Can you imagine what nearly 1 million people will look like standing on the National Mall on Inauguration Day?  You can bet nearly all of these people will be holding their phones up high wanting to share the Inauguration of the country’s new President with friends and family through text messages, photos and social media posts.

That’s a massive amount of people using their smartphones in the same place at the same time.  And a massive amount of demand on our network. There’s no doubt, this is a challenge to support.  But it’s a challenge my team has been planning to take on for more than 2 years. This is our largest temporary network deployment ever.

In Washington D.C., AT&T invested $15 million and quintupled our capacity by using a variety of temporary and permanent solutions. These include:

  • Boosting LTE capacity across the D.C. area by 400%.
  • Involving over 50 network engineers in planning and deployment. 
  • Placing 7 Super Cell on Wheels (COWs) in Washington DC along the two-mile National Mall. The COWs are equipped with our newest, highest-capacity antenna, the Drum Set Antenna, which provides 20x more LTE capacity compared to a traditional cell site. We also have the Giant Eyeball Antenna, whose spherical shape allows engineers to distribute data traffic based on the data consumption of the crowd.
  • Installing or upgrading 20 Distributed Antenna System (DAS) at big venues including hotels and airports in Washington DC.
  • 20 permanent LTE upgrades to cell sites serving the National Mall area including multi beam antenna technology. We’re also building a new permanent 4G LTE cell tower in the area for the Inauguration.

A lot has changed on the mobile technology front in the four years since the last Presidential Inauguration.

Mobile data usage continues to skyrocket with the rise in popularity of surfing the internet and video streaming apps. We continue to see massive mobile data growth and have developed innovative technology to keep up with the demand. Since 2007, data usage on our network has grown by 250,000%.  

The 2013 Inauguration had a smaller crowd than the previous one, but our D.C. area network saw more than 16x the data usage than it did in 2009. We expect to see even more data usage this year.

Our employees dedicated many thousands of hours to ensure our network was ready for the 2017 Presidential Inauguration. We know how important it is to share your experiences from your smartphone with others. Whether that’s streaming the Inauguration live from your desk or in person on the National Mall with a million other people.

Scott Mair
Scott Mair Senior Vice President of Network Planning and Engineering