AT&T employs 2,477 people in South Carolina, with a payroll of $173 million. Not to mention handling all those billions of texts.
Today, ADCO’s Brad Warthen visited the nerve center of it all, the very synapses that handle 90 percent of AT&T’s wireless traffic in South Carolina. Where was that? Well, he can’t tell you. That was a condition of going there. Very hush-hush.
AT&T’s Pam Lackey and other officials had invited a number of media and economic development types out to let the community know that the company has spent $125 million this year in SC to improve wireless service, including new cell sites and the upgrade of dozens of others. For instance, Forest Acres should see improved service from a new cell site at Trenholm Road and North Beltline. Meanwhile, 60 towers in Richland County have been upgraded with “enhanced backhaul connections,” which has to do with enabling 4G speeds.
AT&T was showcasing its processing power today because increasingly, that’s what it’s about, explained Laurent Therivel, AT&T’s vice president and general manager of Mobility & Consumer Markets for North Carolina and South Carolina. Consumers are less interested in, say, how many songs they can store on a device; they want to make sure they have a good connection to Pandora. Even such apparently device-specific functions as Siri are all about the network. Smart as she is, if you don’t have a good network, Siri can’t think.
What made the biggest impression on Brad, aside from the fact that AT&T is really serious about enhancing customer service? This: The whole thing runs on batteries.
Really. At one point, he was in this room that was like all the others, except a little chillier and darker. But the stacks of electronic paraphernalia in that room consisted entirely of batteries rather than high-tech switching equipment. Basically, the idea is that it doesn’t matter whether the grid is working or backup generation, so long as the batteries get recharged. If there’s an outage, the network never knows the difference.
That’s one way to make sure the call — or text, or data — always goes through.