During huge sporting events like the Super Bowl or Olympics, the sheer number of smartphone toting fans eating up data in such a close-knit crowd can bear a tremendous amount of stress on networks. Even with the assortment of different service providers, there just isn’t enough bandwidth for a stadium packed with 70,000 people tweeting and sending out multimedia messages.
In attempt to relieve some of that stress, companies like ExteNet Systems are serving as a sort of middleman between the home teams and network providers through installing Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) in stadiums. A DAS is essentially a network of small cellular antennas, scattered throughout an area to provide connectivity to dense crowds – like big-time sporting events.
Earlier this month, ExteNet revealed some of its investments towards keeping stadiums connected through DASs including the new Marlins Park in Miami as well as the home of this year’s Super Bowl, Lucas Oil Stadium. Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile are the first and only providers to jump on board so far, but ExteNet is confident in its game plan and expects to pick up more providers and install more systems in the near future.
CEO Ross Manire explained the need for such systems, stating, “You used to just worry about voice coverage. But phones are really data terminals now, and the question becomes - how do you manage strain on networks? In the past you may have been able to get a voice signal from a cell tower several blocks away. That doesn’t work now.”
That said, another question arises – wouldn’t everyone at the game need to have the same network provider to get quick and reliable service from these DASs? Well, due to the universal design of ExteNet’s hardware, virtually any carrier can rent out a spot in the stadium – but again, T-Mobile and Verizon are currently the only carriers on the team right now.
It’s probably a safe bet that we’ll start seeing a lot more DAS solutions pop up over the next couple of years. Nearly everyone with an up to date smartphone is aware of the setbacks caused by a shortage of bandwidth on 4G/LTE networks – could setting up concentrated areas of coverage to tend to more dense groups of people be the solution, or will we just have to wait until carriers can handle the load?
Edited by Jamie Epstein