February 01, 2013 By D. Craig MacCormack
The continued proliferation of smart phones means the catchphrase “Can you hear me now?” has been largely replaced by, “Did you get my text?” or “I’ll Google it.”
With more than one million people expected to descend on the Crescent City for Super Bowl XLVII this Sunday night, the National Football League and its partners called on Manchester, N.H.-based Cellular Specialties, Inc. (CSI) to oversee the project management, design, deployment, and commissioning of the wireless infrastructure in and around the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
This is the second straight year CSI has been called upon to manage wireless signals from carriers and wi-fi networks stay up and running, no matter how many football fans make their way to New Orleans. They’ve learned some lessons since getting the call for Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis last year, says Kelly Carr, president of CSI’s custom solutions group.
CSI also installed a distributed antenna system in Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., and University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
“You can never start early enough,” says Carr, noting the planning for SB46 at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2012 didn’t get rolling until mid-way through 2011 for the CSI team. During last year’s Super Bowl week, voice and data service providers said they handled as much as 2.5 times more data than in previous years.
This year, they’ve been talking to NFL officials, stadium staffers and others about the plan for about nine months. About 10 CSI employees are manning a war room that serves as their makeshift network operations center, he says.
CSI is managing “enhanced wireless coverage in the stadium and surrounding hotels and convention centers,” overseeing the wireless infrastructure for in-game video, scores, stats, social media and a host of other content for smartphones and tablets.
In addition to the Superdome campus itself, CSI is responsible for managing the cellular and wi-fi services at the league headquarters, local hotels, team practice facilities, and media and fan event sites as well as ensuring adequate support for public safety communications in and around the stadium.
“Our job is to make sure everyone in and around the stadium has a good wireless experience,” says Carr. “Part of that is about knowing what to expect up front.”
CSI employees some outdoor distributed antenna solutions for this year’s Super Bowl crowds, he says. Some of the antennas had to be relocated to accommodate the NFL’s technology platform, so CSI worked with league and event officials to coordinate those changes.
Hoping For More
Next year, the Super Bowl will be played in MetLife Stadium, the shared home of the New York Giants and New York Jets. Who knows what challenges will await the company that’s called on to manage the networks for that event, especially in early February? Even so, Carr is hoping CSI makes it three straight years at the helm
“Wireless is everywhere now,” he says. “It’s important users have a good experience and it’s up to us to make sure that happens.”