Delegates attending political conventions shouldn’t need to ask ‘Can you hear me now?’

Each venue is equipped with technology that extends the building’s wireless coverage.

July 14, 2016 |

Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland will host next week's Republican National Convention, at which more than 20,000 people are expected to attend. The venue is relying on a distributed antennae system to help boost voice and data transmission and make sure those attendees' smartphones work smoothly. Image: Erik Drost/Wikimedia Commons

Many of us have been frustrated at trade shows or sporting events where your cellphone can’t get reception because too many other people there were trying to use theirs at the same time?

Now consider the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, to be held over the next few weeks in Cleveland and Philadelphia. Each event is expected to attract something like 20,000 delegates, guests, and media, virtually all of whom will be using their cellphones to make calls, send texts and tweets, up- and download videos and images, and check social media sites, often minute-by-minute or even second-by-second.

The wireless networks at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland and the Pennsylvania Convention Center (which will continue to be open to the public during the Democratic event) expect to be able to handle this traffic thanks to distributed antenna systems (DAS) supplied by SOLiD, whose ALLIANCE product can support multiple carriers and public safety bands to ensure reliable connectivity in the buildings and surrounding venues and transportation centers.

DAS technology extends a building’s existing’s wireless coverage where it’s needed, so people can stay connected everywhere. SOLiD’s ALLIANCE product line provides robust edge densification to the carrier networks, “and gives them enough power to reach the handset and handle more traffic,” says Ken Sandfeld, president of SOLiD’s Americas division, based in Sunnyvale, Calif. “This year’s political conventions are the most connected and reliable in history.”

SOLiD has been installed in Quicken Loans’ arena for three years, and in 2015 underwent a major upgrade to 5-watt remotes, from 1-watt units, in order to accommodate extra carriers. (It’s not uncommon for mobile carriers to join a DAS at a large venue in anticipation of a big event where they expect a lot of their subscribers will attend.)

There are now 76 SOLiD ALLIANCE DAS units installed at Quicken Loans Arena, where the Republicans’ shindig kicks off on July 18. Verizon operates the network (built by Henkel), and is one of four carriers, along with Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Additional zones have been added to the DAS to address foot traffic on the floor of the arena during the convention. (AT&T has also been working on improving its bandwidth and reception inside the arena.)


Fifty-eight 20-watt DAS units, supplied by SOLiD, have been installed throughout the 2.2-million-sf Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, where the Democrats will hold their presidential convention. Image: Wikimedia Commons

SOLiD is new to the massive Pennsylvania Convention Center, where the Democratic convention starts on July 25. The DAS network there covers 2.2 million sf, and includes 58 SOLiD ALLIANCE 20-watt DAS units installed for radio-frequency coverage. InSite Wireless built and owns the network. T-Mobile will cover the full facility, while AT&T will cover the lower levels of the convention center and the lower level of the nearby Reading Terminal Market. 

Sandfeld anticipates that, with the proliferation of wireless devices, DAS installations will become more common, and not just in large venues or stadiums. “In the last few years, high-definition streaming video alone has been driving massive amounts of capacity needs. The number of instances where carriers are connecting [to DAS systems] is growing. And the systems are getting cheaper. I can see a time when all buildings have a system.”

However, not every building is a candidate for DAS unless a carrier is in the picture. That’s why Sandfeld recommends that developers and property managers that are considering DAS find experienced partners “that know how to work with carriers.”

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