Until last week, Oklahoma City businessman and Thunder season ticket holder Nick Gray had to finish his business and social plans before entering Chesapeake Energy Arena on game nights.
“If I'm going to meet a friend at halftime, we have to make plans before the game because we know our phones won't work,” said Gray, a commercial real estate broker at Cushman & Wakefield Commercial Oklahoma. “There have been times I've needed to reply to emails for work, but I couldn't do it there.”
Gray should no longer have that problem now that AT&T has fully integrated its 4G LTE into the arena's distributed antenna system, the wireless carrier said Wednesday.
“Our goal is to provide our customers with a best-in-class network experience, no matter where they are,” said Steve Gray, vice president and general manager for AT&T Oklahoma and Arkansas. “With crowds topping 18,000 in the arena on game day, it was important for us to complete this upgrade, allowing our customers to truly live mobile.”
AT&T finished the integration in April and tested it during last week's first-round playoff games.
Gray noticed the change.
“The last home game was interesting,” he said. “My phone was working pretty much the whole game.”
He proved it by tweeting from the arena during the game, “My phone is actually working inside the @ChesapeakeArena tonight. What gives?”
Because the network is now tied to the building's antenna, it should work now at all home games, concerts and other events in the arena, AT&T said.
“These enhancement will allow basketball fans and others who attend events in Chesapeake Arena to share their experiences, inside and outside the arena, on their mobile devices,” said Bryan Gonterman, president of AT&T Oklahoma. “We want to enable the thousands of NBA fans and concertgoers to use their wireless devices to capture memories made and to share those memories on a global scale.”
What does it cost?
Wireless carriers pay about $24,000 annually to access the antenna, included in the $93.1 million in renovations at the city-owned arena completed last year. Carriers also pay a $6,000 startup fee.
AT&T began connecting some of its system to the antenna last year.
For the playoff games, AT&T also has increased its coverage outside the arena with the use of a Cell on Wheels, a mobile cellular tower parked a few blocks away.
Our goal is to provide our customers with a best-in-class network experience, no matter where they are. With crowds topping 18,000 in the arena on game day, it was important for us to complete this upgrade, allowing our customers to truly live mobile.”
Vice president and general manager