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Soldier Field Wireless Upgrade To Improve Cell Coverage




    Boingo Wireless and AT&T have installed a state-of-the-art distributed antenna system to improve cell service at Soldier Field. Charlie Wojciechowski reports. (Published Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013)

    At Soldier Field, when the Bears do well, fans want to share the experience. Now they can take to their smartphones without fears of failed calls and stalled messages.

    That’s because Boingo Wireless and AT&T have installed a state-of-the-art distributed antenna system, or DAS for short.

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    "It's a network of small antennas that is installed and designed to enhance our network performance," AT&T manager Marisa Bisbikis said. 

    Chances are, you’ll never even know the DAS is there.

    Unlike a cell tower, it uses more than 250 stealth antennas hidden under speakers and behind signs, outside in the stadium’s bowl and inside in places like the United Club.

    "This is about connectivity," Soldier Field spokesman Luca Serra said. "People share those experiences while they are at an event."

    So how powerful is the new system? It's the equivalent of about seven cell towers, and good enough to provide service for a community of 88,000 people.

    The brains of the DAS are located at the top of a foreboding ladder in what once was the office space used by the XFL. Rack upon rack of equipment now lives there to connect the antennas to wireless carriers like AT&T.

    To make sure your phone still works, even if there is a blackout (remember the powerage outage at last year's Super Bowl?) there is a four-hour battery backup.

    Although the DAS was built by AT&T and Boingo, it will be open to other carriers.

    That's good news for fans who want to post the latest Brandon Marshall touchdown on Facebook.