The first U.S. track built especially for Formula One racing, the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), opened its doors for business on Nov. 18 in Austin, Texas, with a brand new DAS deployed by ExteNet Systems. More than 117,000 fans had access to the DAS to communicate using their smart phones during the race where Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton won his fourth Grand Prix of the season.
In 2013, COTA has scheduled multiple events expected to draw more than 1.2 million attendees. For example, it will be the site of the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix with an attendance of 260,000, a Grand-Am with an attendance of 130,000, a three-day MotoGP event with 210,000 people and four major concerts totaling 80,000 attendees.
“It is a high profile venue. It is the first time Formula One has been back in the United States in five years,” Ross Manire, ExteNet president and CEO told DAS Bulletin. “It is a high volume venue, given the nature of the events they will run and the capacity of the facility. Given the number of fans that will attend these events, capacity was clearly a driver behind this network, which can support 24 radio sectors. It is also flexible enough to accommodate all the different types of other events at this venue.”
ExteNet began talking with Circuit of the Americas about providing a DAS, just as COTA had completed design of the facility, almost a year before it was built. ExteNet bid on and won the contract to deploy a DAS network. Wi-Fi was not included in COTA’s communications network plans, according to Manire, but Wi-Fi is a part of ExteNet’s offerings.
“The DAS network is integrated with the existing [macrocellular] infrastructure at the track,” Manire said. “We tried to do everything we could to integrate the distributed network into the context of the overall esthetics of the track.”
Circuit of the Americas is a 3.41 mile, 20-turn racing track with more than 133 feet of elevation change, stretching across 900 total acres. The track also includes a 20,000 seat amphitheater for concerts and festivals and a 40,000-square-foot conference center. More than a dozen two-story executive meeting suites include 3,600 square feet of space, elevators and kitchens.
“Fundamentally, the DAS architecture used at COTA is comparable to what ExteNet deploys in a Major League Baseball stadium or an NFL stadium,” Manire said. “There was more infrastructure built [at COTA]. This one was a bit more complex because of the geography that had to be covered, the track, the stands and the parking facilities.”
ExteNet’s distributed network is capable of supporting up to five wireless carriers and their technologies, including GSM, UMTS, CDMA, EVDO and LTE.
“We can accommodate all the different carriers and all the wireless technologies they may want to run,” Manire said. “In any system we build we are trying to attain double digit ROI when we get three carriers on the network and so our pricing is set accordingly. When we start off with that anchor tenant we are making the financial bet that we will get the second and third, hopefully a fourth tenant.”
ExteNet faced a compressed time table for getting carriers on the system. The go ahead for the DAS was not given until in August 2012 for the system that had to be operational in mid-November. ExteNet was only able to get Verizon Wireless to commit before this fall’s inaugural Formula One race. Manire said other carriers are expected to join in providing service on the DAS.