AT&T CEO Says Lessons Learned in New York City Informed Wireless for the World

Lessons learned in "living laboratory" are being applied all over the world.

(Photo: Josh Hallett)

Maybe your AT&T service hasn’t always been everything you’d hoped it would be. But take heart New Yorkers, the lessons the telecommunications giant learned here are being applied all over the world.

The city’s vertical density and concentration of high-volume data users has made New York “a living laboratory for telecom engineers,” AT&T chief executive officer Randall Stephenson said today at a breakfast sponsored by the Association for a Better New York.

“This is a very unique place to try to engineer and design wireless networks,” Mr. Stephenson said. “We kept investing, we kept innovating, we kept learning. What we’ve done in New York is developed lessons that are being applied around the globe.”

One challenge Mr. Stephenson had in mind: How to keep cell towers online during events such as Superstorm Sandy, which wiped out service for thousands of New Yorkers.

“I don’t think many of you, or many of your landlords would be too enthusiastic about having 200 gallons of fuel sitting on top of your buildings to fire up backup generators,” he said.

Meanwhile, AT&T announced last week that it would spend $14 billion to expand broadband networks over the next three year as it seeks to expand its 4G LTE network to 300 million people.

That investment, Mr. Stephenson said today, would allow the company to install 50,000 new cell antennas nationwide, a vast increase from the 4,500 new cell sites deployed in the previous three years. Much of the new investment will center on New York, which Mr. Stephenson called the “very core” of the rapid development in mobile data usage.

If that proves out,  perhaps New Yorkers won’t only have been guinea pigs for the rest of the world, but test cases for their own future selves.

AT&T CEO Says Lessons Learned in New York City Informed Wireless for the World