When fairgoers descend on the Minnesota State Fair this Thursday, they won't see a lot of COWs or COLTs from cell phone providers, but they should get better service thanks to a distributed antenna system (DAS) deployed by Minneapolis-based MP Mobile Solutions.
MP Mobile Solutions completed work on a multiyear project that saw it bring a permanent communications system onto the fairgrounds, which sits between the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The fair is one of the biggest—there’s competition with Texas—and one of the best in the country, seeing 2 million yearly visitors. The fairgrounds cover 320 acres, which include the midway, grandstand, concessions and of course barns, livestock and 4-H exhibits. The communications upgrade will help not only attendees but the thousands of vendors as well.
Andy Masur, director of sales at MP Mobile Solutions, part of a larger company called MP Nexlevel, explained how the project came about. The State Fair has been a customer from a fiber perspective for many years and looked for an alternative to the COWs it had to accommodate every year, he said.
The upgrade is strictly cellular for the time being but adding Wi-Fi is a possibility for the future.
It's a unique project because there are so many moving parts, between the underground construction, 80 remote units and 56 antennas, said Chad Gerth, general manager, MP Mobile Solutions. “It was more of a design build project,” he told FierceWirelessTech. “We’re truly not even done with it and we won’t necessarily know the full revenue until this is 100% complete,” and that could still be about a year out.
MP's team did tests last year at a time when there were no leaves on the trees or scores of people on the fairgrounds. So, once the state fair actually happens this year, they’ll get a chance to see how the system performs—with the trees in full bloom and people saturating the streets.
MP is the acting third-party owner, is leasing the land for the head-end equipment and has a plot of land with five shelters just outside the fairgrounds to house its equipment. All four carriers have their own shelter on that plot of land as well.
MP declined to reveal the overall cost of the project, citing competitive reasons, but it did the design and deployment and conducted the negotiations with all four nationwide carriers. The company worked with Minneapolis supplier Graybar for the coxial cable, fiber optics and other materials and with SoLID on the DAS.
Gerth summed it up with a reference to one of the fair’s main attractions. “Everyone wants to send a text or make a call but they don’t pay any attention to how these things work or stay working,” he said in a press release. “That’s fine. We’re here with our partners, carriers and the State Fair management team to do that for them. The greatest measure of success for us on a project like this is that we remain entirely behind the scenes and State Fair goers can happily go about their business, get their food on a stick and enjoy this unbelievable annual event worry free.”