Inauguration 2017: Stars, Stripes and Selfies

Inauguration Day brought a massive number of people using their smartphones in the same place at the same time. And that meant a massive amount of demand placed on our network. It’s a challenge we’ve been planning to take on for more than 2 years. You can bet nearly all of these people held 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.

AT&T invested nearly $15 million and more than quintupled network capacity throughout D.C. to boost the network for the Inauguration. We also made hundreds of permanent upgrades that will benefit the District for years to come, including LTE capacity upgrades to more than 20 cell sites. We also rolled out 7 Super Cell on Wheels (COWs) along the 2-mile National Mall, with 2 of the COWs equipped with our highest-capacity antenna — the Drum Set Antenna — providing 20 times more network capacity than a traditional cell site. This was our largest temporary network deployment ever. In total, our 7 Super COW deployment, along the National Mall, was equal to nearly 50 traditional cell sites.

2012 vs. 2016 — How has Mobile Technology Changed in 4 Years?

A lot has changed in just 4 years since the last Presidential Inauguration. Our network engineers continue to see massive mobile data growth on our network and have developed innovative technology to keep up with the demand. Since 2007, data usage on our network has grown by 250,000% — due to the rise in popularity of video streaming apps and mobile internet usage.

In 2013, during President Barack Obama’s second Inauguration, although the crowd was smaller than 2009, data usage on our D.C.-area network was more than 16 times larger than it was during Obama’s first inauguration in 2009. We expected to see even more data usage this year, as streaming video and apps (like Snapchat) have gained in popularity.

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For the 2013 Inauguration, we deployed Cell on Wheels (COWs) to boost coverage along the National Mall, but they’re nothing like the Super COWs we had at our disposal this year. For context, one Super COW is equal to 6 COWs in 2012 and is able to provide more than 30 times network capacity.

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In 2012, 35% of adults in the U.S. owned smartphones, compared to more than 72% in 2016. That means there were likely a lot more people using social media, streaming, tweeting and snapping at this year’s Inauguration compared to 2013.

During the Inauguration, local and national network teams watched the network closely — ready to respond quickly as needed. At AT&T, we do everything we can to make sure you’re able 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 massive number of people.

For more information, be sure to read the Innovation Space blog by Scott Mair.

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