On Feb. 4, Super Bowl LII kicks off at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, and the estimated million or so people flocking up north in the cold will want reliable mobile coverage. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint have prepared for years for the onslaught of mobile devices with both permanent and temporary upgrades in the Twin Cities -- Minneapolis and St. Paul.
But you can't prepare for everything, as past Super Bowls have shown (, ?). Will one carrier have a major screw-up this year? Let's take a look at the upgrades the companies have made to their networks in and around the Twin Cities:
AT&T has invested $40 million in its efforts to provide customers with better service. Here are the highlights:
- 22 new or enhanced cell sites in Minneapolis and the surrounding cities
- Upgrades to its Distributed Antenna System (DAS), a network of 800-plus antennas at the stadium, providing 220 percent more LTE capacity
- Upgraded and new DASes at 16 hotels, airports, arenas and so on throughout the Minneapolis area
- 10 temporary Cell on Wheels (COWs) throughout Minneapolis for additional coverage
AT&T also launched itsservice in Minneapolis at the end of last year, which gave customers cellular speeds faster than current 4G LTE. But it's nowhere close to what will be when it launches in a few years.
Verizon said that it has been upgrading its infrastructure in Minneapolis for two years in preparation for this event, increasing wireless capacity by more than 500 percent. Here are the highlights:
- 24 new permanent cell sites and more than 230 small cell sites in the Twin Cities
- Additional antennas added to its 1,200-plus antenna DAS at US Bank Stadium
- LTE Advanced features added to its 4G LTE network for increased capacity and speed
- Two large MatSing Ball antennas that divide coverage throughout US Bank Stadium for different areas, like staff, fans and photographers
- Upgrades to Nicollet Mall (location of the free Super Bowl Live event), Mall of America and at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
Verizon expects a "blizzard" of data usage, so the company will also deploy a team of engineers to monitor its network performance in real time by walking throughout the stadium during events as well as remotely from a command center.
T-Mobile, the "Un-carrier," has also done work over the past two years to increase its network capacity by up to 35 times with permanent improvements in and around the Twin Cities. Here are the highlights:
- Doubled the amount of LTE spectrum and launched new LTE Advanced technologies
- Deployed more than 120 small cells throughout the area
- Launched its Centralized Radio Access Network (C-RAN) technology to increase upload speeds and help extend battery life at US Bank Stadium
T-Mobile claims to already be the fastest network in the Twin Cities and all these improvements have made its network even better, the company said in a press release.
Sprint has spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the past year to improve its network. Here are the highlights:
- Launched new DAS with more than 800 antennas inside US Bank Stadium
- Deployed 200 small cells and hundreds of wireless small cells called Sprint Magic Boxes inside buildings throughout the Twin Cities
- Upgraded and installed new indoor systems at various hotels and convention centers
- Improved existing cell sites with enhancements to LTE Advanced technology for better network quality and speed
We'll have to wait and see which carrier does the best job at the big game. In the end, the fans and the people of Minnesota will be the winners if AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint did the job right. Super Bowl festivities kick off Friday, Jan. 26, with Super Bowl Live presented by Verizon.
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