The nation’s four major wireless carriers are back at it in the wake of the inauguration, once again tackling a slew of network improvements this time to provide extra capacity for data hungry football fans at Super Bowl 51.
At last year’s Super Bowl, attendees gobbled up nearly 16 terabytes of data across the Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint networks, with Verizon customers taking the crown for highest usage at 7 TB. But last week’s inauguration of Donald Trump produced an even higher data usage total, with AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint customers on the National Mall sucking up a whopping 18.4 TB of data.
So it’s no surprise carriers are beefing up their networks for the next big day, but how exactly are they doing it?
Verizon has been at work in Houston for some time, having started prep for Super Bowl 51 even before the close of last year’s game.
As of last February, Verizon said it had already invested more than $40 million to construct and activate a new Distributed Antenna System (DAS) at Houston’s NRG Stadium. The system consists of 783 antennas placed throughout the facility and is designed to increase capacity by four times over the previous system, the carrier said. Verizon said it deployed an Outdoor Distributed Antenna System (ODAS) in the parking and tailgating areas of the stadium to further boost capacity.
On Wednesday, Verizon provided an update glimpse at its work, noting it has built 23 new permanent cell sites in the Houston area, installed 226 permanent small cells, and deployed 24 Nodes on Wheels (NOWs) to increase capacity. The carrier said it also deployed three channel carrier aggregation in the area, as well as mobile cell sites, and doubled capacity through major routes in and out of the downtown area.
Additionally, Verizon said at the stadium itself it added a DAS in the NRG Center, a Cell on Wheels (COW), five NOWs, and a WiFi system in the stadium. In the Discovery Green area, the carrier reported it deployed 79 small cells, 22 permanent access points, and 88 access points mounted on light frames, three COWs (including two with Matsing Ball technology), 18 NOWs, and 10 macro cell sites.
“We know people attending the Super Bowl and the incredible events surrounding the game will want to share their experiences with friends and loved ones around the nation, will use their wireless devices to gather information and navigate throughout Houston and will use their devices to capture every exciting moment of their experience,” said Nicola Palmer, chief network officer for Verizon. “Our engineers have been working tirelessly to ensure our customers have a great wireless experience with Verizon.”
AT&T has also pumped $40 million into Houston to add capacity ahead of the big game.
The carrier said it has upgraded or installed new DAS at the stadium as well as at 13 locations throughout the Houston area, including hotels, airports, and convention centers. In particular, AT&T said the new DAS at the stadium has more than 770 antennas, is equal to 16 traditional cell sites, and will cover fans in the stands, suites, concourse, and restaurants, as well as in tailgating areas outside the stadium. AT&T said is also deploying six super COWs, four of which will come with the Luneburg Lens – or “Giant Eyeball” – Antenna. These COWs serve crowds by dividing them into sections, each with its own dedicated antenna beam.
Additionally, AT&T said it has built or upgraded 549 cell sites throughout the city, and added 170 sectors to venues hosting Super Bowl-related events.
“Many of the network enhancements in Houston don’t stop after the Big Game,” AT&T South Texas VP and General Manager Jorge Vazquez commented. “They’re permanent and will continue to benefit customers after. It’s just one way we’re continuing to invest in our Houston wireless network.”
Sprint and T-Mobile
Sprint and T-Mobile have also gotten in on the upgrade action with improvements of their own.
Sprint said over the last nine months it has installed more than 100 small cells in and around NRG Stadium, boosting capacity inside the venue by 500 percent. The carrier also said it boosted capacity at nearby locations including Discovery Green, Rice University Stadium, and Minute Maid Park, among others.
Like Verizon and AT&T, Sprint said it will employ COWs to boost coverage and capacity at the Museum of Fine Arts, University of Houston Stadium, Westin Hotel, and at the ESPN Broadcast Desk.
T-Mobile said it also made permanent network improvements to add nearly 20 times the capacity to the stadium and surrounding area, but didn’t provide a detailed breakdown.
The New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons will face off in Super Bowl 51 on Feb. 5 at 6:30 p.m. ET.