Mobility

How Verizon and AT&T are preparing for Super Bowl 53

Each year, fans use an ever-increasing amount of data during the Super Bowl. Find out what AT&T and Verizon are doing to prepare for the onslaught.

Super Bowl 53 is drawing near, and AT&T and Verizon have spent years preparing the Atlanta area, and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, for the onslaught of fans ready to watch the showdown between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams.

It's important to prepare because in Atlanta alone, officials expect more than 1 million people to attend Super Bowl-related events this week and on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 3. And 150,000 of these people will be out-of-town visitors.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium is state of the art. It opened in August 2017 and is the newest NFL stadium to date. When the stadium was under construction, IBM installed IBM Cloud as the basis of a converged network with more than 4,000 miles of fiber on a passive optical network to support IoT-connected systems throughout the building. The 71,000-seat stadium offers 90 miles of audio cabling and nearly 2,000 wireless access points for Wi-Fi connectivity. The stadium includes a 360-degree, 63,000-square-foot HD Video Halo Board and more than 2,000 video displays throughout the building. The IT infrastructure is the heart and brain to the immense video presence within the stadium, as previously reported by TechRepublic.

SEE: CBS Sports' hub for the Super Bowl

All of this connectivity matters because of the vast amount of data used by fans both on the Wi-Fi network at the stadium, and the distributed antenna system (DAS) inside the stadium. Last year, during Super Bowl 52 in Minneapolis, fans used 16.31 terabytes of data over Wi-Fi and 18.8 TB of data on the Verizon network inside the stadium. AT&T reported 7.2 TB of data on its network inside the stadium. Sprint combined numbers from both inside and immediately around the stadium, for a total of 9.7 TB on its networks.

The neutral host DAS at Mercedes-Benz Stadium works with all four major carriers—AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. The DAS provides fans with the option of using their cellular service if they don't want to switch to the stadium's Wi-Fi. The DAS includes 1,500 antennas and 1,550 remote amplifiers to evenly distribute coverage.

AT&T invested $43 million in preparation of Super Bowl LIII

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One of the Satellite COLT (Cell on Light Truck) mobile hotspots that AT&T has installed in Atlanta.

Image: AT&T

AT&T already has a strong presence in Atlanta, with a research lab for autonomous vehicles and more. AT&T has spent $43 million to prepare the city for the Super Bowl, by increasing LTE capacity at the stadium by 300%.

Outside the stadium, AT&T has launched hundreds of new small cell locations and added or upgraded existing the DAS at 30 additional locations in Atlanta. It's also deployed five Satellite Cell on Light Trucks (COLTS) that will ensure fans in high-density areas have 4G LTE coverage.

n addition to selfies and streaming, AT&T also improved public safety in the city by enhancing the FirstNet communications platform at the Super Bowl, installing the DAS at numerous local and federal public safety agency centers and deploying a Band 14 spectrum that will provide coverage and capacity for first responders. A FirstNet SatCOLT will be staged outside of the stadium for extra redundancy and will provide additional coverage to first responders if needed.

Verizon's $97 million investment in Atlanta and the Super Bowl

There's so much prep involved in Super Bowl coverage that Verizon is already on site working on plans for next year's Super Bowl LIV in Miami Gardens and Super Bowl LV in Tampa in 2021, according to Nicola Palmer, senior vice president of product development and 5G ecosystems at Verizon.

Verizon has spent $97 million to install equipment, some permanent, some temporary, to handle the huge number of fans in Atlanta.

"It's about the whole town, the whole city of Atlanta and the surrounding areas are gearing up for one big event, one big party. The hotels around there need to be equipped, the streets, the sand domes, the tailgating areas, all of these places need to be able to serve the demand that is not normal. You would never build every city as if a Super Bowl was coming to town. That would be wasteful, but it is coming to town, and the city gets a boost," Palmer said.

The permanent Verizon additions include:

  • Installing close to 30 new permanent cell sites.
  • Installing over 150 new small cells and 190 small cell capacity enhancements.
  • Adding capacity in 150 existing cell sites.
  • Installing close to 50 in-building solutions to enhance performance around the city such as popular hotels and shopping centers.
  • Tripling capacity at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport through the DAS and significantly enhancing coverage on the airport's tarmac through small cell deployments.
  • Adding over 80 LAA nodes.
  • Deploying over 350 miles of fiber.

Temporary Verizon network enhancements for the game include:

  • Deploying portable cell sites, referred to as a Cell on Wheels (COW) and Nodes on Wheels (NOW) in strategic event locations throughout Atlanta.
  • Adding two in-building capacity enhancement systems to support local law enforcement and first responders.

Inside the stadium for game day, Verizon enhancements include:

  • Adding over 110 capacity-adding sectors since the stadium was built in 2017, including over 30 along the concessions and suites since the end of the football season.
  • Adding MatSing ball technology, which divides crowds into sectors like slices of a pie; each slice or sector can be adjusted individually to handle wireless traffic.
  • Deploying antenna technology under seats to boost capacity.

All of this means that regardless of which cellular provider a fan uses, or where they watch the game, there should be plenty of technology in place to make sure that they can send selfies before, during, and after the game.

Stream Super Bowl LIII, including the halftime show, live on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019 at 6 PM ET / 3 PM PT with CBS All Access and on CBS Sports.

Also see

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Image: CBS

About Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...

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