Speeding Up the Fan Experience with 5G

5G — the fifth generation of cellular network technology — is expected to provide ultra-fast download and upload speeds beyond that of the current 4G LTE networks, making latency and buffering a thing of the past. What feels like the latest buzzword, 5G is just two simple characters but a major shift for how we will interact with technology. But a signal is only as good as the devices and systems it operates on — and with faster speeds comes the need for infrastructure improvements to support it. That’s where the telecom experts at Henderson Engineers can help. While 5G is just barely starting to shift from theoretical to application, these are the trends we are seeing as we work to bring 5G to some of the largest venues in the country.

The Fan Experience

5G is on the cutting edge of telecom technology, and while most fans’ devices aren’t “5G-ready,” or able to take full advantage of the speeds (as is often the case with technology evolution), it won’t be long before 5G speeds are the baseline against which venues are judged. Now is the time to ensure the technology in your venue is ready to meet the mounting expectations. Fans today don’t just sit in their seats and watch the action on the field; they use their devices to share their experience live across social media platforms, to keep up with other games or events, to check stats and metrics in real time, and even to entertain young children. An exceptional modern fan experience requires access to the fastest speeds.

The Lowdown on DAS

The distributed antenna system, or DAS, redistributes signals brought into a venue from cellular carriers (e.g. AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, etc.) through a wireless or direct wired connection. Once inside the facility, the signal is distributed out to patrons via antennas dispersed throughout the venue. Upgrading your facility to support 5G networks means upgrading the infrastructure, pathways, and spaces to provide the necessary additional equipment. Because 5G uses higher frequencies over shorter ranges to carry the large amounts of data, the signal can’t pass through structures (walls, floors, seats, etc.) as easily as lower frequencies do. That means more antennas and equipment are needed to ensure all guests have the 5G coverage they’re accustomed to when they aren’t in a venue with thousands of other people. The actual number of antennas and their placements are driven by the carrier(s) and system used.

What about Wi-Fi?

We’d be remiss if we didn’t also discuss how upgrades in Wi-Fi technologies could impact this system. With the advent of Wi-Fi 6, the wireless internet systems in venues are also getting faster and more robust. However, because DAS and Wi-Fi systems operate independently to serve different purposes, it’s important to keep both up to date.

Upgrading can be a daunting task, especially when significant infrastructure changes are required, but Henderson is here to help. We can walk through the process with you step by step. Handling the coordination with installers, understanding the systems you have in place, and establishing what needs to be done, we are equipped to bring about the next generation of technology in your facility.

Preparing Our Clients for The Shift

Venues, especially large venues like stadiums and convention centers, are multi-year projects, with the design sometimes beginning 3-4 years prior to construction. This extensive lead time means the design team is tasked with trying to futureproof the venue for often theoretical technology. 5G is a prime example of that type of technology.

On average, the network design team would request 8-10,000 square feet of dedicated space, depending on a variety of factors, for a standard DAS headend room. Now, with 5G, some system manufacturers are indicating that the equipment required to support 5G may require double that amount of space.

The Henderson Method

Here’s how we can help. Henderson can bridge the gap between the owners, carriers, and contractors to help navigate the best path forward for everyone.

For both existing venues and new ones, our telecom experts can perform site evaluations to assess your facilities’ needs. Our unique approach, based on close collaboration with mechanical and electrical designers, allows us to deliver a holistic and cohesive design that works for your space. Active during the design phase, construction process, and installation, we not only guarantee a project is designed right, but that it’s done right. Because at Henderson, we’re partners for the entire life of the building. To discuss upgrading the telecom in your facility, call our director of network design, Julie LeClair.

Written By
Julie LeClair

Venue Sector Technical Manager | Associate


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