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Sharring experiences in urban infrastructure delivery.
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Cell-on-Wheels aka COWs

By: Tom Davis Category: Parking, Recent Posts, Sidewalk Features

A COW in a parking lane on Walker St. at Smith St.

Given that the tech side of our society loves acronyms, the positioning of COWs in Houston for SuperBowl 51 (SB51) was discussed in meetings with at least a few snickers and rolling eyes. The Cell-on-Wheels (COW) is a temporary telecommunications package used to boost connectivity when a special event will call for a large increase in bandwidth capacity.

Two different installations types were used in downtown Houston for SB51. The one with only the chain link fence enclosure shown here is in two parking spaces. The more attractive red installation is in Discovery Green park across the street from the NFL Live events in the George R. Brown Convention Center. Those that leased parking spaces were equipped with their own electrical generator.

Repeater in Discovery Green park.

Even though both are temporary installations they are included here to share our experience with how the telecom industry met the high bandwidth needs of a special event when hundreds of thousands would be accessing their smartphones. They had also installed permanent mini-towers around Discovery Green but still deployed the repeaters.

There was always the question in my mind if the devices were repeaters (expanding service range but not bandwidth) or truly an additional broadcast point with a feed from a fiber optic cable. The reps I talked to said they would have connections to the fiber where possible. I doubt that many did as that would have required installing a conduit into a vault under the street. I personally did not see any locations where that had occurred. Neither of the two setups in the photos here had a connection to fiber under the street and there is no overhead in this part of downtown.

We also heard similar setups referred to as NOWs; i.e. Node-on-Wheels.

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