Verizon invests $97 million to prepare communications for Super Bowl in Atlanta
Verizon has spent $97 million on network infrastructure—much of it on small cells and fiber backhaul—in Atlanta during the past two years to bolster its wireless coverage and capacity in anticipation of this weekend’s Super Bowl, according to representatives for the carrier.
“We have added over 650 permanent solutions,” Michelle Kababik, Verizon’s director of network assurance, said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “That includes 350 miles of fiber, countless number of new cell sites—small cells, in-building systems, and anything that could enhance coverage in our network.
“The best thing about that is that it will be here after the Super Bowl. So, we will benefit from all of those solutions once the Super Bowl leaves.”
Verizon deployed more than 300 new small cells in downtown Atlanta, added capacity to almost 150 existing small cells, and did work on more than 50 in-building solutions in the city, according to Kababik.
“We’ve upgraded or installed several in-building systems into all of the venues, as well as all of the hotels in the surrounding area,” she said.
While the initial purpose of these efforts is to support communications during the Super Bowl, Verizon also has deployed these solutions with an eye toward future technologies and use cases, Kababik said.
“All of our small-cell technology is built so that, if we need to make any changes to it—to add millimeter-wave [support], if we don’t have it there—it is not a large undertaking and is something we will be able to do quickly,” Kababik said.
In addition to installing permanent network assets, Verizon has pre-positioned satellite-equipped deployable vehicles that can be transported quickly to address any coverage or capacity needs that might arise, Kababik said.
“Basically, we have redundancy in our network, so [the deployable solutions] are a backup to the backup,” she said. “Those temporary assets are backing up the service, as well as we’ve put in a lot of redundancy in our fiber network within the elements in our switches. So, if something goes into a critical mode, most likely we have a second one that we’ll switch over to, so we don’t lose service.
“What we’ve done is strategically place them around the city. If there were any communications issue or a need for additional capacity, I could roll those into any command center to help public safety with their needs, so they wouldn’t have an interruption in service or capacity.”
Bill Bratton, the former two-time New York City police commissioner who now advises Verizon as the Teneo advisory firm’s executive chair of the risk division, said such reliability efforts and the additional network capacity in Atlanta is important to public-safety personnel trying to ensure safety during the massive event.
“With the increasing need for public safety to have data transmission and video transmission …. the need has expanded greatly, the capabilities of technology,” Bratton said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “Verizon not only has stayed in step with that but has projected into the future and planned for the future, as evidenced by its smart-city initiatives and focus on 5G technology, all of which are going to come into being very quickly in the next several years.”
Bratton said that he is pleased by the progress made in public-safety communications since the 9/11 attacks and even since 2014, when he was police commissioner for New York City when it hosted the Super Bowl. Improvement is especially notable in the area of interoperability, he said.
Even in 2014, Bratton said that “cops in the subway could not talk with cops on the street”—a situation that also existed among firefighters—but “all of that has been corrected over the last several years, so the interoperability issue has improved dramatically—not just in New York but, significantly, around the country.
“The needs of public-safety interoperability are being met. It took awhile to get up to speed, but they’re there now.”
Although public-safety officials can talk with each other regardless of what commercial wireless provider they use—particularly with priority and preemption assuring them access to the Verizon and AT&T FirstNet systems—Bratton noted that developing interoperability that ensures security and prioritization between carriers remains “a work in progress” today.
Bratton expressed concern that such an understanding between Verizon and AT&T FirstNet does not yet exist, but he does not believe it will be a problem during the Super Bowl.
“For purposes of this event here, Verizon is the principle provider of services in the Atlanta region, so that should not be a significant concern at this juncture,” he said.
Kababik said she believes Verizon is ready to deliver the communications needed during the Super Bowl, citing the team of 100 engineers working 24/7 to monitor and prepare the control center in Alpharetta—a city about 25 miles from downtown Atlanta—and teams of personnel surrounding the game site.
“With the two years of planning, we’re ready to go,” Kababik said. “I feel like we’re ready and able to handle anything that could come our way.”