High Carrier Performance at Super Bowl 50 Shows Off “Everyone Wins” Nature of True Neutral DAS

The communications infrastructure supporting fans at Super Bowl 50 set a long list of new records, including records for capacity and transmission speeds.

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a four-part series that reports on the role of the DAS in Sunday’s huge win for wireless communications. Read past issues at dgpdas.com. In the next issue we explore the “building block” strategy that allowed Levi’s to deliver more than 230% data at three times the speeds when compared to Super Bowl 49.

The communications infrastructure supporting fans at Super Bowl 50 set a long list of new records, including records for capacity and transmission speeds. All four of the major carriers reported high levels of performance for their customers and host Levi’s Stadium defended its reputation for the most tech-forward NFL venue.

Beyond that, something remarkable happened that Sunday afternoon, and it’s likely to influence future wireless deployments, particularly in the realm of distributed antenna systems (DAS). For the first time, a truly neutral host DAS was put to a very public high-stakes test and it demonstrated that all participants win under the collaborative model – without sacrificing performance for any of the participants.

Here’s what happened: The Levi’s Stadium DAS, engineered and managed by DAS Group Professionals (DGP), successfully carried all cellular voice and data traffic for the major carriers.  It put the carriers on an equal footing that would guarantee high performance to all fans while simultaneously accommodating each organization’s requests and technical specifications.

At the same time, the DAS – which is owned by the 49ers – met the owner’s aesthetic and performance benchmarks. “The various benchmarks put heavy emphasis on fan satisfaction,” says DGP Vice President Vince Gamick. “That’s where a truly neutral DAS shines: it takes an approach that favors the end user, and that’s exactly what progressive venue owners and carriers also have in mind.”

Building a DAS using this model requires a high level of collaboration between parties, followed only by engineering that can simultaneously deliver on each organization’s demands without compromising the greater whole.

“For example, Verizon and Qualcomm had collaborated on a Super Bowl design that would support the higher traffic demands of the big game, but it was conceptually extensive and would have required a considerable amount of construction and impact to implement,” describes Derek Cotton, DGP’s Director of RF Engineering.

“We knew the performance metrics were attainable, but it would take a different implementation strategy to the network. With that in mind, we worked closely with the venue owner, Verizon and the other operators to integrate the upgrade in such a way that all of the involved parties were happy. The carriers benefited from a more robust DAS, and the 49ers were pleased with the aesthetic ‘non-impact’ of the upgrade. The fans had the coverage they expected, so it delivered for them too.”

DGP has been recognized in the field for its performance metrics, but it has landed a number of its projects because of a business model that favors the venue owner rather than a single carrier. Early on, the idea that a model that allows each carrier to win, while keeping the venue owners interests top and center was met with some skepticism.

“This is an extremely competitive industry by all measures,” says Gamick. “The carriers and the owners all want to be the best. I think that this (the Super Bowl) made it clear that everyone can win using this model.”

Still, competition prevails and the use of a neutral host allows each organization’s choice of equipment and engineering philosophies and protocols to be put to the test. DGP predicts that a side benefit of the true neutral host model is that the equalized playing field will speed the rate of advancement in the wireless infrastructure field.

“The performance at Levi’s throughout its first year of operation and then during the Super Bowl established that under this model, everyone wins, especially the end-users. It’s the model of the future,” says Gamick.