Already Speedy, Twin Cities Beefs Up Connectivity Ahead of Super Bowl

Already Speedy, Twin Cities Beefs Up Connectivity Ahead of Super Bowl Photo: Courtesy Sprint

January 16, 2018 12:11 PM

When the bright lights and the makeshift stages all come down, and the masses leave the metro post-Super Bowl LII, the Twin Cities will be left with a mess to clean up, an impacted economy and, maybe, a Super Bowl championship. 

Minneapolis will also remain in perhaps the best shape of any city in the country to move into the 5G era of wireless technology.

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And, perhaps surprisingly, Super Bowl-related connectivity improvements might have little to do with it. 

Minneapolis was named the fastest major city in America for LTE in November by the wireless coverage mapping company OpenSignal, which uses crowdsourced data from its app to measure things like signal strength and data speed and reliability, and points users to better signals or nearby WiFi sources. 

RELATED: Cell Carriers Bring 'Small-Cell' Tech to Twin Cities Ahead of Super Bowl

Kevin Fitchard, OpenSignal’s lead analyst, said Super Bowl preparations might have contributed to the top ranking, but that the Twin Cities have been performing well in similar studies for some time.

“Minneapolis has been a very fast 4G city for some time,” Fitchard said. “Additional upgrades ahead of the Super Bowl may boost speeds even more, which would be great news for Super bowl attendees and the people of Minneapolis/St. Paul in general, but those upgrades aren’t responsible for its high ranking.”

The OpenSignal data looked at 4G speeds in 35 metropolitan areas in the country from July to September. It found Minneapolis’s average 4G download connection was 21.5 megabits per second.

“Almost twice as fast as the 11.65 Mbps average we measured in Las Vegas, the slowest among our 35 cities,” according to the site. 

Houston and San Francisco, the last two metro areas to host the Super Bowl, ranked 30th and seventh respectively. 

Still, connectivity improvements in the area have been significant and most will be permanent.

Efforts to enhance connectivity ahead of the Super Bowl began in earnest more than a year ago with major wireless carriers beefing up small-cell and other technologies anywhere they could: utility poles, lamp posts, buildings, event spaces.

Minnesota's Moment: KSTP's Super Bowl Page

A Sprint spokesperson said the carrier has invested "hundreds of millions" of dollars in new infrastructure to boost capacity in the Twin Cities over the past 12 months. Verizon has added hundreds of small cells (small boxes attached to already-existing utility poles) in and around the Twin Cities over the past few years, a spokesperson said.

Though the company didn't yet have a Super Bowl investment dollar figure available. 

Cities, counties and other stakeholders have coordinated efforts to improve wireless capacity on streets, in skyway systems and inside police command centers.

RELATED: Downtown Residents Hear More About Super Bowl's Impact on Day-to-Day Lives

The Minneapolis Convention Center, no stranger to massive events and host of the NFL Experience, embarked on the largest upgrade to its distributed antenna system since it was installed in 2003 – largely for the Super Bowl. 

“The upgrade has been going on and off for the better part of a year,” said Lane Carlson, facilities manager for the Convention Center. “But it’s been hot and heavy for the last three or four months.” 

The connectivity improvements to the nearly 200 million-square foot complex will also help Minneapolis better compete for future conventions, Carlson said, adding that prior to the upgrades, service could be spotty.

The Xcel Energy Center plans to have a newly-updated distributed antenna system fully deployed before events, such as Super Bowl Opening Night on Jan. 29, are set to begin. 

And the Mall of America, this year’s host to Radio Row, has installed a new DAS to enhance service for major cell carriers, including adding 1,200 antennas and 50 miles of cable, plus multiple temporary Wi-Fi access points, a spokesperson said. 

One result will be, ideally, that the one million or so visitors expected for the game and related activities will be able to seamlessly shoot selfies, create video, tweet, snap and gram to their hearts’ content.

Which is important: wireless providers reported record data usage numbers following last year's Super Bowl in Houston, according to the Houston Business Journal. For example, AT&T reported Super Bowl-related usage amounted to 59.9 terabytes (a unit of information roughly equal to 1 trillion bytes), or 171 million social media posts with photos used on the network between Jan. 28 and Feb. 5 of last year, according to the Journal. That was more than double the usage the previous year in San Francisco. 

Another result will be that Minneapolis will have a leg up moving into the 5G era. 

“Our city is the Midwest’s premier tech hub and quickly becoming a serious player nationally,” Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey said via email. “To keep that momentum trucking and continue recruiting top talent, we’ll need a 21st century communication infrastructure — and these investments will help make sure that we have one. We aren’t messing around.” 

Credits

Michael Oakes

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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