Stadium Tech Report: Utah Jazz, Boingo Wireless bring DAS to Energy Solutions Arena

Energy Solutions Arena. Credit, all photos: Utah Jazz

Energy Solutions Arena. Credit, all photos: Utah Jazz

With a big new video board added this year, the Energy Solutions Arena had taken a signficant step toward improving the experience for fans at Utah Jazz basketball games. But when those fans went to look at the small screens in their hands, they often experienced frustration.

“It’s really important to our fans to be able to text or post something to Facebook,” said Jamie Galileo, vice president for facilities at the Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. But without Wi-Fi or a modern distributed antenna system (DAS) in the building, sometimes fans were left disconnected.

“Even our employees were able to watch the [cellular] service degrade quite sharply during games,” Galileo said. Next year, that shouldn’t be a problem thanks to the new neutral-host DAS currently being installed at Energy Solutions Arena by Boingo Wireless. With the ability to support all major carriers and their new 4G LTE technology, the new DAS should significantly improve connectivity at Jazz games and other events inside the 19,911-seat arena.

DAS first, Wi-Fi maybe later

Opened in 1991 (known then as the Delta Center), the Jazz’s home is one of the few NBA arenas without advanced wireless connectivity. One of only six NBA arenas without fan-facing Wi-Fi, Energy Solutions Arena is still studying Wi-Fi deployment, Galileo said.

Jamie Galileo

Jamie Galileo

Wi-Fi is still “something to look at,” Galileo said. “We want to first get past [installing] the DAS, and see what that does for the fan base.”

Through this past NBA season, fans at the arena had limited enhanced connectivity. According to Galileo, the building only had small DAS-style infrastructures for Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile customers, and an older system for AT&T customers that was installed prior to the 2002 Winter Olympics, when the arena was used for figure skating and short-track speed skating competition.

“There was some legacy DAS equipment [in the building],” Galileo said. “But you wouldn’t consider it a DAS by today’s technology.”

Neutral host was key

After what Galileo called an extensive RFP and review, Boingo Wireless was chosen for the DAS deployment, which is scheduled to be ready for the start of the next NBA season, beginning in the fall. According to Galileo, Boingo’s ability to be a neutral host was extremely attractive to Energy Solutions Arena.

“Neutral was the key word,” Galileo said. “We did not want to have every carrier have its own antennas. One set of antennas is much easier to blend in.”

Inside shot of Energy Solutions Arena, with big new video board

Inside shot of Energy Solutions Arena, with big new video board

Doug Lodder, vice president of business development at Boingo Wireless, said Energy Solutions Arena has good cabling runs, which should make deployment of the DAS a fairly straightforward task.

“The bowl is always challenging,” said Lodder, who added that Energy Solutions Arena’s somewhat vertical shape of its main seating area might mean a little extra deployment work for Boingo engineers. And while no major carriers have yet signed deals to be on the DAS, Lodder is confident that most will want to have a presence in the building and will sign on before the Jazz start playing again.

“The demand is very high to be in a tier 1 NBA building,” Lodder said.

Galileo said that the arena has plenty of room for the DAS head end equipment, a space requirement that is sometimes challenging for older structures.

“We are on 3.5 acres of a 10-acre site,” Galileo said, “so we have some auxiliary areas. We won’t have to build out additional [head end] space.”

Between Jazz games and other events, Galileo said that Energy Solutions Arena typically has guests in the building 100 times a year. It is also a regular host to NCAA basketball tournaments, and Galileo said the new connectivity should help with future bids.

“It doesn’t hurt to have a DAS,” he said.

Comments

  1. Anthony McCray says

    Boingo appear to continue to build quite a portfolio of DAS and Small Cell deployments to augment it’s WiFi assets. This announcement along deployments by Mobiliite support the projected growth estimations across the DAS and Small Cell space.

    Given that many of the Large professional sporting venues have been secured much focus will certainly be on securing dense urban enterprise high rise venues in locales such as New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami, Boston, Dallas, Phoenix, etc.

    Of course these deployments will be a mixture of DAS and Small Cells with Small Cells not quite mature enough to support large neutral host applications at this point.

    Cheers

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