Mobile Networks Ready for Record Data Usage at Super Bowl LII
When the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles take the field Feb. 4 for Super Bowl LII, wireless infrastructure will also be in the spotlight as nearly 70,000 fans inside U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis and an expected 1 million visitors expected to converge in the area use their phones to access information and share their experience with selfies, live streams and social media posts.
The nation’s wireless carriers have been busy preparing their networks with macrocellular, small cell and DAS upgrades and deployments to create a winning experience for fans and visitors gathering for the big game.
Verizon’s preparations spanned two years, during which time it increased wireless data capacity in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area by 500 percent, added LTE Advanced technology and deployed 24 new permanent cell sites and more than 230 permanent small cells in areas of anticipated high demand. Verizon doubled network capacity on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, which will host the free football festival Super Bowl LIVE for 10 days, with a new small cell solution inside bus shelters. Verizon also installed security cameras on street lights with its small cells in the downtown area in partnership with the city of Minneapolis and bolstered capacity at the Mall of America and Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport with neutral-host DAS equipment.
Inside the stadium, Verizon added 48 percent more antennas to its DAS system with innovative design solutions, including drink rail, handrail and under-the-seat antennas, as well as Matsing Ball antennas installed 330 feet above the field. Verizon said the capacity will be needed. Last year, Verizon customers used 11 terabytes of wireless data during the Super Bowl (and 86 terabytes of data during nine days of related events) to upload and watch videos, access social media, browse the web, upload to the cloud and use sports apps.
“Minneapolis/Saint Paul is now a super-connected city with leading LTE Advanced network technology and the small cell densification necessary for next gen technologies,” said Nicola Palmer, chief network engineer and head of wireless networks at Verizon. “Whether you are attending Super Bowl festivities or will be visiting the Twin Cities in the future, we’ve added permanent enhancements so our network is built for future growth.”
T-Mobile expanded coverage and permanently increased LTE capacity in and around Minneapolis/Saint Paul with LTE Advanced deployments, small cells, DAS equipment and additional backhaul. T-Mobile said it focused its network enhancements where the biggest crowds will be, boosting capacity 30x for spectators at U.S. Bank Stadium, 35x for the Super Bowl Experience at the Minneapolis Convention Center, 16x at the Xcel Energy Center for Super Bowl Opening Night, and 8x at the Armory, Nicollet Mall, downtown Saint Paul, the Mall of America and Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport.
T-Mobile is using carrier aggregation, 4X4 MIMO and 256 QAM technologies to increase download speeds, and expanded coverage with 120 new small cells throughout the city, stadium and surrounding venues. T-Mobile also deployed Centralized Radio Access Network technology to increase upload speeds by as much as 40 percent.
During last year’s Super Bowl at NRG Stadium in Houston, T-Mobile customers made 3,000 posts per minute on average to Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook and used more data before halftime than customers used during the entire Super Bowl game the year before.
AT&T invested $40 million in permanent and temporary network upgrades to its Minneapolis network during the past year in anticipation of increased demand during the Super Bowl. Within the stadium, AT&T upgraded its DAS system, adding nearly 220 percent more LTE capacity from the start of the 2017 season. More than 800 antennas deployed throughout the facility will help accommodate expected heavy wireless traffic, AT&T said.
In areas outside the stadium, AT&T added or upgraded DAS equipment in 16 locations, including at hotels, arenas, airports, convention centers and other venues where fans are expected to congregate. In addition to an upgraded DAS at Minneapolis-Saint Paul Airport and the convention center, a new DAS was deployed at the Armory to enhance coverage for fans attending the concert venue each night leading up to the game.
“When fans head to Minneapolis to cheer on their favorite team, we want them to have a great network experience — whether they’re making a call, checking email or sharing their favorite moments on social media,” said Scott Mair, president AT&T Operations. “But the network enhancements in Minneapolis won’t go away after the Big Game. They’re permanent and will continue to benefit customers. It’s just one way we’re continuing to invest in our Minneapolis wireless network.”
AT&T also will deploy 10 temporary Cell on Wheels to handle increased wireless demands. During last year’s Super Bowl, fans in Houston used more than 9.8 terabytes of data on AT&T’s network — the equivalent of 28 million selfies — and 59.9 terabytes during event-related activities during Super Bowl week. Data traffic was about 88 percent greater during the 2017 Super Bowl compared with the year before and was about 148 percent higher than the average pro football game in 2016, AT&T said.