updated 02:45 pm EST, Mon March 1, 2010
ATT adding multiple cell sites for Austin event
AT&T today explained how it plans to upgrade its Austin network to avoid the crush of data use that plagued the South by Southwest festival last year. The carrier in the past few weeks has added a distributed antenna system that provides roughly eight cell sites' worth of network load in and around the Austin Convention Center. Also, AT&T told GigaOM that it will roll out three temporary sites that will not only provide cellular connections but also Wi-Fi, which the iPhone and other AT&T smartphones can access for free.
More permanent, non-exclusive upgrades have been put in place and should include the same multiple virtual carriers that have been implemented in other traffic flashpoints, such as Manhattan. All of the long-term cell sites will have four times as much capacity as they did in 2009, and these will be supported by separate capacity for both the on-the-spot networks as well as the 850MHz updates that were rushed into place for the previous SXSW.
Many consider last year's music and technology festival a low point representative of AT&T's initial inability to cope with smartphone use on its network. Despite SXSW's role as a premier technology gathering, the provider claimed it had been caught off-guard by the sheer data load created by the then-current iPhone 3G and only partially alleviated the problems for the rest of the Texas conference. The complaints helped accelerate AT&T's overall data strategy and led to a still ongoing lift on bottlenecks in areas like New York City and the San Francisco Bay.