AT&T Bringing In More Gear to Prevent Repeat of Last Year’s SXSW Debacle

If you’ve never been to Austin, TX during South by Southwest (SXSW), let me assure you AT&T’s network pretty much sucks during the fest. Sure, it has something to do with the sheer number of users concentrated all in one place but still, that doesn’t make it any better. So, to prevent a repeat of last years’s problems (To put it mildly) AT&T is going overboard to ensure a similar wireless network debacle doesn’t happen again this year.

To avoid a second such disaster, AT&T is pulling out all the stops (Well, most of them anyway) and bringing in a lot of additional equipment for the SXSW conference including:

• Bringing in three temporary cell sites that are positioned in areas expected to see high traffic.

• Installing a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) at the Austin Convention Center. The DAS is comprised of 50 antenna nodes that provide the equivalent coverage of eight cell sites.

• Improving the cell sites in the surrounding area by utilizing 30MHz of spectrum for 3G instead of the standard 10MHz and upgrading the system to include the 850MHz band and HSPA.

• Improving the backhaul by beefing up the fiber optic connections that serve the eight cell sites of the DAS and the three temporary sites.

These all seems like great steps in the right direction for the company but still, you have to wonder if it will be enough. Even with AT&T’s recent victory in a PC World survey of network performance, many of us who use the network every day haven’t really seen much of a difference. It still kinda sucks.

When you’ve got thousands of power users with iPhones all in one square mile and all trying to use the network at the same time, will it be able to handle the load or will it fail once again? I guess we’ll find out next week. Any bets?

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