 areas in your life and you should be fine.

        • Hector Arteaga

          Lol. Coverage is improving quickly, but yes, people worry too much about coverage in Montana when they live in Dallas. People are willing to spend more for coverage where they will never go. If that makes financial sense to you, then good for you. I’d rather have great service in areas that I spend 90% of my time in. Makes sense no?

        • Stefan Naumowicz

          A. MEN.

        • uncommon sense

          Sucks if you are like me and live outside of Dallas where service is marginal to acceptable and work in Dallas where service is great AND have lots of family you occasionally visit in Montana where service is non existent.

          P.S. Data service between Dallas and Montana is mostly roaming or 2G.
          P.P.S. T-mobile did pick up an AWS license for several places in Montana during the auction so go TMO go build it out quick…..

        • Hector Arteaga

          You fall in the 10% that needs Verizon or ATT then. Maybe T-Mobile will be better in a few, but I wouldn’t use it if I was in your situation. Good luck.

      • Hector Arteaga

        A lot of people can get company discounts, I used to get a 23% discount through my employer with Sprint. So my bill did go up when I moved to T-Mo. I had two lines unlimited on Framily. I know they also discount this plan of issue. Anyway, at some point, I decided that T-Mobile having a tower right next to my house was worth the extra cost.

    • eAbyss

      It’s a little cheaper for a single line of unlimited but considering that Sprint no longer sells an unlimited family plan T-Mobile is the cheapest option.

      • TylerCameron

        Why does Sprint only have unlimited data for a single line?

  • This is what I love to see! At least when I have a connection, I can use it.

  • Mike

    I can tell you as an attendee of the game, I was not interested in being on my phone. I think I sent a few pics and post twice on facebook. That was it. But I did take advantage of Verizon’s free phone charging service!

  • Jrunner

    Glad to see that it worked at least… went to the Kentucky Derby last year and T-mobile was essentially useless. Data wouldn’t work, couldn’t get/receive calls. Hope they keep working on this at all large events…

    • ChristianMcC

      I miss Thunder Over Louisville, but I’m guessing it might be the same for that event. Maybe this year will be better, but we’ll have to see.

  • ChristianMcC

    Not to downplay our network, but I wonder what percentage of attendees were Tmo customers. If Verizon was 40%, I’m going to take a stab and say that Tmo was at most 15%.

    • jay_max

      That’s a great question. I’d also be interested in this answer.
      Also, perhaps the TMO folks were just more interested in watching the game rather than spending Facebook and CandyCrush time on their phones.

  • Deadeye37

    I’m thinking that since T-mobile is the bang for your buck carrier, a lot of the T-mobile customers are those that are looking for better deals and don’t have huge disposable incomes. Whereas Verizon and AT&T probably has a lot more customers that have deep pockets and want whats best out there. I would think that the majority of the crowd at the Super Bowl are more affluent and therefore stick with the big 2 since they don’t care what they pay (too much).

  • Jay J. Blanco

    430GB still us a lot of data for T-Mobile who has less then half of Verizon and AT&T has.

    • IceMan

      But Sprint used almost twice as much data, whereas Sprint is relatively the same size as T-Mobile.

      • Jay J. Blanco

        But the size of customers are disportionate. If it was even then it’ll be nice to see how they stack up

      • Brad

        Those customers weren’t necessarily at the game though. There could’ve been twice as many sprint customers as T-mo. Or half. Or any number. There’s no way to know at this point.

  • kevev

    Meanwhile in San Antonio Tx. on the NW side of town since Christmas Eve the speeds have been terrible. :(

    Usually see 400kb down / 3-4mb up. T-Mobile keeps saying there is nothing wrong and if there is a capacity issue they are not planning on upgrading any time soon. But whenever I ask them directly if there is a capacity issue they say there is none. Om my 3rd Engineer level support ticket and they are “supposed” to send a field driver out to test with 2 different phones on my street. It is weird that I live just inside loop 1604 and have a friend who lives on the outside of loop 1604 and his speeds are awesome 13mb down/13mb up. 15 years with TM doesn’t seem to have as much pull as it used to. :(

    • Freddy

      Is this the Shaenfield rd & 1604 tower? Reason I ask is that I am having the same issue for a long time. Internet is unusable most of the time. Move closer to another tower and speeds are good again.

      • kevev

        Yup! That’s the area. Wonder if TM is stealing bandwidth for testing the 700Mhz rollout in SA. I know that whenever they upgrade service usually sucks for a while. But this has been way too long.

        • Romdude

          Let’s hope that’s the case and you guys will be enjoying better service soon. If not 700mhz, at least wideband LTE like we do.

    • uncommon sense

      More rural area but I have had a similar problem in Kaufman TX. No LTE only HSPA+ but…….used to get 10ish mb down but now get 2G speeds and have for months. I have only opened one support ticket that was elevated and calls never returned on like promised. Fortunately for me this tower only matters a few days a month but it is an ongoing issue probably near 6 months now.

  • vrm

    do not read too much into this. Experience at one organized event is not indicative of their network. They could have placed a lot of LTE cells all over the stadium, connecting DIRECTLY to the internet in the stadium. It is almost like using wifi but with LTE.

    • TylerCameron

      lolwut

    • Stefan Naumowicz

      So your saying “the internet” is in phoenix and I can go plug my computer right into it?! That’s awesome! I always thought the internet was a global network of computers or something stupid.

    • Orlando Duran

      This is the dumbest comment ever said……your a tool. It’s not about speed, it’s about latency

    • Orlando Duran

      This is the dumbest comment ever said……your a tool. It’s not about speed, it’s about latency

  • Paul

    I won’t lie, I was a bit worried about this. Glad to see they setup and were able to handle the load of fans in and around the Super Bowl event.

  • Volker

    Of course Verizon customers used more data. Verizon has an exclusive deal with the NFL and they’re the only carrier to offer NFL Mobile with all its exclusive smartphone content. Even NBC, who live streamed the Super Bowl for FREE, even to people who aren’t cable/satellite subscribers, couldn’t offer the stream to anyone using a phone (tablets, devices, and computers only) because of the exclusivity deal Verizon and NFL have for mobile phones. So everyone there on verizon was probably using the NFL app to stream all that stuff that wasn’t available on other carriers. This would account for the huge disparity between even VZW and ATT.

    Also, just saying, if I spent a minimum of $8000 for one ticket to the game, being on my cell phone would be an afterthought.

    • kbiel

      This. Plus those numbers are worthless without knowing the number of subscribers at the stadium for each carrier. In other words, it would be more enlightening to know the MB/user consumed at the game.

      • Don Goyo

        Just by seeing the amount of data used Vs. speed, you can question what the outcome might have been if Tmo customers used 860GB, instead of the actual 430GB.

        • Stefan Naumowicz

          You don’t think T-Mobile would have expanded capacity more than they did to accomkdate twice as much data usage?

        • Don Goyo

          On a regular basis, No, i don’t think so, this is a special event and they may have tried to show how good they are. Now, the actual experience regular users have greatly differs from those numbers. Where i live from 4pm to 9pm the network is useless, and that’s on a daily basis.

        • philyew

          Based on a NetworkWorld report, TM seem to have had to do much less to “show how good they are”…

          “Verizon says its engineers spent “nearly two years” preparing for Super Bowl XLIX, quadrupling its 4G LTE capacity in and around the stadium by building new cell sites, small cell systems, and indoor and outdoor Distributed Antenna Systems, as well as introducing XLTE technology….AT&T, meanwhile, says it either upgraded or installed 13 new Distributed Antenna Systems, providing three-times the capacity it had in 2013, along with 24 new or upgraded cell sites both at the stadium and throughout the Phoenix area.”

          http://www.networkworld{dot}com/article/2880555/wireless/how-wireless-carriers-prepared-for-super-bowl-xlix.html

          Doubtless, they would have been able to match performance to increased load by taking some of the additional steps that were completed by VZW and AT&T, if the need had arisen.

          TM know their demographic, and would have been well aware that an audience comprised of people willing to pay at least $800 (face value) and up to $9K (scalped) for tickets wouldn’t likely contain many of their customers. Why spend more than you need to achieve an effective performance?

          Everyone’s experience differs. Where I live, I typically get upwards of 20mbps download, even when the LTE signal is only showing one bar, which it does most of the time.

        • Stefan Naumowicz

          “No, i don’t think so, this is a special event and they may have tried to show how good they are.”

          You must have missed the part explaining how every carrier boosted their capacity, not just T-Mobile:

          “Each of the four carriers installed indoor and outdoor antenna systems, mobile cell sites and made other infrastructure improvements to ensure their customers at the game could stay connected the entire game.”

          “Where i live from 4pm to 9pm the network is useless, and that’s on a daily basis.”
          I find this hard to believe for 2 reasons: 1) you’ve spent your whole day shilling for Verizon on this thread, why would you be a customer of one of their competitors?
          2)its a fact that T-Mobile is the least congested network. I know not all areas are the same, but whatever is causing all this butt hurt for you is probably also causing you to exaggerate your complaints

  • Don Goyo

    Less customers than AT&T and Verizon, usage was way below the other 3 carriers and the advantage was only 1.8 Mbs over Verizon, clearly Verizon and At&T have better networks. What would have been the outcome if usage was 860GB??

    • Stefan Naumowicz

      Networks are built for the amount of customers a carrier has. That’s just common sense. The experience that each individual has while using their phone is the only thing that matters to them, not how many other people are in the same area using the same carrier. T-Mobile was the clear winner here

    • Stefan Naumowicz

      Networks are built for the amount of customers a carrier has. That’s just common sense. The experience that each individual has while using their phone is the only thing that matters to them, not how many other people are in the same area using the same carrier. T-Mobile was the clear winner here

      • IceMan

        I’m sure my experience would be the same whether it’s 5mbps or 22mbps.

        • former_tmorep

          Exactly!! Its crazy how most are so hung up on how fast their speeds are. I do side by side test between my htc sensation and lg g3, the g3 has better speed tests, but in real world, there is no difference.

        • Stefan Naumowicz

          For basic use, yes you’re right for the most part. But not everyone uses their phones the same way. I could show you 10 different applications I regularly use that are greatly affected by bandwidth

        • Stefan Naumowicz

          For general use that may be accurate, but believe it or not there are things you can do on your phone besides Facebook and web browsing. Things that are significantly affected by the bandwidth of your connection

      • Don Goyo

        These speed tests come to prove performance. If you had a coworker who can do 4 times as much as you can do at almost the same speed, who performs better?

        • Romdude

          You keep using that [paragraph]. I do not think it means what you think it means.

        • Stefan Naumowicz

          You have to know the average amount of data used PER USER to make that claim. Considering the size difference between the two companies I think its safe to assume Verizon had a considerably larger customer presence than T-Mobile did.

          If a coworkers data speeds were twice as fast as yours, would it make you feel any better knowing your connection was being shared with 10 times as many people? No, it wouldn’t, because all that matters is your personal experience. You don’t pay for service based on what a company can provide to the masses, you pay for service based on what a company can provide you

        • bagley

          Try telling that to the Tmo customer elsewhere who is on E while the Verizon customer sitting next to him is on LTE…..

        • Stefan Naumowicz

          Now your just changing the subject because you know your points are stupid. Go troll somewhere else

    • Hector Arteaga

      The point is, whichever T-Mobile customers where there, had the fastest experience.

      • Don Goyo

        And that’s clear, what you can’t say is that tmobile’s network performs better.

        • Hector Arteaga

          Well, it did. A lighter sports car performs better than a heavier one with the same drive train. In this instance, T-Mobile did what they had to for the amount of users they estimated. If you had been at the stadium, with a Sprint phone and a T-Mobile phone, your T-Mobile phone would have performed better. As a customer, that’s all you would have cared about.

        • Don Goyo

          If you had a coworker who can do 4 times as much as you can do at almost the same speed, who performs better?

        • Hector Arteaga

          Good analogy, but in the end, what matters the most? The users that experienced the faster download speeds or our arguments about who used the most data? In the end, the user experience is all that matters. In this case, T-Mobile users had the better experience. To me, that’s more important than any technical metric.

        • Stefan Naumowicz

          Your analogy is grossly skewed. Your making the assumption that there were the same amount of customers present for both T-Mobile and Verizon, which I’m sure is horribly inaccurate.

        • azc

          I would argue at least for me as a customer, I care about a whole lot more than just a 1 Mbps speed difference in a network.

    • Roger Sales

      All that is proving is that T-Mobile has more capacity for future customers in Phoenix area should they choose to climb on board. if I’m not mistaken, Phoenix-Glendale area isn’t even on wideband LTE right now either.

    • Spanky

      Of course. It’s public knowledge that VZ and AT&T have better, more far-reaching networks. T-Mobile has certainly come a long way, though. I am not a T-Mobile customer (their coverage doesn’t suit my requirements), but I am keeping my eye on them. If their coverage will ever reach the levels of the big two while retaining the current pricing structure, I may switch.

    • Jaykalvin

      So what’s Sprint’s excuse? haha

  • TK – Indy

    An empty truck is faster than a full one.

    • Hector Arteaga

      Much in the same way that a lighter sports car is faster than a heviear one.

  • eAbyss

    I’m going to have to join the dark side on this one. The reason why T-Mobile had the fastest speeds is because it didn’t have close to the amount of traffic as the other carriers.

    • Stefan Naumowicz

      “The reason why T-Mobile had the fastest speeds is because it didn’t have close to the amount of traffic as the other carriers.”

      Nobody is trying to argue that, T-Mobile is a much smaller company so naturally there will be less users and therefore lower data consumption than Verizon. What’s really important is the quality of service provided to each user on each network, and this study shed some light on that exact point.

  • sanches12

    They offer free wifi at University of Phoenix stadium so a lot of T-mobile users could have been using that instead of LTE. Hence the low usage for Tmo customers. Where T-mobile needs to improve service is the LA convention center. I went there last June and got “E” displayed on my iPhone which rendered it useless for using the data. I doubt it but I’m hoping they improve that this year.

    • TK – Indy

      I expect that everyone could have used that free WiFi. Try again.

      • Stefan Naumowicz

        ..and that less T-Mobile customers would feel inclined to use it, with the unlimited data and all

  • Ordeith

    I wish they would put in place similar “expanded backhaul capacity” and network tuning in and around Disneyland. T-Mobile is outright awful in that area.

  • Laststop311

    doesn’t surprise me, they do have the most robust aws network which is best for capacity in dense areas. Plus there were probably less t-mo customers then verizon or at&t so less congestion due to that as well, sprint well yea sprints networks just sucks even if there was the least amount of sprint people there sprint is just slow.