AT&T Confounds Expectations by Not Ruining SXSW

Way to go, AT&T! It was nerve-wracking after last year's troubles, but reports are coming in that the oft-maligned network is holding up to the stress of SXSW better than expected.

AT&T pretty much blew it last year. A massive gathering of hip music types and nerdy developer types means one thing: iPhones everywhere. And AT&T bombed worse than Lil Wayne's ill-fated foray into rock. Data speeds were laughable when there was even service at all, and dropped calls actually happened as often as smirking Verizon customers (raises hand) think they do year-round.

So they had some ground to make up. While it's fun (as always) to mock AT&T for its ailing network, SXSW is an insane challenge for them—and this year, the company seems to be handling it well, with some proper preparation:

Among the steps Siegel said AT&T took this year were installing a new distributed antenna in the Austin Convention Center in order to boost capacity; expanding the capacity of the network by using 850MHz spectrum that is particularly good, Siegel said, for providing in-building service; deploying two cell sites on wheels (COWs) at the convention center and another one in Austin; and improving and augmenting the backhaul capacity to the sites that support the convention center.

AT&T even admitted their issues last year, saying "We learned from last year and have taken even stronger steps" for 2010. But there've been almost exclusively positive reports: Speeds and reliability seem excellent, and the lack of a trending #attfail @sxsw topic on Twitter speaks volumes. Said one festival-goer: "I haven't had any problems with it."

High praise indeed, AT&T. [CNET, image from Wired]