Small cells installed for Super Bowl, used in Madison

Published: Feb. 3, 2018 at 12:44 PM CST
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About 125,000 people are expected to travel to the Twin Cities for the Super Bowl, according to With that many people, not only will traffic increase on the roads, lines will grow longer, and cell phone service would usually get bogged down. However, slow phone service isn’t going to be a problem during Super Bowl weekend, at least for Verizon Wireless customers in the Twin Cities.

Two years ago, crews began installing small cells to make sure when large events happen, people can still use their phones when they want.

Steve Van Dinter, Verizon’s Gadget Guru, said Verizon invested $122 billion since 2000 in advancing its network to keep up with the increasing demand to use phones.

“We know customers want to use their phones to stream video,” Van Dinter said. “They want to be able to Facebook Live and YouTube Live, all of those sort of things we do with our phones these days. These things – these small cells, make that possible.”

Van Dinter said small cells are being installed across the country to handle densely populated events.

“What they do provide you is when you’re using your phone, they give much faster speeds, they give a greater capacity. When you pack in a million visitors like we do in Minneapolis this week, people are going to be able to use their phones and use how they want.”

About 250 small cells were installed in the downtown Minneapolis Area, 11 just on Nicolete Mall. However, the cells aren’t limited to Minnesota, in fact, they’re making cell service faster in Madison, Wis., too.

“Near Camp Randall in downtown Madison, we have those installed there as well,” Van Dinter said. “What we want to do is put these in any place where there are densely populated areas. The Isthmus makes sense or Camp Randall makes sense for all the people down there.”

Van Dinter took NBC15 for a walk with Verizon’s Network Engineer, Mike Cogar, to see the ports up close and how they were installed.

“We’ve added 500 percent capacity in Minneapolis for this event,” Cogar said. “We’re constantly doing this for the benefit of our customers.”

Some are obvious on light poles, others are hidden in bus warming shelters, all providing cell service that is three to five times faster than what someone would use for a cable network at home, according to Van Dinter.

The small cells are not only for the Super Bowl, but for the long-run and upcoming roll-out for Verizon 5G service.

“The more of these you have in your city, the more prepared you are for the next generation for super-fast speeds and increased connectivity,” Van Dinter said.

Another purpose for the small cells is connecting public works crews and streamlining communication between agencies. Van Dinter said some of the small cells have cameras that serve as security, an extra eye on roads that need to be plowed and surveillance on any incident that might need a law enforcement official presence.