AT&T plans investment in Mass. cell phone network
Even as it prepares a $39 billion deal to acquire cellular carrier T-Mobile USA, AT&T Inc. also plans to spend big bucks this year on upgrading its cellular phone network in Massachusetts.
AT&T executives today unveiled a plan to upgrade network connections to 1,000 existing cell sites, so they will be able to handle more voice and data traffic. The company will also build 35 new cell sites, increase the amount of radio frequencies that connect to the network, and set up advanced antenna systems in high-traffic areas like the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. AT&T officials wouldn't say how much they'd spend on upgrades in Massachusetts, but company-wide, it plans to spend $19 billion on capital improvements this year, including enhancements to its wireless and land-line networks.
"We're investing in our Massachusetts network to help AT&T customers take advantage of the numerous capabilities of our wireless devices," said David Mancuso, AT&T's regional vice president for New England.
AT&T's new investments were announced at an unmarked, non-descript building in Cambridge that houses the company's main switching center for its 3G cellular voice and data network in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The site handles 21 million voice calls per day. But in a large room full of electronic gear, the voice calls needed just one rack of equipment, about the size of two large gym lockers. By contrast, AT&T had installed rack after rack of gear to handle data -- text messages, Web pages, photos, and e-mails being sent wirelessly to smartphones, tablet computers, and e-readers.
The company also wants to boost its ability to serve the growing machine-to-machine, or M2M, market. Those are services in which electronic devices share data over the network, often without direct human intervention, such as digital picture frames that automatically download new photos from the Internet, or tablet computers that download the latest newspapers or magazines at regular intervals. Steve Krom, vice president and general manager of AT&T New England, said the company presently supports 11 million M2M devices nationwide.
"It's been the fastest-growing segment of our business," Krom said.