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Tampa airport becomes first in nation to offer comprehensive 5G mobile network

Brian Hartz

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Tampa International Airport has completed work on new 5G mobile network infrastructure. Photo courtesy of Tampa International Airport.

Just in time for Super Bowl LV, travelers at Tampa International Airport can now stock their mobile devices with movies and TV series at lightning-fast download speeds. 

Last week, the airport announced the completion of a distributed antenna system (DAS) project that launched in 2018 and included the installation of 800 antennas and 50 miles of fiber and copper cables. Spearheaded by Crown Castle, a leading provider of communications infrastructure, it will allow AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile/Sprint to offer 5G mobile network service throughout the airport. 

Best of all, the cost of the DAS project was borne by Crown Castle, which has deals in place with the major wireless carriers. The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority will receive $500,000 per year from its contract with Crown Castle. 

“We’re the first airport in the country to have 5G on all three major carriers,” said Danny Valentine, TIA’s senior manager of communications. “The speeds are phenomenal, whether you have 4G or 5G.” 

According to a news release posted on the airport’s website, a traveler with a 5G-capable device could download the popular Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit in about seven seconds. Martin Scorcese’s 2019 crime epic The Irishman, whose running time clocks in at three hours and 30 minutes, can be downloaded in two seconds.  

“Suffice to say you can download any number of movies in seconds, if not minutes,” Valentine said. 

TIA Director of Enterprise Operations Brandon Taugner, in the release, added, “We’re connecting customers at speeds that are off the charts by today’s standards. With 5G, you’ll be able to download up to 2 gigabits per second. Very few people have that — not even in your home.”

The successor to 4G LTE mobile network technology, 5G has been around for a couple of years but many people still have 4G devices. They, too, will see improvements in service, Valentine said, with download speeds of up to 300 megabits per second and more robust coverage throughout the airport. 

According to the release, a 4G device connected to the new network would take about 35 seconds to download The Irishman and less than 80 seconds to download The Queen’s Gambit.

“This will be a major upgrade,” Valentine said. “It’s going to make the passenger experience even better. Every passenger in today’s age is connected to some device, and you use those devices from the moment you touch down, basically, to the moment you’re off of our property. So it’s important to provide a good, strong internet connection.” 

The airport will continue to offer free Wi-Fi, Valentine said, and that service will be operated independently of the new 5G mobile network. 

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