Small cells

Verizon Small Cells Ready to Rock in Chicago

CHICAGO -- Depending on your age, taste in music and tolerance for long bathroom lines, heatstroke and drunk tourists, Chicago's Lollapooloza festival may be your ideal weekend or your worst nightmare. Either way, it'll be more palatable this year if you're a Verizon customer thanks to the operator's installation of small cells at the outdoor concert venue.

This year, texting someone to come rescue you or uploading a video of Paul McCartney or Metallica -- again, depending on your preferences -- will be easier than years past at the notorious black hole for cellular coverage. Verizon Wireless has installed 12 small cells in Grant Park, where the three days of concerts will be held, to improve coverage and capacity. The small cells will become permanent fixtures in the heavily trafficked park and replace the carrier's usual approach of deploying temporary colts, or cell towers on wheels, for events such as this.

Light Reading caught up with Brian Pascoe, Verizon's region president for Illinois and Wisconsin, and Jacque Vallier, Verizon's director of network for Illinois and Wisconsin, ahead of Lollapooloza at Verizon's destination store in downtown Chicago (a safe distance away). (See Pics: Verizon's Chicago Destination Store.)

Pasco said that at 2011's Lollapooloza, 11 terabytes of data were used over the three-day weekend, but that grew to 124 terabytes last year. Lolla isn't the only traffic driver at Grant Park either. The recent Blackhawks parade used 4.8TB of data (1.3 of which were from Carol Wilson), 350% more than was used during the three-day NFL draft in the same spot.

By adding small cells, provided by Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Vallier says Verizon gets five to eight times the coverage of its traditional colt deployments. "Colts have worked well, but small cells are a better solution," he said, adding that it was easy to justify their deployment ahead of this weekend's Lolla festival. Vallier did, however, note in an interview earlier this year that working with the city and obtaining the rights for small cells can take 12 to 18 months, so the Lolla deployment has been in the works for a while.

For more on small cells and Verizon's network densification plans, visit the small cells content page here on Light Reading.

Both small cells and Chicago have been focal points for Verizon's network densification plans. The carrier said it will more than double the 134 small cells it already has in Chicago over the next two years. And it has invested $800 million in its network here, including for small cells, 25 distributed antenna systems (DAS), LTE-Advanced upgrades, colt deployments for disaster relief and special events, and a plan to bring LTE to the city's subway system. (See Verizon Trumpets Network Densification Plans, Verizon Scales Up Small Cells, AT&T Cuts Back and Verizon Allocating $500M to Small Cells.)

The Illinois and Wisconsin leads also stressed that it's $800 million out of the $1.9 billion Verizon is investing in the broader region. Chicago is clearly an important city, but they want to make it clear that the company has love for the smaller cities as well and that, while some of its competitors are making a big deal out of Chicago now, the Windy City always been a leading market for Verizon. (See Sprint to Bring 540 Jobs, LTE-A to Chicago .)

"I would say that Chicago is a top-tier market in the country," Vallier said in an earlier interview. "We design and engineer systems to the same standards in other metro areas, but outside of New York, San Francisco and Chicago, you don't have the tall buildings and infrastructure as widely, so it does get unique attention. We are using small cells across the nation, but there's a heavy focus in dense metro areas."

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

mattgleeson 8/14/2015 | 6:38:52 PM
Re: 2015 numbers What does that work out at per sub per month ? Doesn't sound too bad at first glance...
Sarah Thomas 8/4/2015 | 4:14:50 PM
2015 numbers The numbers are in: Verizon customers used 158 terabytes of data, up from 124 last year, according to Pascoe.
SherryGreen 8/3/2015 | 11:09:36 PM
A big Move A big move! I'm excited for that!
thebulk 8/3/2015 | 9:33:20 AM
Re: Lolla! Yes, i am sure a fair amount of spirtis will be consumed. and some "interesting" pics and videos might follow. 
Mitch Wagner 7/31/2015 | 3:39:46 PM
Re: Lolla! If Paul McCartney is playing there, I don't see how any living person can be too old for Lollapalooza.

Maybe Keith Richards.

Sarah Thomas 7/31/2015 | 2:35:23 PM
Re: Lolla! I'm not sure they'll be up for any tasks that don't involve alcohol, but I'm sure they'll do enough pic uploading on their own! Video uploading will be the real test of the system though.
Sarah Thomas 7/31/2015 | 2:32:36 PM
Re: Backhaul? It's the latter. Jacque said they are working towards a C-RAN approach with small cells as part of that, and can enable it via software upgrades rather than new infrastructure, but it's not there yet. Wouldn't say if Chicago would be the first market for C-RAN either, but it tends to be a trial market for Verizon.
bogdanovici 7/31/2015 | 1:13:03 PM
Backhaul? Any insights on backhaul to the mentioned small cells? Is this a CRAN type deployment or each small cell has a baseband unit with Ethernet interface?
thebulk 7/31/2015 | 12:35:56 PM
Re: Lolla! You should consider assinging your friends tasks to do on their phones while there, like "watch this video" or "upload at least 200mb of video to YouTube" or "test SMS vs FB Messanger vs WhatsAPP vs Line" and have them report back to you. 
Sarah Thomas 7/31/2015 | 12:27:54 PM
Lolla! Hope my disdain for Lolla wasn't too obvious. :) I will be curious to hear how the small cells fare this weekend under the crush of festival goers. Verizon is going to follow-up with details on Monday, and I'll check in with my friends who are going  for anecdotal experiences as well. (I think they have a few years left before they're officially too old for it.)
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