Verizon doubles down on wireless coverage for Indy 500; expects near 20 TB on race weekend

Screen shot of Verizon IndyCar app showing live action.

Screen shot of Verizon IndyCar app showing live action.

This year’s Indianapolis 500 is sure to be well-attended, given it’s the 100th running of the grand old race. To make sure fans there have solid wireless connectivity during the event, Verizon Wireless said it basically doubled its capacity from last year, in anticipation of a doubling of data use during the “bucket list” day at the Brickyard.

According to Verizon, last year fans at Indy used more than 9 terabytes of data on Verizon wireless networks during the race weekend, which include the track’s only DAS (distributed antenna system) and some temporary cell sites. For the 2016 race, Verizon said it has installed “100 percent more capacity to the IMS (Indianapolis Motor Speedway_ track and immediate surrounding area,” including 16 small cell sites around the track’s exterior, replacing some of the need for temporary towers like cells on wheels or cells on trucks.

In addition, Verizon has brought to Indy three “custom-designed” cells-on-a-platform or COPs, each of which “has the capacity equivalent to 7 temporary cell sites known as COWs (cell-on-wheels),” Verizon said.

A "cell on platform," or COP, installed at Indy

A “cell on platform,” or COP, installed at Indy

On race day itself in 2015, Verizon said it saw 3.16 TB of data used on its network, which was more than double to 1.4 TB Verizon saw in 2014. The full weekend of racing from Friday through Sunday’s 100th running of the Indy 500 includes popular events like Carb day on Friday, and a Legends Day and concerts on Saturday.

IndyCar app will use LTE Multicast to show live race views

Verizon customers will also have access to live race feeds via the IndyCar mobile app, which will use LTE Multicast technology to provide one-to-many live video streams over dedicated LTE bandwidth. Verizon said it will have cameras for the feeds installed on “at least” 12 cars in the race, and will have simulataneous broadcast from inside two of the cars. Like with NFL Mobile, Verizon’s exclusive deal with the Indy 500 means that you will need to be a Verizon subscriber to see the live action via the IndyCar app.

Indianapolis Speedway adds Verizon DAS

Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indy 500. Credit all photos: IMS Photo.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indy 500. Credit all photos: IMS Photo.

It’s still a work in progress, but Verizon Wireless customers who attend this year’s Indianapolis 500 race should see improved cellular communications, thanks to a DAS buildout currently underway.

According to Rhonda Winter, CIO for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Verizon was recently selected to build a neutral-host DAS which will add more than 200 internal and external antennas to the speedway’s main stands and buildings. While other carriers are slated to join the DAS in the future, only Verizon will be on the infrastructure this year. According to Verizon, it will also have two COLTs (cell on light trucks) mobile units at this year’s race, to improve coverage in far-flung areas like the fields of parking that are necessary to host the 250,000 fans who may show up to watch the May 25 event.

Verizon antennas atop Indianapolis Motor Speedway scoreboard.

Verizon antennas atop Indianapolis Motor Speedway scoreboard.

Winter, who responded to questions via email, said Verizon offered “the best solution” when it came to picking a DAS host. The spread-out nature of the huge, 2.5-mile track makes Indy a fairly unique situation when it comes to wireless coverage. Added to the spacing requirements, Winter also noted that the track’s network sees a huge and sudden surge when fans arrive for race day. Among some of the experiments Winter and her staff are trying are some selected uses of public Wi-Fi, this year at special pre-race concert events and also in the VIP areas.

“Coverage and capacity on our busy race days continues to be a challenge that we are working to improve,” Winter wrote.

With the added capacity, Verizon customers should have no problems accessing the Verizon IndyCar Series INDYCAR 14 mobile app, which for Verizon customers only offers live features that include driver and pit crew audio, race radio broadcast coverage, as well as a track map. Winter said there is also an Indianapolis Motor Speedway app called Brickyard Mobile, which is the digital version of the track’s guest guide.