Verizon brings Super Bowl-tested system to IMS

May 14, 2014
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Can you hear me now?

Verizon Wireless officials hope customers won’t have to utter the phrase made famous in their television commercials too often this month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Just having their voice heard, though, isn’t enough these days for cell phone users, especially at sporting events.

Increasingly, fans want to text, tweet and post to Facebook. And when tens of thousands—or in extreme cases hundreds of thousands—of people around you are trying to do the same thing, using your phone or tablet isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

Sports fans in this market and others haven’t been shy about voicing their displeasure about bad cell phone coverage, which is evident if you follow Twitter on any big game or event days.

Verizon officials think they have the solution. They admit that in the past, service at the enormous facility has been a problem.

Now the carrier is bringing to Indianapolis Motor Speedway some of the technology it pioneered at the 2012 Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium and at this year’s Kentucky Derby.

The Speedway, which encompasses more than 1,000 acres and has capacity of around 300,000, will offer Verizon an extreme test of its Distributed Antenna System.

“We think with the system we’ve installed over the last year, we’re ready,” said Lynn Ramsey, Verizon vice president of network.

With the addition of more than 200 antennas (Verizon had 29 at the Speedway last year) and a system carrying signals over fiber optic cables from a base station through managed hubs and out to remote antennas, Verizon has quadrupled its capacity, company officials explained during a tour Tuesday.

This month, IMS has been crawling with Verizon technicians—some on foot, some in cars—testing the system from every point on the expansive grounds. Verizon is even trying to make sure race fans in adjacent parking and camping areas can use their phones whenever they want.

And if there’s a problem on Pole Day, Carb Day or race day and customers tweet out a problem using Verizon in the tweet, they shouldn’t be surprised to get a visit from a Verizon technician. When I tweeted a complaint about cell reception at Lucas Oil Stadium during the 2012 Super Bowl, a rather concerned-looking Verizon representative was by my seat in the auxiliary press area in minutes. Of course, the extra attention might have been because I am a member of the media.

Still, Verizon promises to have scads of technicians monitoring the Speedway all month.

Though the Verizon antennas are everywhere, IMS visitors—unless they’re looking for them—might not even notice. The antennas are only a few feet long and sit overhead in non-descript white cases—something like an encased fluorescent kitchen light.

The system should help power Verizon’s new IndyCar 14 app, which provides a number of features including live streaming from IMS. The app also provides tons of video features and live track and team data, all of which gobbles up bandwidth faster than pedal-down drivers cover the oval.

The new system went live May 10 during the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis. That event drew fewer than 50,000 fans. The supreme test will be May 25 during the Indianapolis 500.

Verizon’s Ramsey said IMS is far more challenging to outfit than other sporting venues.

“Not only are you talking about [300,000] fans, but they’re not in a bowl like an arena or stadium,” she said.

Unfortunately, the system will only help Verizon customers. It’s possible, Verizon officials said, that in the future other carriers could use Verizon’s system.

With millions of dollars invested at places such as Churchill Downs, IMS and Super Bowl host venues, Verizon is sure to begin marketing itself as the most reliable carrier at sporting events, though company officials had no details of those plans Tuesday.

Verizon wouldn’t say what it invested at the Speedway, but company officials said Verizon spent $130 million statewide in 2013.

Speedway officials appear to be giving Verizon a head start in its battle with other cell phone carriers. Given that Verizon earlier this year signed a 10-year IndyCar Series title sponsorship deal worth $50 million in cash and another $50 million in advertising and promotion, I suppose you can’t blame the open-wheel series for playing favorites.

Verizon has used similar strategies with its NFL partnership to be first to market in those venues.

Verizon officials insist this move isn’t pure marketing.

“Sure, our brand is at the forefront here,” Ramsey said. “But this is about offering a reliable service and it’s about public safety, making sure people can use their phones in an emergency situation.”

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  • Great News
    If you're a Verizon customer. I'd put money that they'll throttle the signals for any other carrier so if you're an AT&T customer your service will still be crap. Just like it is at Sprint Cup races.
  • Verizon at IMS is a Great Marriage
    My experience nationwide is that Sprint is consistently the worst by a fairly significant margin. AT&T has been improving but Verizon has proven to be the most reliable almost anywhere. Their efforts at IMS are commendable.
  • The hole IRL Fanbase
    chimed in on this one

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  1. I had read earlier this spring that Noodles & Co was going to open in the Fishers Marketplace (which is SR 37 and 131st St, not 141st St, just FYI). Any word on that? Also, do you happen to know what is being built in Carmel at Pennsylvania and Old Meridian? May just be an office building but I'm not sure.

  2. I'm sorry, but you are flat out wrong. There are few tracks in the world with the history of IMS and probably NO OTHER as widely known and recognized. I don't care what you think about the stat of Indy Car racing, these are pretty hard things to dispute.

  3. Also wondering if there is an update on the Brockway Pub-Danny Boy restaurant/taproom that was planned for the village as well?

  4. Why does the majority get to trample on the rights of the minority? You do realize that banning gay marriage does not rid the world of gay people, right? They are still going to be around and they are still going to continue to exist. The best way to get it all out of the spotlight? LEGALIZE IT! If gay marriage is legal, they will get to stop trying to push for it and you will get to stop seeing it all over the news. Why do Christians get to decide what is moral?? Why do you get to push your religion on others? How would legalizing gay marriage expose their lifestyle to your children? By the way, their lifestyle is going to continue whether gay marriage is legalized or not. It's been legal in Canada for quite a while now and they seem to be doing just fine. What about actual rules handed down by God? What about not working on Sundays? What about obeying your parents? What about adultery? These are in the 10 Commandments, the most important of God's rules. Yet they are all perfectly legal. What about divorce? Only God is allowed to dissolve a marriage so why don't you work hard to get divorce banned? Why do you get to pick and choose the parts of the Bible you care about?

  5. Look at the bright side. With the new Lowe's call center, that means 1000 jobs at $10 bucks an hour. IMS has to be drooling over all that disposable income. If those employees can save all their extra money after bills, in five years they can go to the race LIVE. Can you say attendance boost?

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