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Providing mobile network coverage for stadiums


Manchester’s Old Trafford stadium is home to a Premier League football club, has a capacity of around 75,000 (making it the second largest football ground in England after Wembley and the eleventh largest in Europe) and frequently hosts FA Cup and Rugby League Super League matches. And in common with every other stadium, it faces the twin challenges of coverage and capacity… but on a significantly bigger scale! That’s why the owners turned to Vilicom as their mobile coverage partner of choice. To find out more information about the high-capacity wireless network solution we provided, please read below.

Challenges and considerations

Vilicom’s role was to provide a detailed coverage design to cover all the stadium areas, optimising the technical solution, minimising waste and cost, and achieving unparalleled levels of coverage and capacity.

Given the extreme numbers involved in terms of spectator numbers, mobile capacity requirements and the sheer physical size and footprint of the venue, our approach was to create nothing less than the strongest possible ‘architecture’ that was both practical and pragmatic to install, whilst also reducing the quantities of equipment required, hence saving time and money.

At the time of design and installation, the calculations we were looking at anticipated requirements of:

  • 3G traffic demand of 18Mbytes-per-user-per-day
  • translating into 1 UMTS carrier per 2000 spectators when using 7.2 HSDPA technology
  • requiring approximately 22 separate two-carrier sectors to provide the necessary capacity
Like every sporting venue, Old Trafford faces the twin challenges of coverage and capacity… but on a significantly bigger scale.

Solutions and delivery

The architecture is divided into three parts:

The Stadium Bowl: 34 antennae are positioned around the edge of the bowl roof, pointing into the crowd and providing dedicated coverage and service to blocks of 4,000 spectators on average. Each antenna is connected to a dedicated optical remote repeater unit, which is connected back to a master unit via fibre optic cable. All operators’ RF signals are combined on one system, and the entire system can be configured to each individual operator’s requirements.

Internal Stadium Areas: all areas and floors are covered by a DAS system with 24 optically-fed remote units and 220 antennae.

External Stadium Areas: an additional 6 cells around the outside of the stadium cover the immediate parking and entrance to areas of the stadium, and two dedicated BTS rooms house all operators’ equipment and connectivity to the optical master system.

And this is how the design works:

  • The BTS operator feeds a reduced RF signal power to an optical master unit
  • This converts the signal to be distributed over several optical fibres to remote repeater units (amplifiers)
  • At the remote unit, the optical signal is converted and amplified back as an RF signal for conventional distribution of coax cable to the antennae
  • Optical systems compensate for RF losses associated with long RF Cable lengths, and simplify installation work
  • They also have the benefit of remotely locating a BTS room from the coverage area (for up to 10 kilometers)


For further information about our ultra high-capacity network solutions or to discuss further technical specs, please contact Gearoid Collins at

About Vilicom

Vilicom is an expert provider of wireless services with over seventeen years of experience in the analysis, design, test and implementation of wireless networks. Vilicom’s strengths lie in technology strategy consulting, the design of wireless networks, transmission network design, implementation of specialised coverage solutions and network benchmarking and testing. Vilicom has delivered its trademark end-to-end services in over 20 countries for network operators, network equipment vendors, industry regulators and investors. It delivers value for its customers by adopting a flexible, customer-focused approach, retaining cutting-edge expertise and maintaining its independence.