On New Year’s Eve, do you have the bandwidth to share the #balldrop?

By | 2 minute read | December 31, 2017

Revelers in Times Square on New Year's Eve.

Revelers have been celebrating New Year’s Eve in Times Square since 1904, and each year the party gets bigger and bigger. Last year, an estimated 2 million people gathered in midtown Manhattan to ring in the start of 2017.

This year’s event—which features musical performances, celebrity appearances, and hourly countdowns before the midnight ball drop— is expected to be comparably jam-packed. And like any other massive spectacle, it’s expected to garner lots of attention on social media. The Times Square Alliance, which organizes the event, encourages spectators to use #Balldrop in their posts.

Millions of people means millions of cell phones, and tons of competition for the attention of cellular networks, which can get overloaded with the widespread, concentrated use of data-heavy applications such as photo and video sharing. In 2011, 35 percent of Americans owned a smartphone. In 2016, 77 percent owned one.

Phone companies know a big celebration can easily turn into a big cellular jam. That’s why many of them plan ahead for big events with measures intended to increase network capacity and improve coverage.

In advance of the presidential inauguration this year, AT&T installed seven temporary cell towers between the Capitol building and the Lincoln Memorial to handle the crowds. In preparation for the 2013 World Series in St. Louis, the company turned Busch Stadium into its own cell tower by installing an in-stadium network. And for this summer’s solar eclipse, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-mobile sent mobile towers to towns across the country in the path of totality where they expected networks to be at greatest risk of strain.

While phones have gotten better at sending requests to the network, and networks have gotten better at managing traffic, problems persist at big events. And the imperative to improve coverage is only getting more urgent. In the next five years, mobile video usage alone is expected to grow by 870 percent. Stopgap measures won’t be enough to keep up with that sustained, growing demand.

Now more than ever, customers expect constant connection. What can companies do to keep them satisfied? By virtualizing in the cloud and powering operations with AI, living networks can outpace demand by learning from customers and adapting in real time. Such networks can think for themselves, and react quickly to provide extra bandwidth where and when it’s needed—whether it’s a stadium, a concert, or an epic, year-ending party.