Friday, the University Athletic Department announced that it will test out a new system for increased cell phone coverage at Michigan Stadium during the Manchester United and Real Madrid International Champions Cup soccer match Saturday.

The Athletic Department is partnering with Information and Technology Services to conduct the upgrades, which the University as a whole has also undertaken for multiple other buildings and facilities on campus over the past few years as part of the Enhanced Cellular Coverage Project. As that project has moved forward, the possibility of upgrades to the stadium has been a long-standing point of discussion.

In a press release, Jerry Wood, Associate Athletic Director for Information Technology, stated that the game provided a great opportunity to try out the upgrades, which the release said began this summer. The game is expected to draw a crowd of over 101,000, similar in size to a football game.

“We hope to learn some lessons from this Saturday’s soccer match that will help us improve the service heading into football season,” Wood stated.

As of right now, the system will only affect phones on Verizon Wireless and AT&T’s networks. It is being built by ExteNet Systems and paid for through agreements the company holds with Verizon Wireless and AT&T. The infrastructure to house Verizon’s enhancements is currently complete and functioning, according to the release, and work is ongoing on infrastructure for AT&T to be completed during the football season. During Saturday’s game, temporary structures will be in place to provide the upgraded coverage for AT&T customers.

The release also stated the upgrades, which come in the form of capacity enhancements to the stadium’s distributed antenna system, have proven challenging because of its size and open bowl design, the latter of which reduces available locations to place antennas. However, Rob Rademacher, Associate Athletic Director for Facilities and Operations, stated in the release that the department expects to see large improvements to cellular coverage, as well as dependable service for game day attendees, as a result of the enhancements.

“The goal is for improved service to make calls, send texts, upload or download photos and connect to social media throughout the game day experience,” he stated.

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