Why do I have poor cell service at big events?

I've been to a number of large events (60,000+ person football games, 18,000+ person concerts). I sit there with 4 bars, phone saying it's getting 4g LTE service, but stuff I do all the time SUCKS! I can txt without issue, but post a picture on G+ or simply refresh my Home screen, navigate the web, search… just takes forever. POSTING anything seems extremely delayed.

I have two theories – either may actually be right or wrong:

1) It's simply a resource issue. The closest tower can't handle an influx of 5000+ connected devices and we are in contention for resources. If I get 20mb service, split that 4000 ways…. I am getting pretty slow.

2) The junior conspiracy theorist in me comes up with the next… The NFL and people putting on concerts don't want me streaming the game live and/or using their content without their express written consent. Verizon has worked to limit the photo/video traffic at these event.

In typing this and thinking a little more, I'm kind of leaning towards option #1.

Either way – do others experience this? Just curious. As you know, I'm a thoughtful guy, I think a lot of thoughts about a lot of things!


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19 thoughts on “Why do I have poor cell service at big events?”

  1. Its a resource issue, and it is dependent on carrier.  Voice calls have to be taken instantaneously, so they get first priority and can be rejected.  SMS is successful because they are queued and send whenever there is enough bandwidth.  SMS is never rejected for that reason.  Data is slow because there are simply too many people doing too many things at one time.

    AT&T will bring out COWs (cell on wheels) for certain events and is trying to also install Wi-Fi at most locations that frequently have very large crowds.  It's a known issue we are trying to fix, but Its just way too much traffic for us to handle in some cases.  Sorry the experience sucks.

  2. Yeah, I lean towards 1. I've been to too many UGA games with truly crappy service. Also, it has been noted that when trying to do a lvl 8 farm and we're all updating at once we get lots of server lag. Our current theory is too much concentrated awesomeness. ;D

  3. Its #1 for sure across all carriers. Every tour, every show… As soon as the masses arrive to the venue, the networks bog the f*ck down. However, I have found a neat little trick that has allowed me to have a somewhat more functional experience. Ready? All You have to do Is go into your network settings and click on the "2G network only" option. Everybody And their mother Is fighting for the same 3G/4G bandwidth. Usually (but not always) the Edge/2G network bandwidth is a deserted wasteland. I've jumped on it many times and, while not the speed you're accustomed to, it will usually Do the trick. 😉

    P.S. if you have an iPhone you're S.O.L. To My knowledge they don't have the option to drop down to the older network.


  4. Do you have AT&T?  I had the same experience on AT&T and looked into it.  It turns out that AT&T designed their network in a way that completely breaks TCP congestion control.  They do not allow packet loss, and instead, queue packets for something like 10 minutes at a time.  If you are familiar with TCP you know that it steadily increases transmission speed until it encounters packet loss, at which point it cuts transmission speed in half.  Disallowing packet loss by providing massive buffers was some misguided attempt to fix a reliability issue, most likely.  The end result is that as soon as a congestion condition is reached on AT&T, all the data plans just start yelling louder.  That is most likely why you do not get any throughput at all at large events.  Borrow a Verizon phone from somebody when this happens.  You'll get right through.

  5. While that may very well be a huge factor, every show I've gone out on everybody on your has had the same issues. I've got T-Mobile myself. And if I recall correctly, the last gig I did we had a show at the Verizon theater in Dallas Texas And even the guys with Verizon phones were having issues. It was the joke of the day. 🙂

  6. At some point, any network can only handle so much congestion.  Some networks break well before they should.  Verizon definitely handles congestion much better than AT&T.  I just switched to T-Mobile, and I haven't taken it to any big events yet.

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