Super Bowl LII: How Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile have boosted LTE
From the airport to the hotels, shopping malls, concert venues, and US Bank Stadium itself, all four major US carriers have spent up to two years upgrading their Minneapolis LTE networks ahead of the Super Bowl.
America's four largest carriers have spent years preparing for the 2018 Super Bowl, installing hundreds of new antennas and small cells to increase speeds and capacity by up to 1,000 percent for the 1 million fans who will visit Minneapolis for the game.
Sprint has upgraded or installed new indoor systems at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Minnesota State Fairgrounds, Hyatt Regency, Target Center, Xcel Energy Center, and other city venues across Minneapolis-Saint Paul.
AT&T said it has spent more than $40 million to improve its LTE network throughout the city and stadium ahead of the Super Bowl and the expected influx of 1 million people.
According to AT&T, it has installed more than 800 antennas above the US Bank Stadium field to increase LTE capacity by 220 percent; added 150 antennas to Saint Paul Arena; increased its network by 715 percent in the Mall of America; increased its network by 194 percent in Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport; and added two "giant eyeball antennas" to the Commons to increase capacity by 283 percent.
"We've been working for over a year to boost the network in Minneapolis for the Big Game. We've done this through a series of permanent and temporary upgrades throughout the city," AT&T explained earlier this month.
"We've overloaded the stadium with wireless capacity and boosted LTE capacity by more than 150 percent compared to last year. With more than 800 antennas, the network inside the stadium alone could provide coverage to the entire city of Minneapolis."
The carrier has also upgraded or installed DAS at 16 areas throughout the city in order to improve coverage at hotels, venues, airports, convention centres, and arenas.
"We've upgraded the DAS at the airport and installed a new DAS at the convention centre in Minneapolis. We've also installed a new DAS at Nomadic Live at the Armory to enhance coverage for all the fans headed to the concert venue each night," AT&T said.
Temporary improvements to increase capacity and network speeds during the week leading up to and during Super Bowl LII includes the deployment of 10 cells on wheels (COWs), including a Super COW in the Stadium Commons area and COWs on the north and south sides of the stadium.
There are also COWs near Summit Avenue and 35E; on Nicollet Avenue for pre-game events; near Mystic Lake for pre-game concerts; and near the mall in Bloomington to account for increased tourism.
Laying the groundwork for 5G?
T-Mobile's Silveira told ZDNet that the carrier has also more than doubled user speeds by using LTE-Advanced technologies in Minneapolis, including carrier aggregation; 4x4 Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (4x4 MIMO), which doubles peak rates without the need for additional spectrum; and 256 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (256 QAM), which boosts the peak rate even further.
"Not only do these technologies showcase Minneapolis as a leader in network evolution, but they will also lay the foundation for 5G," Silveira told ZDNet.
Sprint's Santi added to ZDNet that any network upgrades, including LTE-Advanced features and the addition of small cells, will help provide a foundation for 5G networks, as they allow for higher data rates by providing the increased densification necessary for 5G.
While Verizon has likewise deployed 4x4 MIMO, three-carrier aggregation, and 256 QAM in Minneapolis-Saint Paul ahead of the Super Bowl, it took aim at other carriers for calling such networks "5G Evolution" when in reality they have simply been kitted out with LTE-Advanced features.
Verizon's criticisms follow AT&T launching its 5G Evolution network in parts of Minneapolis, which it said includes carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO, and 256 QAM and the addition or enhancement of 122 cell sites.
"We've been working closely with the city of Minneapolis to ensure its network is ready to support the technology of the future. The investments we're making prepare us for the future of 5G and innovations like smarter cities and immersive entertainment experiences like augmented and virtual reality," AT&T said at the end of last year.
According to Verizon, however, it will be "the first provider out of the gate" to bring actual 5G to market.
Saying China is poised to become the global leader in 5G and AI, the US government has suggested mandating 5G standards to protect its physical and virtual borders, as well as working with allies to deploy 5G in developing nations, according to documents Axios reported as being prepared by a senior US government official.
AT&T will deploy 5G services in a dozen markets by late 2018, with plans to extend its 5G Evolution advanced LTE from 23 to 'hundreds' of metro areas while also expanding AT&T Fiber to 82 metros by mid-2019.