Wireless Demand on the Rise in College, Professional Stadiums

By some estimates, approximately 25% of the attendees at last January’s Super Bowl game were using iPhone or Droid devices.

“Just think about what those people were doing with those phones and the capacity requirements on that network,” says John Spindler, VP of product management for ADC Network Solutions Business Unit. “This is a phenomenon that is going to continue. With all the terrific applications on these phones, there is a higher and higher demand for all of the capacity out of the [wireless] network to carry all of these apps. That means the carriers have to start thinking of other ways of doing things.”

ADC, which says it is the leading in-building wireless provider for sports venues, has installed its low- and high-power distributed-antenna systems (DAS) in college venues including Bobby Dodd Stadium at Georgia Tech, the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium, Razorback Stadium at the University of Arkansas, and Sanford Stadium at the University of Georgia. The systems are also in place in the Oakland, CA, Coliseum; Qwest Field in Seattle; Sun Life Stadium in Miami; and New Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey.

“You may go to a facility and get four or five bars on your phone,” says Spindler, “and can’t make a call. That’s because there is coverage in there but there aren’t enough radio channels or capacity — and you’re contending with 80,000 other people who are trying to send short videos or photos to their friends.”

To arm a venue with the appropriate solutions “requires a blend of things,” says Spindler. “A stadium is probably one of the more challenging environments, where you have a huge number or users in one spot at one given time.”

ADC offers both low- and high-powered DAS solutions. InterReach Fusion and Spectrum systems are low-power, capable of covering 20,000-40,000 sq. ft. The FlexWave Prism systems offer broader coverage.

“In these stadiums, we’ve used low-power units to cover all the seating areas in most instances. You divide the stadium [into four or more parts]. Each one of those is going to have its own antenna in that sector and their own radio channel assigned,” explains Spindler. High-powered systems are used to cover larger areas, such as the outside of a stadium and the parking lots.

Although the installation at the New Meadowlands Stadium was part of the facility’s construction, all other ADC implementations were put into older venues. “One thing about wireless is, it takes a lot of wires to do wireless,” Spindler says. “Our systems use fiber-optic and CATV cabling. It’s easier to pre-plan and work that into the plan of construction and save money to do it in that fashion, but anything is possible in getting these systems installed.” He says other venues will add DAS systems after their current seasons wrap up.

With smartphones growing in popularity and users expecting more from their devices and their carriers, Spindler says, “You need more from precision coverage and capacity solutions than just using cell towers these days. It’s shifting. We’re going to smaller cells that serve fewer users. Those fewer users are demanding more capacity, and that requires a different way of architecting cellular networks than in the past.

“That is what is driving this.”

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