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Thread: Any improvement to cell coverage for this year's AirVenture?

  1. #1
    CarlOrton's Avatar
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    Any improvement to cell coverage for this year's AirVenture?

    Since some mentioned it in another thread; I was just curious what has been done to hopefully improve things - especially for us AT&T stuckees.

    About the only way I found around it was to call someone I knew who had a non-ATT phone who could then call my wife. It seems that if AT&T saw that you were trying to call another AT&T customer on the same cell tower, they'd figure that you're close enough that you don't need to make a call. Whereas making a call to another carrier's customer would always go through. Same way in reverse.

    I'm not kidding; I'd call my buddy and say, "Hey, John, could you call Betty and tell her to meet me at Twin Oaks?" We couldn't even get texts to go through.

    Thanks for any info on upgrades!

    Carl Orton
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    http://mykitlog.com/corton

  2. #2
    Check 6's Avatar
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    Based on AT&T's coverage map things look good. Of course when you have 73,296 pilots on their phones at the same time.....

    http://www.wireless.att.com/coverage...e&wtLinkLoc=RN

  3. #3
    John Carrier's Avatar
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    As in years past, the cellular providers have a direct contractual obligation to their customers. EAA has not entered into a service agreement with any cellular company as it pertains to general AirVenture service, nor are we likely to pursue one (simply given EAA has virtually no control over service levels or coverage areas). EAA is aware of general user dissatisfaction (but lacks visibility into actual metrics) and understands the ramifications this has on the event. EAA also realizes the challenges that face the cellular companies: A high-concentration of users, data hungry devices, limited communications spectrum (regulated by the FCC), and an underdeveloped location (i.e., small town, surrounded by farm country, located next to a periodically used convention site) and limited infrastructure (to handle the communications backhaul). As a result, EAA traditionally:
    1) Contacts the area’s major cellular providers (e.g., AT&T, Verizon, U.S. Cellular, and Sprint) as well as local providers (e.g., Cellcom, Airfire Mobile) to better understand their user assessment of service, and steps they are taking (or have taken) to prepare for AirVenture.
    2) Encourages each provider to examine their support of the event and make appropriate adjustments.
    3) Redirects service feedback to the appropriate providers after the event.

    As an additional step to improve this year's experience, EAA held a "Cellular Service Roundtable" in January where the issue of reliable communications was openly discussed and ideas shared on how best to improve this venue for all stakeholders. It was EAA’s objective to jointly admit the overall communications challenge and explore how we can help each other improve attendant experience. The forum was attended by engineers/account reps from Verizon, AirFire Mobile (Einstein PCS), Sprint, and Cellcom. AT&T declined the invitation and we were unable to secure someone from U.S. Cellular to participate.

    It was generally agreed that connectivity on the grounds is not the issue - capacity is (i.e., lack of wireless spectrum). Unfortunately, the data demand is unable to be handled by the existing towers. The cellular providers are clearly struggling to solve this issue. Lack of infrastructure appears to be a common concern, with a venue that is difficult to justify significant capital investment by the respective carriers. Nonetheless, the carriers are attempting to address subscriber needs in multiple ways. Examples include:
    1) Redirecting towers to concentrate service on the AirVenture grounds.
    2) Installing additional towers in and around the area, plus investing in existing infrastructure (AT&T activated their 3G service two years ago, Verizon recently activated their 4G service, and Sprint made a sizable equipment investment this past year).
    3) Deploying COWs (Cellular On Wheels) to ease demand on the primary towers (AT&T will have two this year).
    John Carrier, EAA #877198
    Vice President, Information Technology
    Staff Liaison to the N40

    EAAŚThe Spirit of Aviation

    Phone: 920.426.6166
    Fax: 920.426.6865
    Cell: 920.379.4185

  4. #4

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    You can save a lot of money if you just leave out the airplane part, and stay home where the cell phone coverage is better.
    And if you are old fashioned enough to miss an airplane, you can get an "app" with airplane pictures on your cell phone.

  5. #5
    CarlOrton's Avatar
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    Thanks, John, for the update.

    I was expecting nothing from EAA other than a nudge to the providers basically saying, "Hey, we've got 100,000 folks here. How you gonna handle that?".

    I guess I was expecting a bit better support from the providers; it seems that other similar events like the Super Bowl, just about any MLB baseball game, NASCAR race, etc. has decent coverage - and things like NASCAR happen at a given track with about the same frequency of AirVenture.

    While data would be great, my concern is that I can't call another AT&T customer. Yeah, I'm whining that I want to be able to coordinate lunch with my wife.

    Good point about the infrastructure. I *think* you're meaning that even if they have enough towers, there's not enough trunk line capacity to MKE or Chicago to support the volume of calls / data. I can understand how *that* would limit things - again, good point.

    Thanks again for the update and some insight into the challenges. I can appreciate you trying to pull all this together.

    Carl Orton
    Sonex #1170
    http://mykitlog.com/corton

  6. #6
    John Carrier's Avatar
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    Carl - No problem. It's tough to undertand when you see better coverage at other venues (e.g., NASCAR, NFL, MLB, etc.). However, these venues generally have a considerably larger audience if you factor in television/radio/multi-media audience and brand recognition. These venues are also active for a longer period of time (vs. 1 week), so this helps justify the capital investment. With that said, it's still a struggle at some locations, even with a more significant investment. The other issue you touched on is capacity. Even if we were to get more towers in the area (which is somewhat problematic given we are at an airport), there is not enough "pipe" to handle the data traffic (backhaul) to the central offices of the carriers.

  7. #7
    Check 6's Avatar
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    John, thanks for the proactive response.

    Carl, consider a smart phone VOIP app to allow you to make calls via the AV WiFi network. I have a Vonage account and use the Vonage "extensions" app on my iPhone, and there is another Vonage app called Vonage "mobile." There are other VOIP providers with apps that should be able to accomplish the same thing, e.g. Skype, etc.

    Stop by my booth 446/457 (Lisa Airplanes) if you want to see an iPhone VOIP demo, plus the nickel tour.

  8. #8
    John Carrier's Avatar
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    Just remember that EAA's Wi-Fi is a complementary service. Although we make every attempt to provide a reliable service to our guests, the infrastructure is limited and it is subject to the same capacity challenges as the cellular providers. Actually, it gets hammered hard given the cellular networks attempt to offload some of their traffic to publically available Wi-Fi.
    Last edited by John Carrier; 07-05-2012 at 12:30 PM.

  9. #9
    Check 6's Avatar
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    John, is the vendor WiFi as challenged as the public WiFi, e.g. suffers capacity issues?

  10. #10
    John Carrier's Avatar
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    No, the vendor Wi-Fi is on a secured, separate pipe. This is not to say it has unlimited capacity, but it isn't subject to the same demands as the public Wi-Fi.

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