Leo Perreault is going to the Super Bowl but his team won't be on the field.
As executive director of Network Operations at Verizon, Perreault will be one of several hundred of the company's technicians and engineers on-hand to monitor and manage a new broadband network operating in and around NRG Stadium in Houston. Rather than rooting for the New England Patriots or Atlanta Falcons, Perreault will roam the venue with testing equipment in-hand, getting real-time data on network performance and coordinating with the on-site command center team.
Like the players who will take the field at NRG Stadium on Sunday's Super Bowl LI, Verizon's team has been working out and practicing for the big game. But the service provider's work began long before the National Football League knew which teams would cement their place in sports history. For the past two years, Verizon and Houston stakeholders such as the stadium, Houston Rodeo and Houston Texans team, worked on the design, implementation and testing of a network that will provide a 450% increase in existing capacity and extend far beyond the stadium into other area attractions and businesses.
"We installed numerous systems across Houston, things that are going to benefit Houston beyond the game, not just for this week," Perreault tells UBB2020.
In 2014 alone, Verizon spent $173 million in the Houston area, including the small-cell network, according to the Houston Business Journal.
Beyond Game Day
Verizon built 23 new permanent cell sites and installed more than 220 permanent small cells, doubling capacity through major routes into and out of downtown Houston, he says. In addition, the service provider deployed 24 nodes on wheels (NOW), mobile cell sites and an antenna system for the stadium's lower seats.
Small but Powerful
Verizon installed more than 220 permanent small cells in Houston. (Source: Verizon)
The small cells, which will remain in the area after the Super Bowl hoopla dies down, are installed within Verizon's existing network coverage area and can handle the anticipated surge in bandwidth traffic, Perreault says. Coupled with the CSP's deployment of LTE Advanced three-channel carrier aggregation, the network will deliver enhanced peak data speeds, he adds. Attendees of the 2016 Super Bowl used 7 Tbit/s of data during the game and more than 68 Tbit/s over the nine days surrounding the game, according to Verizon. Usage volume is only expected to increase at the 2017 event, the company estimates.
To allow communication in the city's underground tunnels -- which provide pedestrians access to offices, restaurants and stores -- Verizon added an upgraded distributed-antenna system (DAS). NRG Stadium's network include a large DAS in the arena, outdoor DAS, cell on wheels (COWs) and five NOWs. In the surrounding area, called Discovery Green, the service provider installed 79 small cells, three COWs (including two with masting ball technology that divides crowds into sections which then can be individually adjusted to maximize traffic-handling), 18 NOWs and ten macro cell sites, according to Verizon. The CSP spent $12 million on a distributed antenna network system within NRG Stadium, Houston Business Journal said.
"DAS systems continue to get more and more complex over time. [NRG Stadium] knew it was time to upgrade the DAS system," says Perreault. "They really relied on us to come up with a design that will take us well into the future on the capacity requirements. These networks are so complex that we have an extreme amount of ability to make parameter changes and change things in the software to maximize the network."
One DAS that's connected to a dedicated base station serves the NFL Experience at George R. Brown Convention Center, while Verizon deployed NOWs on street corners around Houston. Other areas receiving the new broadband service via DAS systems and small cells include Minute Maid Park, the Toyota Center, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Natural Science, the Galleria Mall, NASA Visitors Center and Museum, Hobby Airport and numerous hotels, the service provider says.
"When a city hosts an event like the Super Bowl, they are able to benefit from investments we make to manage the influx of crowds long into the future," says Nicola Palmer, Verizon's chief network officer, in a statement. "The permanent enhancements we have made throughout Houston are infrastructure improvements that will benefit businesses, visitors, law enforcement officials and residents for years to come."
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