Instadata: McLane’s complex Wi-Fi system allows for media influx

By Jon Platt

Baylor fans post about 1.8 million times to social media at each home game.

Artecia Wilson, AT&T’s solutions manager for the Waco area, said that’s an entire terabyte of data for each event at McLane Stadium.

AT&T and Baylor began a partnership two years ago to provide wireless service to the stadium. In April, they began laying 40,000 feet of fiber optic cable and 17 miles of coaxial cable, Wilson said.

This partnership brought about the first stadium in the nation to deploy three information technology services with AT&T: the wireless broadband, a transportation and security alarm system, Wilson said.

“No location in the country looks like this,” she said.

Since opening game day for the Bears on Aug. 31, over 7 million social media posts have been made over the enhanced AT&T cellular broadband network and the stadium’s free-access Wi-Fi.

“This is what we were targeting,” said Bob Hartland, the director of information technology and networking servers at Baylor, while holding up his phone in McLane Stadium.

Since most attendees will surf, post and communicate via their mobile devices, Hartland said the emphasis on providing first-rate cellular service was paramount in comparison to traditional laptops and computers.

Jason Duffin, AT&T’s senior real estate and construction manager for the Waco area, said a specific feature of the networks is the built-in ability to correct most problems with software manipulation. This means that when IT detects a malfunction or notices an overload to a section, they can easily redirect the network’s focus from a control room computer, instead of manually repairing the error in person.

“This stadium was designed expecting to handle floods of human masses in specific locations,” Duffin said.

Pattie Orr, vice president of information technology, said having the integration of AT&T’s service and the unique stadium Wi-Fi allows for seamless network experiences to game day guests.

“When it works, no one notices,” she said. “You can go anywhere in the stadium and have service.”

The grid system was designed to make Baylor a leader in game day technology. It is also equipped to scale as both the stadium and network capabilities expand, Wilson said.

So far, the only problem the networks have experienced was during opening day at the stadium.

While at the dedication for Robert Griffin III’s statue, crowds of people utilized the connectivity to broadcast the historical event.

“Everyone around me had a phone out taking videos and pictures,” Orr said. “And then you know they posted all of those to Twitter and Facebook and sent them to friends in text messages.”

The IT department quickly recognized a surge of network need and redirected appropriate service to the area. While it was not a cataclysmic failure, Duffin said it was not up to the projected standard.

“It met the need, but we would like to have been able to provide more of a buffer,” Wilson said.

Wilson said she looks forward to continuing the partnership with Baylor.

“Anywhere they want us, we’ll be,” she said. “This is a wonderful, wonderful relationship to be in.”