Test Drivers Tune Up For Grand Prix Of Saint Petersburg

Michael Diener slides into his seat, grips the wheel and readies himself for a final round of test laps before the Grand Prix of Saint Petersburg. His vehicle – packed with the very latest high-tech performance gear – will rumble along the narrow downtown streets, thrilling hairpin turns and stunning waterside views that lure thousands of fans to the nation’s first Verizon IndyCar Series race of 2015.

But Diener is not a 235-mph speed demon on Verizon Team Penske. He is a Verizon Wireless engineer, testing the company’s network to ensure customers will enjoy fast, strong and reliable service during the big race.

“Just like the IndyCar teams, we prepare all year for this race,” Diener said.  “We test, we practice, we invest. We devote a tremendous amount of resources to make sure fans and customers have the very best wireless experience.”

Diener’s vehicle features an array of technology worthy of the sleek, open-wheeled multi-million-dollar racers. The SUV displays dozens of antennas affixed to its roof and body panels. Inside the cockpit, a bank of computers, smartphones and other devices work together to make thousands of robotic voice calls and data connections.

Some of the devices are connected to competitor networks, so Verizon can test and compare the quality of its coverage and service.

To further help deliver a dominating performance at the race, Verizon has deployed additional high-tech hardware in downtown St. Pete. A COLT (cell on light truck) and microwave system will be positioned adjacent to the track. Verizon also has added XLTE, the newest advancement of its 4G LTE network technology, to numerous permanent sites around the area and is fine-tuning its surrounding Tampa Bay network to serve the large race crowd.

This means more fans can use their phones and tablets to surf the web, download apps, send texts, snap photos and share on social media at 4G LTE speeds. 

Diener estimates that special Grand Prix preparations will provide fans with 10 times the usual high-speed wireless capacity; and permanent upgrades will double 4G LTE bandwidth for customers near downtown all year long.

“In that respect, we are at the wheel of a thrilling racer,” Diener said. “And our wireless customers are the winners.”

Paul Macchia is a public relations manager with Verizon Wireless. Follow him on Twitter at: @VZWpaul.