History is about to be made. The Republican and Democratic conventions could be two of the most live-streamed events of all time. Millions of viewers around the world will dial in to delegate fights, key speeches, and convention drama broadcast in real-time by thousands of mobile phones. Nearly 50,000 spectators, media members, pundits, and politicians will converge at the Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. The 2016 election isn’t the first digital election, but it will be the largest and most mainstream.

To meet the data surge expected during July’s political conventions, AT&T, the official communications, video, and technology provider for the 2016 RNC and DNC, significantly upgraded its digital infrastructure in Cleveland and Philadelphia.

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“Our goal is to keep people, especially delegates and others [at each convention] for official business, connected on the floor of the arena, and in the city of Cleveland in general,” said AT&T network veteran Patrick Zimmerman. The company began preparation for the RNC and DNC in April 2015, and invested over $250 million to enhance and upgrade the network’s wired and wireless infrastructure in Cleveland alone.

Prior to each convention AT&T:

  • Tripled 4G coverage in Cleveland.
  • Upgraded over 150 preexisting LTE stations downtown, near the arena.
  • Added 50 thousand feet of fiber and copper wiring to the regional network.

During the conventions AT&T will:

On the ground, AT&T created several mobile applications that should enhance and optimize access to the network. For delegates specifically AT&T helped build a mobile application. CNET’s Terry Collins reported:

The app will provide “unprecedented access” of the proceedings, said Samantha Osborne, the RNC’s digital director. The features include 360-degree cameras offering live streams of the convention, a list of speakers and turn-by-turn maps inside the arena and surrounding areas.

TechRepublic’s Teena Maddox recently reported about how data networks collaborate to meet scale at major events. As it does with many major events, in Cleveland and Philadelphia AT&T will serve as a neutral host and collaborate with Verizon and other mobile

carriers. Maddox reported that DAS systems are particularly useful to help saturate high-density environments like airports, casinos, and stadiums with quality coverage, and “carrier-agnostic DAS that covers all frequency bands” is common with data networks.

Major events are often opportunities for cities and wireless carriers alike to make competitive network upgrades. Zimmerman confirmed that the money and time the company invested in digital innovation will have a positive legacy impact on the region’s network. A better legacy network means a more competitive city, he said, and added “we’re investing in the events, but also in the cities.”

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