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No, I can’t hear you now

I haven’t attended that many events at Reliant Stadium – a couple of Rice football games, including the 2008 Texas Bowl, and a U2 concert – but that’s enough for me to confirm the lack of wireless coverage in the stadium from my experience. The main thing that I’m curious about regarding this is not answered in the story, however:

Reliant Park officials, however, say the stadium is configured along the lines of virtually every other stadium or arena, with a distributed antenna system that provides access to customers of all mobile providers.

Mark Miller, general manager of Reliant Park, said the DAS system at the stadium and at Reliant Center is designed to handle traffic for the more than 100,000 people who visit the area during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and for technology-heavy events such as the Offshore Technology Conference.

“Everybody works off one set of antennas, and I know that they are looking at a 4G upgrade to the system,” Miller said. “I don’t have a recollection of a lot of issues coming to our customer service people involving cell phone service. We work with the carriers to provide the best possible service.”

Cellular providers, given the competitive nature of the business, are reluctant to talk about the specific configuration of their networks or the demands required to service buildings such as Reliant Stadium.

There is, however, one constant to network designs, said Matt Melester, a senior vice president of Commscope, which installed the DAS system at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington and has provided similar systems for the last two World Cups.

“There is no bottom to capacity,” Melester said. “As soon as you get better capacity, it gets used. It’s been an impressive program to have to constantly add more capacity.”

The question is, how does the experience at Reliant compare to stadia in other cities? Heck, how does it compare to Minute Maid or the Toyota Center? Yes, I know Reliant has greater fan capacity than either of those two, but how much worse is it there? I get that there is going to be a problem any time you have a lot of bandwidth-demanding people in a small space, I just want to know if it’s any better or worse at this particular place. Anyone want to offer an opinion about that?

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5 Comments

  1. Ginger says:

    You should ask Michael about this since he’s likely to be able to point you in the right direction.

  2. Greg Wythe says:

    My two datapoints from Cowboy Stadium were fairly decent. The only call I lost was from my boss and he’s usually the one dropping those calls. It appears that AT&T has the sweetheart deal with the stadium and from the appearance of a few iPhone users talking to friends in the stadium for extended periods of time, there was zero problem for them.

  3. Michael says:

    This is what we do: http://www.business.att.com/enterprise/online_campaign/wi-fi-stadiums/

    http://www.informationweek.com/news/global-cio/interviews/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=225400030&pgno=1&queryText=&isPrev=

    He told the story of how on opening day last season, the unanticipated glut of iPhones saturated the park’s wireless network–no e-mail, no calls (and nothing out of the opposing team’s infield). Being that the park’s namesake is AT&T, that was a bit of a problem.
    So AT&T and the Giants installed a distributed antenna system throughout the park. Now, the stadium supports about 30,000 cell phone users vigilantly texting away. The Giants also have 266 Cisco Wi-Fi access points throughout the park, supporting as many as 5,000 fans at a time, Schlough said. Lord knows what they’re doing–maybe playing fantasy baseball. Between the 3G and Wi-Fi coverage, AT&T and the Giants have invested seven figures this past off-season. This is the modern-day ballpark.

  4. mollusk says:

    It’s nice to know that my iPhone will reliably work as a phone somewhere – even though I may well never set foot there.

    I’ve done OK texting (including pictures) from MM Park; iPhone service seems normal (fair to partly crummy) outside Reliant during the Rodeo.

  5. [...] that professional golf is just cluing into this. I mean, you can get WiFi at Minute Maid, and the demand for wireless coverage at Reliant is bedeviling its engineers. How is it that golf managed to hold out for this [...]

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