Hey, you gotta build for the team you want, not the one you got, right?
AT&T today announced that it has expanded its wireless capacity by 600 percent at Safeco Field to serve the crowds attending Seattle Mariners games, no matter how loosely the word “crowds” may apply at this point. It’s the third sports facility in the region — following Husky Stadium and Qwest Field — to be outfitted with a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) designed to enhance wireless throughput and reliability for calls and data services.
But why now? For one thing, AT&T says it’s part of an ongoing effort to upgrade the wireless and wireline infrastructure in the Seattle area. The company says it invested $200 million in upgrades in the region between 2008 and 2010.
And even on a slow night, attendance at the stadium amounts to a large concentration of people in a relatively limited space.
“Certainly we have all the confidence in the world in the Mariners, that their season is going to be a good one,” said Dan Youmans, AT&T’s president for Washington state, when I asked about the odd timing. “The fan base is always going to fluctuate a little bit. As more fans show up, which we know will happen, whether immediately or down the road, they’ll have this DAS system there to serve them.”
On behalf of Seattle Sounders fans — including GeekWire’s own John Cook — I also asked why the DAS already installed across the street at Qwest Field hasn’t resulted in a bigger improvement in coverage there.
“Qwest tends to be a little bit more challenging in terms of the way the structure is oriented. It’s more open on the end. Safeco tends to be more isolated, so from that aspect it is a more challenging venue than Safeco,” said AT&T’s Mark Lehman, noting that the Qwest crowds are larger, as well.
“That said, we definitely continue to work on that stadium,” he said. “The initial DAS deployment is in, but there’s continued optimization, we continually change out antennas, try to change the footprint of the coverage, try to get better isolation to really maximize the use of the DAS. It’s something that we’re not done with — we’re continuing to work on that stadium.”
That good enough for you, John?
Here’s what one of the DAS antennas looks like, from an installation at Coors Field in Denver.
Safeco Field image via Wikimedia Commons; Coors Field DAS image via AT&T.