US political convention sites brace for flood of mobile traffic

Distributed antenna systems are nearly in place already for the Republican and Democratic conventions

By , IDG News Service |  Networking

Weeks before the U.S. Republican and Democratic national conventions that will anoint each party's nominee for
president, special equipment to boost cellular signals in each party's venues is already nearly installed.

The thousands of participants and armies of reporters that will flock to both events are expected to produce
enough calls, Tweets, videos and other mobile traffic to bring an average cellular network to its knees. So TE
Connectivity is deploying DASes (distributed antenna systems) all around the facilities where the parties will
meet.

DAS is a widely used technology for extending cellular capacity and coverage in buildings and in outdoor areas
where a lot of people gather. It consists of many small antennas mounted throughout an area and linked to a base
station via fiber or cable. Amplifiers boost the signal over the cable so each antenna has enough power to handle
the area it's assigned to cover. To get the most use out of the frequencies available, a DAS may divide a building
into multiple areas, called sectors, each with its own set of channels.

The national party conventions are as big as it gets in U.S. politics, and the systems taking shape in Tampa
Bay, Florida, and Charlotte, North Carolina, aren't your average distributed antennas, according to John Spindler,
TE's director of product management. Where necessary, they may create a separate sector for every two seating
sections in an arena.

"These arenas will be heavily sectorized," Spindler said. The type of DAS being planned for the convention
arenas can incorporate about 150 antennas, he said.

The heavy coverage is necessary because the conventions can generate much more mobile traffic than the typical
professional sports game, he said. The floors of the halls are packed with delegates instead of playing host to a
few basketball players, and there are far more media outlets covering the event, including all the major U.S. TV
networks.

Spindler said he could not estimate the convention traffic because TE designs its DASes from network
specifications provided by its clients. In 2008, when ADC supplied the DASes for the last big conventions, an
executive there estimated a convention could generate five to 10
times
the call volume at an average hockey game. (ADC was later acquired by Tyco Electronics and became part of
TE Connectivity.) Given the growth in mobile data use, this year's events are likely to generate even heavier
demand.

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