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Small cells, DAS get major boost ahead of Super Bowl LI

More than 1 million fans are expected to head to Houston for Super Bowl LI and related festivities ahead of the big game on Feb. 5 at NRG Stadium pitting the New England Patriots against the Atlanta Falcons. To support the data demands of this influx of mobile users, the four major U.S. carriers said they have invested big in additional network infrastructure including hundreds of new small cells, upgrades to existing cell sites and distributed antenna systems and temporary, event-specific deployments.

In addition to building 23 new cell sites, Verizon Wireless said it has deployed more than 220 small cells to provide additional capacity in high-traffic areas. The carrier also activated an LTE-Advanced three-channel carrier aggregation feature on 24 so-called “nodes on wheels,” added mobile cell sites and bolstered capacity inside the stadium to support users in the lower seats.

Verizon reps said the new small cells “will service the city for years to come,” and are “strategically positioned within Verizon’s existing network coverage areas to add additional 4G LTE capacity where it’s needed. … The coverage can range from a few hundred feet to upwards of 1,000 feet.”

AT&T said its Super Bowl investment came in at around $40 million and includes upgrades to its in-stadium DAS, as well as installed or upgraded DAS at 13 other Houston locations including hotels, airports and convention centers. The carrier is also rolling out six cell on wheels and two “super COWs.”

Jorge Vazquez, VP and GM for AT&T South Texas, said, “Many of the network enhancements in Houston don’t stop after the big game. 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 said it densified its Houston network with more than 100 small cells near NRG Stadium, as well as in nearby parking lots, Discovery Green, Wortham Center, Rice University Stadium, Minute Maid Park and the Marriott Marquis Hotel. Sprint also dispatched COWs to provide coverage and capacity boosts at The Museum of Fine Arts, University of Houston Stadium, the Westin Hotel and the ESPN Broadcast Desk. The COWs and small cells support carrier aggregation.

Mike Hennigan, regional VP of network at Sprint, wrote in a blog post: “Sprint’s small cells and COWs (as well as cell sites across greater Houston) also use carrier aggregation, an LTE-Advanced technology that bonds together bands of spectrum to create a wider lane, allowing more data traffic to travel at higher rates on capable devices. This tremendous technology doubles capacity with just a simple software upgrade at the cell site.”

T-Mobile US said it added capacity and coverage by deploying more LTE spectrum, including what it calls extended range LTE (700 MHz spectrum), triband carrier aggregation, new smalls cells and distributed antenna systems. The carrier also deployed its 4×4 multiple-input/multiple-output antenna technology and 256 quadrature amplitude modulation technology, which the carrier called “some advanced AF technology.”


Sean Kinney, Editor in Chief
Editor-in-Chief Sean focuses on multiple subject areas including 5G, Open RAN, hybrid cloud, edge computing, and Industry 4.0. He also hosts Arden Media's podcast Will 5G Change the World? Prior to his work at RCR, Sean studied journalism and literature at the University of Mississippi then spent six years based in Key West, Florida, working as a reporter for the Miami Herald Media Company. He currently lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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