LAS VEGAS--The irony never fails to smack us in the face. Every year, the flood of conference-goers at the Consumer Electronics Show and other technology events strain the cellular networks to their limits--and beyond--leaving thousands of people hopelessly disconnected to the outside world.
Every year, the carriers vow to prepare for the massive confab, bringing in portable cellular towers, adding antennas and signal repeaters, and adding capacity especially for the show. But every year, the same kind of network hiccups occur, leaving us to wonder why the carriers, who pay so much to represent themselves here, never seem to learn.
CNET's Brian Bennett was standing at a T-Mobile press event, T-Mobile phone in hand, unsuccessfully trying to tweet about meeting the carrier's TV mouthpiece, actress/model Carly Foulkes. He couldn't get enough signal in the event room within the Venetian hotel.
Anecdotes like that are pervasive around CES and similar shows, which suggests that carriers never do enough to supply enough network juice to go around. Ask them, however--like we did--and they'll tell you that they do anticipate the influx of data-hungry users, but that congestion is so bad we rarely see it.
"At tech-heavy conferences like CES, we do notice an uptick in traffic," a Sprint representative told CNET. "Last year we saw a 20 percent increase in traffic at CES, so that's what we prepared for this year."
Of all the carriers, AT&T seems to have been the most proactive, at least from the details they shared when we asked each carrier what steps they take to supply reliable coverage for shows like CES. AT&T replied that they boosted 4G LTE in the around the Las Vegas Convention Center. The extra power is courtesy of a device called a COW, or cell tower on wheels, that's parked near the conference complex. AT&T said it is also offering Wi-Fi for CES attendees, to lighten its data load.… Read more