Cities help fans make wireless connection 

March 26, 2018
Author: CBTS
Blog | Communications | Digital Workspace
Woman on cell phone in city

When the NCAA Final Four comes to San Antonio this weekend, part of the excitement will be under the stadium seats. That’s where many of the Alamodome’s 750 new wireless access points were installed to ensure that basketball fans have connectivity even at the most intense moments. The connectivity boost is part of a larger, $50 million renovation project, and is designed to improve coverage to accommodate a sellout crowd expected to reach 65,000 people, according to published accounts.

“We always thought we would improve the WiFi,” Alamodome General Manager Nicholas Langella told MSR. “We took the bull by the horns and got it done.”

Alamodome extends wireless, cellular signals

Upgrading data connectivity is a challenge for many cities hosting major sports events. Earlier this year, Minneapolis focused on improving connectivity citywide in advance of hosting the Super Bowl, which drew as many as 1 million visitors to the city. Minneapolis’ $1.1 billion U.S. Bank Stadium, completed in 2016, features more than $60 million in technology capabilities, according to local media accounts. This technology includes 1,300 wireless access points located on railings and underneath seats, and a DAS that was upgraded for the Super Bowl.

Wireless connectivity not just about stadiums

Two smartphone apps designed for the Vikings and U.S. Bank Stadium provide driving and public transit directions to the stadium, and also help visitors find their seats and amenities using a system similar to turn-by-turn navigation commonly found in cars. These apps are powered by 2,000 Bluetooth beacons that help pinpoint each user’s precise location within the stadium. This technology also helps facilitate in-seat ordering and other services.  

Cities that hold large events are also working to expand connectivity beyond stadiums. Minneapolis, for example, boosted wireless and WiFi capacity at its airport and convention center. Wireless carriers increased capacity to a downtown pedestrian mall near the stadium by adding small cell technology to new bus shelters built for the event. Even the Mall of America, located far from downtown, added 1,200 antennas, 50 miles of cable, and temporary WiFi access points to accommodate the Super Bowl crush, according to published reports.

Common threads

Host cities and their stadiums have undertaken common strategies to boost connectivity, including: 

  • Bringing wireless closer to users. Bringing wireless access points closer to users—not on the ceiling or elsewhere in the building – is a key to handling so many connections at once inside stadiums.
  • Connectivity analyses. It’s critical to identify problem areas for wireless signals that can lead to congestion. Some carriers have even used drones to identify trouble spots within stadiums.
  • Keeping it neutral. Many DAS investments have been designed as “neutral hosts,” which allows multiple wireless carriers to install their own equipment on the systems, instead of building duplicative ones.
  • Focusing on the future. Cities, carriers, and stadiums view connectivity investments as part of their economic development efforts that will drive prosperity long after the party’s over.

“Our city is the Midwest’s premier tech hub and quickly becoming a serious player nationally,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey told the Associated Press. “To keep that momentum trucking and continue recruiting top talent, we’ll need a 21st century communication infrastructure — and these investments will help make sure that we have one.”

CBTS is helping governments leverage Smart City technologies to help improve the customer experience for residents and visitors. To learn more about our expert insights, please click here.

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