Todd Landry, Corporate Vice President of Innovation Strategy, JMA Wireless

Football’s biggest event is just days away, and this year’s match-up is sure to deliver plenty of highlights for the roughly 100,000 fans and media who are descending on So-Fi Stadium in Los Angeles. But action on the gridiron itself is not the only reason fans planning to attend are in for a treat.

Another reason: It’s going to be a 5G extravaganza. That’s because So-Fi Stadium is the most technologically connected venue in the world.

More than four years ago, our JMA Wireless team joined leaders at So-Fi to define our goals for this very weekend. To deliver the world’s most connected venue by making it capable of adopting the newest spectrum, So-Fi needed to have the vision and forward-leaning technologies that JMA brought to the table.
I first met Skarphedinn Hedinsson (Skarpi), Chief Technology Officer at So-Fi, for breakfast with my colleague Dan Cassinelli. Soon after, we found ourselves in the middle of the So-Fi construction site’s early days. I was joined by JMA RF and DAS expert Ihab Labib as we began work with Skarpi’s team and a shared vision of what was possible.

At the same time, we were working to define a direction to deliver extreme connectivity. Part of this vision was to be ready for forthcoming spectrum, today known as C-Band, so that the stadium could easily add this capability. More than four years ago, the entire system was designed to easily add spectrum that was not even in an FCC auction stage yet. Skarpi is an industry visionary and leader who wanted to use technology to create a wow factor at So-Fi. That spirit resulted in an instant synergy with our team at JMA. We love seeing the future, leading the industry with innovation, and collaborating with visionaries. At JMA, we knew that we had the right platform and the right team that could help Skarpi achieve his wow factor.
Even before this coming Super Bowl event, So-Fi has been delivering the wow factor. Today So-Fi boasts the equivalent of 100 cell sites and since its opening, has been delivering a powerful mobile experience. Now, as the Super Bowl stage nears, So-Fi is ready to deliver the next level 5G wow factor.

What did it take?

To deliver the level of cell density needed to achieve our goal, the usual approach simply would not work. Stadium bowls are challenging environments to deliver high densities of cellular sectors to begin with, but JMA is the industry expert with hundreds of industry firsts in sports and entertainment venues. Rising to the challenge as part of its work with the So-Fi team, JMA went to the engineering drawing board under a project called “waterfall.” JMA was able to design a unique antenna that would tuck behind the seats through the stadium. This would deliver ultra-wide bandwidth, creating cellular beams flowing down the stadium seats, like a waterfall. When tied together with JMAs TEKO DAS, it provided a future spectrum that was a ready platform for So-Fi. It also addressed cell density as it allowed the design to be optimized for sector-to-sector SINR performance, essentially tightening how the edges of cells in the bowl meet each other to radically reduce the interference between at the edges, which is the culprit of killing performance experiences for mobile phones.

With more than $80 billion invested in C-Band spectrum for 5G, the spectrum has become the go-to bands in 2022 for mobile operators who want to deliver high-speed 5G experiences. Fortunately for operators, the stage for Super Bowl LVI in So-Fi Stadium was designed with a combination of JMAs TEKO Distributed Antenna System (DAS) and its NWAV ultra-wide band antennas throughout the indoor and outdoor areas of So-Fi, a design that readied it as the stage to host the new 5G C-bands. JMAs TEKO technology has become the only 5G-ready platform in the industry whose architectural design considered the needs for low latency requirements of 5Gs NR (New Radio) with built-in band support for the new spectrum. So-Fi is a testament to this forward thinking as it was able to add the new C-Bands to the current system without a hardware change-out and without touching the fans facing the side of the venue. Mobile operators rallied to attach to the TEKO DAS to enable their new 5G spectrum to showcase to the world their 5G capabilities on one of the world’s biggest stages, Super Bowl LVl.

A Super Bowl for sports and entertainment fans

Sports fans will be captivated by the excitement of the battle between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals, and entertainment fans will dance to the halftime show, all while sharing their experiences in real time with their mobile phones. If they are oblivious to the technology itself and simply enamored at how well their video and picture sharing works, we will have achieved our goal as technology geeks.

A Super 5G Bowl for wireless geeks

You can guarantee that all of us wireless technology fans will be watching the results during what is certain to be the biggest 5G show on earth. Aside from the big game itself, we will revel in the speed at which some 100,000 mobile devices connect and move more data than ever before during a sports event. Fans won’t know what went into enabling such an awesome experience, but all of us that spend countless hours designing and deploying the tech in venues like So-Fi stadium are okay with that. We simply smile, as the excitement of user experiences are the fruits of our labor, and we can’t wait to see the fruit of our labor during this year’s Super Bowl.