The Houston Chronicle ran an online story Sunday night about mobile phone users being frustrated with inaccessible or slow wireless services inside Reliant Stadium in Houston. I was happy to get a call to comment on the technology side of the issue, explaining how distributed antennas systems (DAS) work and the many challenges associated with keeping up with ever-increasing capacity demands inside arenas and stadiums.

While I personally am not familiar with any issues with coverage or capacity within Reliant, I know that the customers we are working with—including the biggest U.S. carriers—all consider stadiums, airports, and other large public venues to be strategically important places to support customers.

The main problem as I suggest in the article is that as soon as operators add more capacity to their networks, it gets used. The amount of bandwidth capacity that data services consume via smartphones is enormous. Many of the operators continue to work on adding more capacity, but demand is outpacing them. That said, no operator wants their customers to not be able to access basic voice and text services—not to mention advanced applications such as video—at any stadium. So those kinds of problems need to be remedied whenever they occur.

It is a hot issue among wireless operators, and one we are experts at addressing, such as at the South African World Cup stadiums and Dallas Cowboys stadium.  I’d like to know what you think though.

How big of a gap is there between user expectations and what the operators are currently able to provide in a stadium near you?

What services specifically are you trying to use?

About the Author

Matt Melester

Matt Melester is senior vice president and general manager, Distributed Coverage and Capacity Solutions, at CommScope. He and his team are responsible for CommScope’s distributed antenna systems and in-building small cell solutions, including successfully enhancing wireless coverage and capacity at numerous high-profile locations and events, including the FIFA World Cups in Germany and South Africa; Olympics venues in Sydney, Beijing, London and others; high-speed rail systems in Italy, Germany, China and more; the world’s longest tunnel in Switzerland; the world’s tallest building in Dubai; and the world’s largest indoor stadium. Matt has over 35 years of experience in the telecommunications industry at CommScope, Andrew Corporation, Chrysler Technologies Airborne Systems and Texas Instruments. He has a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Kentucky.

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4 comments for "Inside Stadiums: How Big A Problem Is the Capacity Crunch?"
Gabriel Guevara

Matt, No questions about it, BW capacity is the name of the game especially since smartphones adoption is growing at 51% according to research firm IDC. Carriers needs to move fast to accodate for the big increase of data usage during high profile events. Regards, Gabriel


Hi, I believe HQ video in stadiums and other populated gatherings will be a pipe dream for years to come. Voice, text, WEB, and pictures are possible but the demands of 15 or 30 fps HQ video will need new networks dedicated to video transmission. The other option is apps that download the video frame by frame without effecting the QOS of voice and text. Realtime video would be possible in a pod cast format like the game closeups on a common connection. Sending videos will be slow as voice and texts must take priority. When 5,000 people call someone, the network is loaded up with little room for web browsing and video transmission. Channel reuse in stadiums is tricky as signals mix and multipath can cause issues with bandwidth and calls being handed over too often as the phones see so many "hot" signals at once. The future will be HQ video at 60 fps transmitting in realtime with no lags or dropped or partial frames.


One or two stadiums do NOT make you an expert. Just like with Intelligent Buildings and Campuses, there is a misconception that you can use a cookie-cutter approach to designing systems. It is not that simple. There is not a one-size-fits-all design approach and each stadium/ conference center should be viewed as an individual design. Also, video should NOT be viewed as an advanced application and should be viewed as a growing application that better be handled as more Smartphone users are expecting that type of service as standard service and not 'advanced' services.


Thanks, I have just been searching for information about this topic for a long time and yours is the best I have found out till now.

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