This article was published 14 years ago
SXSW 2010

AT&T gets the ‘I Survived’ SXSW T-shirt

SXSW AT&T cell tower antenna
A cell tower antenna inside the Austin convention center – Image credit: Gregory Schultz / OpenBayou
Austin, Tex.

It doesn’t take much to overload – or crash – the AT&T network, especially when large crowds gather at places like the Louisiana Superdome or LSU Tiger Stadium.

AT&T learned the hard way that data is more important than voice when its network crashed at last year’s South by Southwest because of the large amount of users in attendance – mainly because of the popularity of the iPhone and data intensive applications that are in use like Ustream.

AT&T is still reeling from last year’s meltdown and wants to shred the image of a fragile network that crashes when five iPhone users gather and transmit data. The company made it a priority to make sure the network never goes down during the conference.

I have been an AT&T subscriber for five years and have always brought an extra phone because of the unreliability network – especially when large crowds gather. This will be the first time AT&T gets praise – from me and others – for keeping the network reliable. The company even placed charging stations around the convention center so attendees can charge their phones while attending panels or walking the convention floor – only problem is that you provide the charger for your phone and you can’t charge through USB!

Even with the upgrade, there are some problems like text messages taking longer to send and receive and busy signals when trying to make a  call out.

Something that every wireless network provider suffers from when trying to cover large crowds in a small place like the Austin Convention Center.

Now it’s the convention Wi-Fi network that is getting the complaints. There have been several times when I was using my phone as a modem to surf the Internet or take notes while attending panels because the in-house Wi-Fi network is congested.

It’s been the opposite in the past.

Even though many attendees are praising AT&T for finally getting the message, AT&T still has a fragile network that can be easily damage when large crowds – especially over five people – gather and use their phones. The company needs to upgrade the network to handle large amounts of data transaction or least prepare for the network for a temporary fix – like what the company did at SXSW.

This year, AT&T may have finally gotten the message and is taking action to fix the problem.

It only took them three years to identify what many have been complaining for years.