Anyone who’s been to SXSW in the past few years, ever since the iPhone’s release, knows that the AT&T network absolutely explodes during the festival. Texts, if they ever make it through, take hours; calls are dropped at an alarming rate, even by AT&T standards; and Internet access is essentially impossible. It’s hard for AT&T to keep up because Austin, any other week of the year, isn’t absolutely flooded with iPhone users mucking about, asking where the Facebook party is, or if they’re on the list for the Gawker party. (I’m on the list, but I’m not going this year so it doesn’t matter.) The point is, AT&T has its hands full that week, so let’s give them an A for effort for trying to prevent another iPhone meltdown this year.
SXSW starts on March 12, and runs through March 21. It’s a couple of days worth of tech, music, movies, and open bars. It’s sort of an exaggeration, but every single attendee rocks the iPhone. It brings AT&T’s network, already sorta meh, to it knees. This year, though, AT&T has prepared itself for the huge influx of users.
AT&T has installed a distributed antenna system at the Austin Convention Center. In a perfect world, it adds the equivalent of eight cell towers to the covered area. AT&T has also three temporary cell sites for good measure. These things are typically installed during big, but temporary events. Think Super Bowl or, well, large conventions.
The company also says it has “added fiber-optic connections to more than quadruple the backhaul capacity of each of the eight cell sites that serve the event area, and temporary sites will also be served by extensive backhaul.” Whatever that means!
Fingers crossed, every SXSW attendee will be able to FourSquare till their battery dies. That’s all you can ask for.