FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — U.S. wireless carrier AT&T has finished installing Boston’s first indoor, LTE-capable Distributed Antenna System (DAS), designed to improve cellular-network performance during Boston Celtics basketball and Bruins hockey games, concerts and other events held at the TD Garden.
The carrier hosted a handful of media representatives and AT&T executives on Monday for a tour of the system.
The DAS improves mobile network coverage throughout the 700,000-square-foot TD Garden thanks to 66 strategically placed antennas that form 11 separate “zones.” These zones help AT&T evenly distribute its cellular signal, which is piped into the arena via fiber optic cables and then beamed to the individual antennas from the data-center-like DAS on the tenth floor of the TD Garden. (Check out the video below for a look at DAS at TD Garden.)
AT&T’s New LTE-Capable DAS at Boston’s TD Garden
“At AT&T, we’re huge sports fans in Boston,” Steve Krom, VP and general manager, AT&T New England, told reporters. “We’re excited that our customers [at TD Garden] are going to be able to make calls, send text messages, surf the Web and even post a picture to their favorite social media websites, and they’ll be able to do that on both of AT&T’s 4G networks.”
Krom said the carrier has been working on the DAS at TD Garden for almost three years. TD Garden’s total capacity is just under 20,000, and AT&T says the new DAS should help provide significantly faster data (EDGE, HSPA+ and LTE) transfers and improve voice and text reliability for a full house of Celtics or Bruins fans.
“We’re working to enhance the building,” said Amy Latimer, SVP of sales and marketing, TD Garden. “We’re almost 17 years old this year, and as you can imagine cell phone coverage and the demand from our clients, and even internally, has increased. There have been times in the past when we haven’t been able to connect with people. We want customers coming in here to not only experience great events and great sporting events, but also be able to share with their friends and families.”
Krom wouldn’t talk specifics when it comes to cost, but AT&T says it spent more than US$475 million in Massachusetts on both its wired and wireless networks between 2009 and 2011. AT&T also says it made nearly 745 wireless-network upgrades in the greater Boston area in 2011, including the addition of seven new cell sites and/or towers.
The TD Garden is not the only Boston sports venue that’s home to an AT&T DAS; both Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, and Gillette Stadium, home field of the New England Patriots, also have AT&T DAS centers.
However, the TD Garden system is unique because it’s completely indoors, and the facility, which is composed of many thick concert walls, presents a number of unique wireless challenges, according to Krom.
Krom says its DAS is the only such system in place at the TD Garden, and no additional cellular carriers have comparable systems. However, the AT&T system is set up so that it could be utilized or “rented out” by additional carriers such as Verizon or Sprint in the future.
“We want our customers to have a great network experience, and providing enhanced wireless coverage at the Garden is just one way that we’re investing in Boston,” Krom said.