Mobilitie, AT&T beef up DAS coverage at Churchill Downs ahead of Kentucky Derby

White DAS antennas visible on the overhangs at Churchill Downs. Photo: Mobilitie (click on any photo for a larger image).

White DAS antennas visible on the overhangs at Churchill Downs. Photo: Mobilitie (click on any photo for a larger image).

Since it’s legal in horse racing, how about a bet? Who thinks the final AT&T DAS traffic total from the Kentucky Derby weekend will pass 10 terabytes this year? After hitting 5.1 TB during last year’s two days of racing, what are the odds on wireless data used there doubling down again? Anyone want to bet against growth?

For sure, operators of the wireless infrastructure at the track aren’t going to left behind for lack of trying — according to neutral-host DAS provider Mobilitie and DAS design partner AT&T, there will be approximately a 50 percent increase in AT&T’s cellular capacity at Churchill Downs this year, with double coverage in the 1900 MHz band compared to last year, according to AT&T.

Mobilitie president Christos Karmis said in a phone interview this week that “every year, the amount of data used has doubled,” at least since Mobilitie put in the first part of the DAS at the track for the 2013 event. Since then, Karmis said the DAS antenna count has grown from 253 to 290, and the network now has 55 sectors, in and around the track and seating areas as well as in the parking lots. In addition to AT&T, the DAS also carries traffic for Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile, neither of which have reported traffic totals from the event.

Biggest DAS in sports?

Where all the Kentucky Derby race-day social media posts go to find the Internet (aka the head end at the Churchill Downs DAS). Photo: Mobilitie

Where all the Kentucky Derby race-day social media posts go to find the Internet (aka the head end at the Churchill Downs DAS). Photo: Mobilitie

With race day drawing 170,513 fans last year, the Kentucky Derby may well be one of the most challenging events to provide wireless coverage to, with multiple spikes in traffic due to two full days of racing (there are 13 races scheduled for Friday May 6, the Kentucky Oaks Day, and 14 scheduled for Saturday May 7, the Kentucky Derby Day).

According to Karmis, the fans are mainly shooting video and taking pictures during the races, and then posting those images to social media networks during the breaks in between. And then there’s the betting, which can be done on premises via the twinspires app, which drives additional traffic. And then there’s the hats and fashion, which are worth lots of pictures themselves, especially if you see any celebrities during the red-carpet parade.

Though there is still a small amount of Wi-Fi in the main track buildings — at least there was a couple years ago when we did a profile on the new networks — the DAS is the workhorse at the venue, which spreads out far and wide and includes an infield area full of fans as well.

“It’s crazy to try to keep up” with the data demands, Karmis said.

With any luck on our side, we’ll be able to get Verizon and T-Mobile to send over their DAS stats after the event to see if the weekend of races can match the DAS total of 15.9 TB from Super Bowl 50. If the AT&T data alone has gone from 2 TB two years ago to 5.1 TB last year, what’s the total going to be for this year? Put your predictions in the comments below!

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