NFL and college stadiums that sported only 2G or 3G technology have gotten a DAS makeover to upgrade them to LTE. Similar to wireless systems across country, stadium DAS, some of which had only 850 MHz and 1900 MHz frequencies, will now access the 700 MHz and AWS bands in addition to replacing SISO antennas with MIMO.
“So we are adding frequencies and MIMO capability, which gives you a defined advantage in capacity and throughput,” said John Spindler, TE Connectivity director, product management, in-building DAS.
TE Connectivity has been busy this summer outfitting 13 college and pro stadiums, including MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Jets and the New York Giants and site of the 2014 Super Bowl; FedExField, home of the Washington Redskins; Sports Authority Field, home of the Denver Broncos; Rose Bowl Stadium, home of the 2014 BCS National Championship game; and the University of Michigan stadium.
Of those DAS systems, about 75 percent are owned and deployed by wireless carriers. AT&T and Verizon Wireless are TE Connectivity’s biggest customers.
“A number of neutral host DAS providers have been very successful,” Spindler said. “It’s easy for carriers to make a business case to provide service for stadiums that seat 70,000 to 100,000 people.”
Spindler has seen as many as three separate DAS systems deployed in a stadium supporting three different carriers. Carriers’ ownership interest in DAS may be, in part, because high-profile venues bring them unwanted notoriety when a DAS fails to provide coverage.
“The sheer volume of users that fit into a stadium is why there is a high interest in ensuring there is coverage and capacity,” he said. “The carriers want to be in control of something as critical as the systems that are bringing their wireless service to the users in these venues.”
Each stadium is unique. For example, the DAS used at Boise State University and the Rose Bowl Stadium are carrier-owned, while the University of Phoenix Stadium DAS is a multi-operator neutral host system that hosts three carriers.
“At the end of the day, it is up to the carriers to go on a neutral host or to deploy their own DAS,” Spindler said.
Stadiums that had 12 sectors a few years ago now have as many as 32 sectors. Changing sector configurations can be a cost-effective way to increase capacity throughput. The big challenge is making sure the system is designed properly for the traffic patterns of the stadium when you have a capacity crowd, according to Spindler.
“They need to be properly sectorized so they deliver the necessary capacity,” he said. “Of course, when you heavily sectorize a stadium, you need to be very careful with your design so that sectors are carefully delineated. You don’t want a lot of soft handoff, because it reduces the network’s efficiency.”