Keeping fans connected at Super Bowl XLV



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Posted on February 2, 2011 at 8:04 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 3 at 2:28 PM

ARLINGTON — Cowboys Stadium has 1,000 antennas, more than any other location in the nation.

They are there to make sure fans can get a cell phone connection, but even then, sometimes it doesn't work.

That's why mobile phone providers are beefing up systems in and around the Super Bowl venue.

"Each one of these base stations allow your cell phone to work inside Cowboys Stadium," explained AT&T spokesman Chad Archer.

Behind the scenes, in dozens of cabinets, there are cables in every imaginable color to make sure that fans can share their thoughts and pictures before, during and after the big game.

"When the big touchdown is scored and everyone wants to send a picture at the exact same time, that does put quite the strain on the network," Archer said.

Cowboys Stadium is AT&T's biggest installation in the U.S. For 18 months, engineers have been working to double the number of base stations.

"Imagine Frisco and the Dallas North Tollway. The city planner has to plan traffic for that road, and we add capacity by adding 'lanes,'" Archer said. "We add base stations and radio to handle traffic."

AT&T has worked to increase its capacity at the stadium by 150 percent. How do they know? They literally test each spot — one by one — all the way down to field level.

Dallas Cowboys Head of Technology Pete Walsh tracks all the data from a nerve center. "Once you get past the glass, concrete and granite, it's all about technology," he said.

According to Walsh, 64 percent of fans at an average Cowboys game are AT&T users, with 28 percent using Verizon.

"This really is the brain trust of the entire stadium. We can watch every wireless access point. We can watch every bit of data going through the system," he said.

Walsh designed the system with room for technology to change and grow. "Now we can push the technology to the limits, and everything we started designing in 2004 is going to be put in play," he said.

Archer hopes that teamwork will result in fewer dropped calls. "I hate hearing, 'Can you hear me now?'" he said, echoing the former tag line of arch-rival Verizon.