Some of the wireless providers have beefed up their network coverage around Wrigley Field and U.S. Cellular Field in anticipation of the baseball season. So fans heading to the Cubs home opener Friday likely will have more capacity available for texting or calling during the game.
AT&T Wireless, which has its Midwest headquarters in Hoffman Estates, said it has added capacity in recent months to existing cells sites in Wrigleyville. This was done in addition to the Wi-Fi Hot Zone available nearby at the train, bars, restaurants and other businesses in the neighborhood, AT&T spokeswoman Brooke Prewitt Vane said.
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"Additional improvements to both ballparks are on our radar and we're working to ensure we continue to provide an exceptional experience to our customers," Vane said.
Verizon Wireless, which has its Midwest headquarters in Schaumburg, also added two new cell towers, one near Wrigley Field and another near the downtown museum campus that includes the Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum. Each cell site cost roughly $500,000 to construct, Verizon spokeswoman Carolyn Schamberger said.
The new cell sites, each equipped with a permanent backup generator for times of emergency, are expected to provide twice the networking power to customers, Schamberger said.
Verizon recently launched its 4G Long-Term Evolution network in 38 metropolitan areas and 60 airports, including Chicago and the suburbs. Verizon expects the new network to provide full nationwide 4G LTE coverage by 2013.
In addition, U.S. Cellular is currently expanding its high-speed voice-and-data capacity at the ballparks, U.S. Cellular spokesman Nick Nottoli said.
"We have several cell sites in the surrounding neighborhoods at both ball parks," Nottoli said. "At U.S. Cellular Field, we have a unique cell site that exists inside the stadium."
Surfing: Speaking of baseball... Rick and Kenny Mazursky, a father and son from Highland Park, have created and launched a video game called GameSlam, just in time for the opening of baseball season. GameSlam is free to play and doesn't require any deposit or credit card information to sign up. But certain upgrades have various costs. The game allows you to interact in real time in combination with social networks. See it at www.gameslam.com.
•Lake-Zurich-based Product Development Technologies (www.pdt.com), a product development firm, has partnered with a Copenhagen-based mobile phone company to produce a so-called anti-smartphone made with gold, ceramic, stainless steel and a sapphire crystal screen. The phone, called AE+Y, will be available this spring for $10,250.
•At the other end of the spectrum: Chicago-based U.S. Cellular offers the Android-powered Samsung Gem in stores and online starting today for $29.99, after an $80 mail-in rebate. The company said this price wasn't an April Fools joke... The device features a 3.2-inch full touch screen with advanced anti-scratch, anti-smudge and anti-reflective protective glass.
•Sarku Japan will open its ninth area restaurant with a high-tech twist on Thursday, April 7, with a new Teriyaki & Sushi Express at 1408 E. Golf Road, Schaumburg. It will have a state-of-the-art, interactive Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, which will allow customers to select from about 100 different Coca-Cola products by using a touch screen that activates a sophisticated technology called "PurePour." Sarku opened its first area location in 1993 at Yorktown Mall in Lombard.
•The Citizens Utility Board launched a YouTube video showing consumers how to cut their phone costs in 60 seconds: www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAw0LS-b76E&feature=channel_video_title.
•Follow Anna Marie Kukec on LinkedIn and Facebook and as AMKukec on Twitter.