For cellular network operators, stadiums are very tricky places. They demand intense usage of network resources by their very nature; thousands, if not tens or even hundreds of thousands of people can pack into a single venue during a given event, and almost all of them will likely be making extensive use of their mobile devices. Network diagnostic operations in huge stadiums can take up to five days under normal circumstances. Carrier staff have to walk all around the stadium while carrying and operating a range of testing equipment. Just in time for football season, AT&T has announced that they are rolling out a special fleet of drones, called Echo Drones, that can conduct extensive network testing quickly and easily, are able to run diagnostic testing and report findings back on an entire large stadium in just one day.
The drones are based on AT&T's EchoBOT technology, a special piece of testing hardware meant to simulate typical smartphone usage by an AT&T customer. Originally cobbled together hurriedly by AT&T engineers, the bots' hardware and software was eventually refined to a state of reliability, and much of that same hardware and software powers these new Echo Drones. The drones will zip around stadiums at crucial times and report on network conditions, ensuring that AT&T can keep their network as strong as possible in the gridiron. Thus far, AT&T has completed 40 different network upgrade and update operations at different sports venues around the country in order to prepare for football season, and the Echo Drones will now be able to help them figure out where and when to operate next.
With a total data throughput of 40 terabytes in the opening of the college and pro football seasons thus far, the importance of the drones' job is pretty obvious. Sport venues, however, will not be the drones' only stomping ground; as well as helping with network testing for high-demand sports venues, the Echo Drones will be rolling out nationwide to help AT&T spot unsatisfactory network conditions that users may encounter in more casual situations. While this is no guarantee that every deadzone and high-traffic area is going to be improved in the near future, it is a step in the right direction and should help in not only improving their current network, but in facilitating the fastest and smoothest possible 5G rollout.