Super Bowl Wireless

After the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat: Broadband benefits live on

All eyes are on Phoenix this weekend as the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs vie to become Super Bowl champions. The event attracts millions to the Super Bowl city for the Big Game and a week’s worth of events leading up to it.

Super Bowl LVII takes place at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, while pre-game festivities are scheduled to take place at Margaret T. Hance Park in downtown Phoenix, the Phoenix Convention Center, Old Town Scottsdale, Phoenix Symphony Hall and the Footprint Center. Hotels, restaurants and airports will receive a wave of fans to the city for all of the Super Bowl events.

And after the Lombardi Trophy has been hoisted, the confetti has fallen and champagne has showered the victorious team; after fans retreat with once-in-lifetime memories and life returns to normal in Arizona, the tangible benefits of all the preparation that goes into hosting a Super Bowl will remain for those who live there.

For months, and probably even years, the wireless industry has been busy preparing for this week. The stadium and venues have been outfitted with the latest technology to ensure seamless communications for everyone working to make the event run flawlessly and safely, as well as to ensure fans can share their game-day memories with the world.

Speaking at the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting in Washington, D.C., earlier this year, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said there have been major upgrades to the local 5G canopy, which will provide service for the NFL’s events and a massive security operation, according to StateScoop. Gallego said preparations began in 2018 and have included cooperation with five local governments, federal agencies, the State of Arizona and the NFL. Technology will be on display, including an autonomous shuttle running between Sky Harbor International Airport and downtown Phoenix, which Gallego said takes “a lot of 5G infrastructure.”

Verizon engineers said they are focused on the uplink. “At events like this, people want to share outward,” said Desmond Jakbir, director of network engineering at Verizon. “The uplink is what allows fans to share their experiences.”

To ensure a great fan experience, Verizon has more than 800 antennas in the stadium’s upper bowl, more than 600 antennas in the lower bowl, more than 380 antennas in the lower concourse and more than 290 antennas in the upper concourse. Senior Manager of Network Engineering Rodolfo Flores said the stadium network has been densified so that one antenna serves approximately 38 customers. “That’s as close to personalized as you can get,” said Flores.

Meanwhile, areas around the stadium will benefit from a C-Band network launched earlier this year in Phoenix, Glendale, Scottdale, Chandler, Gilbert and Tempe. Jakbir noted millimeter-wave networks have been deployed in neighborhoods and individual venues that are part of the Super Bowl experience. In addition, the carrier has deployed a state-of-the-art control center to monitor everything from throughput to dropped calls with the goal of finding any issues before customers experience them.

T-Mobile has busied itself during the past year rolling out 5G upgrades inside State Farm Stadium and across Phoenix, including permanent 5G upgrades at venues like Gila River Arena, the Phoenix Convention Center, Tucson International Airport, and with key hotels and points around the area where large gatherings are expected. Permanent upgrades inside State Farm Stadium include increased 2.5 GHz capacity, improved 5G coverage and capacity with indoor and outdoor distributed antenna systems (DAS), and deployment of 600 MHz of mmWave spectrum for better download speeds. Beyond the stadium, upgrades include ultra capacity 5G in areas around the stadium with more towers, enhanced backhaul and 100 megahertz of 2.5 GHz spectrum, and capacity upgrades across the region, including dedicated 5G small cells to densify the network in areas where crowds are expected. “The network upgrades we have made to State Farm Stadium, Phoenix and the surrounding cities will provide our customers with a vastly improved experience for years to come,” said Neville Ray, President of Technology at T-Mobile.

AT&T has also been working to optimize coverage inside State Farm Stadium, including deploying more than 2,000 wireless network antennas serving the interior of the stadium to deliver network coverage and capacity to seating areas on all levels and boosting network capacity throughout the stadium interior for fast data experience by adding AT&T 5G+, 5G mmWave, and C-Band spectrum. Outside the stadium, AT&T has deployed 64 outdoor antennas supported by 15 miles of fiber and power cables to cover the parking/tailgating and Westgate area, and hotel locations in the near vicinity to the stadium have been equipped with indoor DAS to provide customers with wireless service during their stay. The company shared that at last year’s Super Bowl in Los Angeles, AT&T customers used 13 TB of data before, during and after the game, and completed 112,000 voice calls around the stadium.

Jerry Harper, deputy director of the Phoenix Convention Center, said increased Wi-Fi bandwidth and an upgraded DAS will ensure connectivity for more than 6,000 media members who will operate out of the facility. Plans to ready the convention center began two years ago, Harper said.

Miles away, in the Chiefs’ home city, Verizon has made network enhancements throughout Kansas City as fans have cheered their team on during the playoffs. The upgrades also are necessary to support an expected influx of NFL fans when Kansas City hosts the 2023 NFL Draft in April.

AT&T said it has added 5G Ultra Wideband technology to three-quarters of the cell sites serving the Kansas City market and has installed a permanent DAS in Kansas City International Airport that is scheduled to go live in March. Four new macro cell sites add coverage in the metro area and permanent in-building solutions will add coverage at the World War I Memorial and Loews Hotel.

Temporary cell sites providing 5G Ultra Wideband coverage will be leveraged in areas where draft events will take place and additional temporary in-building solutions will be added to Union Station IBS and local hotels including the Westin and Sheraton. Finally, the carrier said it has increased fiber optic cable links to accommodate the exponential increase in data carried into and out of the cell sites.