Wi-Fi Whispers: AT&T Beefs Up Wi-Fi and Cellular for Pebble Beach

AT&T social media sign at the tourney. Credit: @James_Raia.

AT&T social media sign at the tourney. Credit: @James_Raia.

With a field full of entertainment and sports celebrities in addition to pro golfers, the AT&T National Pro-Am in Pebble Beach this weekend is a fan-snapshot nirvana — and AT&T has beefed up its wireless coverage yet again to make sure all those pictures, tweets and Facebook updates can get posted.

“Every year, the data volumes [from the event] go up significantly,” said Chad Townes, vice president of AT&T’s Antenna Solutions Group, in a phone interview last week. “Between the celebrities and the beauty of the course, there’s definitely a lot more [wireless] traffic than at other golf tournaments.”

According to Townes, AT&T has provided fans at the tourney with several Wi-Fi hotspot areas where AT&T customers can get a high-bandwidth signal for Internet connection. This year, AT&T also deployed three additional COWs, or cell towers on wheels, to augment the existing cellular infrastructure.

Bringing wireless signals to a golf course, Townes said, is always a challenge, due to the very nature of the venue, with hills, trees and other obstacles to surmount. There are also aesthetic challenges, such as the fact that most of these courses don’t want any cables to be visible during the TV broadcasts.

Townes said there is also the whole discussion about whether phones should even be allowed at golf tournaments, given the possibility of fans distracting players with loud calls or with camera noises. Still, he said, providers need to figure out how to bring better coverage to courses, since fans want to be able to use phones to communicate with friends and family at the event, say using text messages to say “meet us at the next hole.” The PGA seems to be on board with this idea, since it just introduced a course-finder app that not only shows players and scored superimposed on a Google map, but also adds in locations for amenities and concessions — meaning the PGA expects fans to have phones at events.

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