National Convention Facilities Geared For Wireless Surge

By Mike Collado

This presidential election cycle has been dominated by Tweet wars, social media buzz, and viral videos of the candidates. The level of social engagement is unprecedented. We’re all involved, whether checking our Facebook feeds, watching online videos, tweeting our opinions or killing time looking for Pokémons, from our smartphone and tablets.

Yesterday, the Republican National Convention kicked off in Cleveland, with more than 20,000 delegates, alternates, media, and candidates converging on the Quicken Loans Arena for four consecutive nights of speeches and floor votes. A week later, an estimated 50,000 visitors will arrive in Philadelphia where the Democratic National Convention is held.

National Convention
Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH (Photo: Erik Drost, Wiki Commons)

Imagine a Republican or Democratic National Convention where delegates and media cannot use their mobile phones for texting, calling, tweeting, uploading photos and video, checking social sites, and reacting to news. The convention facilities have been working for months to ensure that they can do so. SOLiD supplied distributed antenna systems (DAS) to the wireless networks at two of the venues: the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland and the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.

The Convention venues addressed the same indoor wireless challenges that most hotels, hospitals, high rises, and office buildings face when keeping people connected. Some of the considerations include:

  • WiFi versus wireless: Many hotels, libraries and coffee houses offer WiFi services to customers who want to surf the web, but its use is limited by the need for a password and log-in. The instant, viral success of Pokemon Go is the most recent example of how much we depend on a cellular connection to our smart phones for entertainment, news, navigation, and personal communications. We now expect to connect to our wireless carriers easily and everywhere. Recognizing this expectation, both Convention venues invested in in-building cellular wireless networks for robust and reliable service.
  • Anticipating peak traffic: Think of that moment when the candidate strides onto the stage to the roar of the crowd, with nearly everyone holding up smart phones, ready to upload photos and videos to social media. The in-building wireless network at Quicken Loans Arena deploys 76 SOLiD five-watt remotes across 12 sectors and additional radios which provide coverage at the floor, where delegates congregate. With these updates, the DAS network can address high peaks in demand when thousands of people are actively connected.
  • Designing for the building: Each building offers different wireless reception challenges, ranging from the RF congestion of urban settings to modern building materials that obstruct RF waves. DAS networks are calibrated to address the wireless needs for each building. The Quicken Loans Arena is a fairly compact indoor stadium. By contrast, the Philadelphia Convention Center spreads out over four city blocks and encompasses 2.2 million square feet, including Reading Terminal Market next door. The DAS networks in the venues are distinct in design and network configuration, to efficiently manage radio power and ensure reliable service.
  • Reducing management time: In both of these facilities, the owners chose to outsource the in-building network, reducing their facility management time and technical investment. The network owners — InSite Wireless at Pennsylvania Convention Center and Verizon at “The Q” — have the technical and design expertise to address the needs of each facility. They brought together their ecosystems of partners to design the DAS network, install it, run it, and continue to update it over time.
  • Maximizing public access: Providing wireless connectivity to the public requires participation by the most popular carriers so visitors can connect to their own individual mobile provider. Multi carrier DAS is a highly efficient way to expand the coverage from major carriers into buildings.
  • Planning for the future: YouTube reports that mobile video consumption rises 100% every year. It’s really no surprise since we carry phones capable of HD video. The mobile lifestyle will continue to drive growth in mobile data usage, so the design of in-building networks must anticipate future demand. At both venues, the wireless networks were designed to be efficiently updated as capacity demands increase.

The owners of the Quicken Loans Arena and the PCC recognized early the role that cellular service plays and how it enhances the visitor’s experience at the venue, regardless of the event and the benefits to the venues’ operating staff. People expect to be connected wirelessly wherever they are. Facilities like hotels, hospitals, residential high rises and office buildings also see the value to their property and business models and are installing DAS networks to deliver reliable coverage to their visitors, employees, and residents.

Collado is vice president of marketing at SOLiD, a provider of RF Amplifier, RF Radio and Optical Transport solutions. In addition to the Quicken Loans Arena, SOLiD’s equipment is installed at Daytona International Speedway, Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark, in the Boston and New York subway systems, and at many hotels, hospitals, shopping malls and office high-rise facilities, supporting today’s mobile lifestyle.