AT&T has experienced a 30,000 percent increase in wireless data traffic in the past six years as use of smartphones and new wireless devices has exploded — particularly in tech-savvy San Francisco. The reality is that we continually need to increase the capacity of our network to meet ever-growing consumer demand.

San Francisco — and this shouldn't surprise anyone! — is known for its complex topography, which can obstruct wireless signals and cause dropped calls and connectivity problems.

We’ve invested more than $2.4 billion in our San Francisco Bay area wireless and wireline networks from 2010 through 2012.  Since January 2011, we have made more than 2,900 network upgrades in the San Francisco Bay area, including building 83 new cell sites and boosting capacity to improve customers' mobile voice and broadband experience.

We’ve implemented hundreds of infrastructure enhancements increasing coverage and capacity citywide and at key venues like AT&T Park and the Moscone Center.

But there’s still much more to do!

We have plans to upgrade existing sites and build new sites needed in San Francisco.

We’re in the process of identifying spots where we need additional capacity. We’ve already identified several locations and are in the process of getting the necessary permits for them.

What are the different types of wireless antenna?

AT&T has several methods for connecting customers wirelessly to the network, and in San Francisco we are integrating multiple wireless antenna technologies to provide quality, reliable wireless service. For more information on the various technologies, see the WIRELESS page.

What is the review process for AT&T to acquire the necessary permits?

Most sites require a Conditional Use Permit from the San Francisco Planning Department. We start by getting community input on the location and aesthetics and then submit a permit for review by the Planning Department. Following that there is a public comment opportunity at a Planning Commission hearing. An approval by the Planning Commission may be appealed to the full San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

What is your timeline for implementing your wireless upgrade?

We have a very aggressive timeline to complete projects in next 18 months. There are many variables and it depends on support from policy makers and the community in San Francisco. We will be holding community meetings, attending hearings, and our plans will be reviewed by various city departments. We’ve begun that process on a number of sites.

When I look at my cell phone I see five bars. Why do you need to upgrade the wireless infrastructure in my neighborhood?

Both coverage and capacity are needed to complete a call. What’s the difference? There are many places in the City where your cell phone will show five bars. That means you’re within range of a cell site. But that isn’t necessarily an indication that the cell site has sufficient capacity to connect and hold that call. It may only show that you have cell tower nearby. Five years ago, consumers used cell phones primarily to have voice conversations. Today, more people are using smartphones and tablets to watch video or surf the web for longer periods of time and requiring much more capacity.

Calls are handed off from cell site to cell site as you move through the city. But if a call is handed off to a cell site that is at capacity the call will drop. We are building more capacity into the network to prevent this.

How does AT&T minimize the aesthetic impact of the network upgrades?

AT&T is sensitive to neighborhood aesthetics and we take care to study the environments where antennas may be placed so that they can be installed with minimal impact and blend into their surroundings. Antennas come in many different sizes, configurations and heights, and are often hidden or disguised as trees or other structures. In some cases, they can be installed in existing structures, like clock towers or church steeples. They can be painted to camouflage with the surroundings. We always look to place our antenna on existing structures to limit the need to build a new structure.

How is AT&T informing the community of its network upgrade plans?

In addition to this website, advertising, direct mail and through our AT&T retail stores, we will be providing on-going information regarding our network upgrade plans. If you would like us to schedule a meeting with your neighborhood or retail merchants association, please let us know.

I don’t have a reliable wireless connection from my home. What can be done now to improve my wireless experience?

Customers who don’t have a reliable 3G wireless connection can purchase a 3G MicroCell device. It requires a broadband Internet connection and acts like a mini cell site in your home. The 3G MicroCell works in spaces up to 5,000 square feet and should only be used in locations where existing wireless signal strength is three bars or less.  A strong wireless signal may interfere with the MicroCell device resulting in call set up failure or dropped calls.  For more information, please visit our AT&T 3G MicroCell website.

How do I report a drop spot or coverage capacity issue?

Our “Mark the Spot” app allows users to provide feedback on their network experience.

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