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Cellphone carriers face off at Coachella festival

April 12, 2013|By Salvador Rodriguez
  • Facilities for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival are set up at Indio's Empire Polo Field.
Facilities for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival are set up at… (Kevin Winter / Getty Images…)

That's why the four major wireless carriers say they're going out of their way to make sure there is enough network capacity for their customers to make calls, send texts and upload photos and videos to their social networks.

Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint understand that at events such as Coachella -- where as many as 90,000 people may show up on one day -- users see just how good their networks are, and perhaps more important, how well their friends' carriers hold up.

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AT&T, for example, said it will be using all 18 beams of its super multi-beam antenna. This is the first time the Texas-based carrier will deploy the technology, which was designed to specifically handle the type of traffic carriers see at events such as Coachella.

Additionally, AT&T said it will be rolling out three of its Cell on Wheels vehicles, otherwise known as COWs, to increase the capacity of its network at the festival's parking lots, camping areas and other areas. The company said it will also have a team of engineers on-site, employing real-time solutions to best manage the network.

Verizon is right there with AT&T, bringing out three of its COWs as well. Verizon spokesman Ken Muche said the company doesn't anticipate their customers having any network issues at Coachella.

"When people are taking pictures or they're uploading short videos of their favorite band, their smartphone is going to work for them when they want it to and where they want it to," he said. "Those days at Coachella are no different than any others. They're incredibly important to us, and we expect our customers to have a great experience."

Muche said Verizon cares so much about heavily populated events such as Coachella because they can help a company distinguish itself from its competition.

"People know at big events like this what phones are working and what phones aren't working," he said.

T-Mobile, which said it will also have COWs on location, plans to give its Indio 4G network a trial by fire. The 4G network was recently enhanced with new equipment to handle the influx of people, the company said.

"We fully expect T-Mobile customers will have access to Instagram and other social networks to share their Coachella experiences," the Seattle-based carrier told The Times in a statement.

Sprint, meanwhile, is taking two COWs to the location, and spokeswoman Heather Wong said it was doing all it can to make sure users don't experience slower speeds than normal.

"We do want to equip our users with the best experience that [Sprint] can," she said.

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