Which Cell Phone Carrier Will Have The Best Signal At The Super Bowl?

Cowboys StadiumAll those fans in a small area will require a ton of extra cell phone coverage.

With Cowboys Stadium expecting a record 105,00 fans for Super Bowl XLV this Sunday, all four major cell phone carriers are prepping the Dallas Fort Worth area for the intense demand on their networks.Cisco already promises to provide free wifi for everyone in the stadium thanks to 884 wireless access points distributed throughout the complex.

We took a look at each carrier’s Super Bowl plans and spoke to some engineering experts so you know what to expect in Dallas this weekend.

Here’s the breakdown:

AT&T says it have been prepping for Super Bowl XLV since Cowboys Stadium opened two years ago. The carrier has installed almost 1,000 tiny antennas throughout the stadium to boost capacity as part of a Distributed Antenna System (DAS). Smartphone users will also be able to get free wifi from AT&T. A basement under the field packed with cell sites “as far as you can see,” says AT&T’s engineer in charge of the Dallas area.

AT&T says it has been happy with the performance so far this week, and feels like it had a good test run throughout the regular season and at large events like the Cotton Bowl.

Verizon has beefed up its speedy 4G LTE network around Cowboys Stadium in preparation for the data demand. There’s also an improved DAS in place to handle the voice and texting traffic. The company hasn’t said more beyond that, but maybe it doesn’t have to with its reputation.

In testing during the Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium, T-Mobile says it recorded 4G download speeds of 4 to 5 Mbps. That’s pretty good considering there were 85,000 people in attendance. With at least 20,000 more fans expected on Sunday, you can expect a solid data connection. T-Mobile added two more cell sites in Cowboys Stadium and installed DAS antennas outside.

Like the other carriers, Sprint will be using a DAS to increase capacity. Additionally there will be two Cells on Wheels (mobile cell sites) near the stadium and two new 4G macro sites for data. Sprint will also have technicians on hand during the game to adjust the network based on user demand.

Our impression: AT&T seems to have the most extensive infrastructure in and around Cowboys Stadium, but based on the carrier’s reputation, it’s easy to be cynical about how well it will work. With 100,000 people competing for bandwidth and talk time, we won’t know for sure until Sunday.

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