Denver Completes DNC In-Building Project
August 19, 2008
Photo courtesy Denver Metro
Convention and Visitors Bureau
By Lindsay A. Gross
The city of Denver recently completed a communications upgrade to the Pepsi Center ahead of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), which begins next week. The city selected Cellular Specialties Inc. (CSI), a New Hampshire-based in-building wireless solutions company, to add a public-safety in-building coverage system and bring the building up to code so police and fire digital trunked radios will function with 95-percent coverage in the building.
The Pepsi Center was built before the current fire code for in-building communications was adopted, and the old code didn’t address radio coverage or bidirectional amplifier (BDA) requirements. The city currently doesn’t require older buildings to retrofit their buildings. The Pepsi Center is privately owned by Kroenke Sports Enterprises, which worked to fix the problem, according to city officials. The Pepsi Center, built in 1999, has undergone several upgrades to its in-house radio communications system over the years, but nothing as ambitious as what the city and county planned for this install, said Alan Schroeder, manager of arena technology for Kroenke Sports Enterprises.
According to the city’s request for proposals (RFP) No. 6433, “[The] contractor shall provide all equipment, labor, materials, drawings, permits and technical design services to fully install and make operational a distributed antenna system (DAS), and a backup power system sufficient for all components, to provide radio coverage for the 806 – 824 and 851 – 869 MHz bands throughout the Pepsi Center facility in Denver. The backup power system shall provide a minimum of four hours of operation.”
The Pepsi Center’s public-safety upgrade occurred under a tight timetable close to the convention. The time frame for the contract is “pretty immediate,” said J.D. Whiteman with the city of Denver purchasing division, shortly before the RFP due date in June. “We need to get the system in place by DNC in late August,” Whiteman said. The proposal stated that the system must be designed, installed, tested and fully operational no later than Aug. 15. The DNC begins Aug. 25 at the Pepsi Center. The RFP was issued April 24 and bids closed June 6. Gary Pasicznyk, electronic engineering bureau system’s area supervisor for the city Denver, said the city preferred not to comment on the project.
The convention is expected to bring 15,000 members of the media, 6,000 delegates, and 14,000 party members and elected officials, according to Chris Lopez, communications director for the Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee. Without the upgrade, the building was without adequate radio coverage for the Secret Service, the state’s 800 MHz digital trunked radio system, and local police and fire radio coverage. Requests for an interview with the mayor’s office were unsuccessful by press time.
Schroeder said the upgrade should dramatically improve the use of city fire and police radios in the Pepsi Center and specifically for the DNC. According to the RFP, coverage must be a minimum of -85 dBm portable receive signal strength intensity (RSSI) throughout 95 percent of the Pepsi Center. “Coverage must be overlapping such that the loss of any one cable or zone shall not result in the loss of communications to any floor or area within the facility,” the RFP stated. Radios will currently work down to -105 dBm to 110 dBm in the building, but will be intermittent at those levels.
After Sept. 11, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) made several recommendations on dealing with high-rises and the difficulties of radio interoperability. One result of those recommendations is the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1 Uniform Code, which is one of 300 fire codes and standards that contain requirements for in-building communications and standards based on BDAs used for fire-department communications. To address issues of overloading and building interference, buildings are now required to have radio reception throughout. “It doesn’t have to be 100 percent, but it does have to be enough that a firefighter can speak to the incident commander from any floor of the building,” said Robert Fash, deputy fire marshal of Las Vegas Fire and Rescue, who is also on the NFPA 1 technical committee.
Most commercial wireless carriers already had BDA systems or cell sites in the Pepsi Center.
Proposal Issued April 24
Mandatory Pre-Proposal May 8
Proposal Due Date June 6
Contract Selection June 20
Operational System Aug. 15
Denver National Aug. 25
Lindsay A. Gross is managing editor of MissionCritical Communications. Contact her at lgross@RRMediaGroup.com.