Research identifies best wireless coverage in Ross-Ade
Written by TechPurdue // January 10, 2012 // Admitted Students, Alumni & Friends, Business & Industry, Computer and Information Technology, Current Students, Faculty & Staff, Latest College News, Research // No comments
High-density event locations, such as a college football stadium on game day, can quickly overload area cellular telephone networks. One class in the College of Technology researched the best way to provide some of those users access to local wireless network to improve the flow of data. The solution could also help area residents with cell phone coverage during games.
“People often can’t send text messages on game day if their service is using the same towers as the game-goers are. The system can’t handle it,” said Clayton Nygaard, one of two section lab leaders for CNIT 44600 (Advanced Wireless Networks). “The wireless coverage is meant to offload some of the cell/3G/4G coverage overload that such a concentration of people can create. We’re trying to gauge the best position for the antenna, the best angle for mounting, and even how many.”
Obviously, they couldn’t fill Purdue’s Ross-Ade stadium at a moment’s notice. So with the help of technology, they were able to simulate about 200 users accessing a wireless network at one time. Up to 10 students would access the network at the same time and from the same section of the stadium. The main computer would measure bandwidth, quality of the connection, and the amount of data that could be transferred from each access point.
These measurements were repeated in all 34 sections of the U-shaped stadium. The antennas were moved, and the same measurements were taken again. They tested the antennas from the football stadium’s pavilion (where the press box is located) and from atop the video scoreboard. In addition, they tested three separate antennas, provided by PCTEL, the client for the project. One of the antennas was used in Dallas Cowboys Stadium for the 2011 Super Bowl. Another set of six antennas, mounted together, allowed the team to test a prototype antenna against one that has already been in use.
The final presentation to PCTel took place during Fall 2011 finals week.
Five members of the research team presented their findings to a representative of PCTel. They suggested using two antennas for a stadium such as Ross-Ade: one on top of the pavilion/press box and one on top of the large scoreboard. They also suggested two additional antennas on top of the north scoreboard, pointed directly at the student section, to accommodate heavier student usage of the service.
The antenna used in the Dallas stadium performed well in the experiment, which provided important feedback to PCTel.
“The results were a lot better than we expected. Now, we want to see what happens with propagation and loading when we have lots of users in the stadium,” said Tony Kobrinetz, PCTel’s chief technology officer.
Anthony Smith, professor of computer and information technology who teaches CNIT 44600, said the research project has already given his students more questions to answer about wireless networks in large crowds.
“We are already coming up with innovation and product design using PCTEL antennas for collegiate and smaller stadiums that cannot afford the same kind of network that the pro teams can install in a new stadium,” he said.
Kobrinetz is looking forward to additional projects with Smith and his students.
“They understand the hands-on reality, they give us feedback, and we test those adjustments. We end up with product that is optimized, and the students get experience in product development,” he said. “I love their energy. They ask the right questions, and they are questions that help direct us to better solutions. This is pure technology and pure application of technology.”