VAIL — We all curse our technology, particularly our phones, from time to time. The 2012 Christmas holidays in Vail were a particularly taxing time, leading to some real improvements.
The 2012 Christmas holidays overloaded AT&T’s equipment to the point that many residents were complaining about dropped calls, missed messages and more. The problem so aggravated Vail resident and business owner Ron Riley that he placed several newspaper ads outlining the problems he’d experienced with the company’s service, and asking for e-mailed stories of others’ problems with the company. More than 200 people responded, with a nearly-universal low opinion of their service.
During that time, town of Vail officials were already trying to upgrade the town’s cellular and wi-fi service for both the resort villages and the rest of town.
Latest Tech Up and Running
Throughout the course of 2013, the town hammered out a service agreement with Crown Castle, a company that leases cell towers to carriers, for an upgraded antenna system in town. AT&T was the first client on the system, and in November of 2013 announced that it had begun providing 4G LTE cell technology — the latest version of wireless voice and data service.
While just seven of the eventual 23 cell towers are in place right now — the rest will be ready by the end of this year — the 2013 Christmas holidays seemed to provide better service for both voice and data users.
A recent report from Vail Information Technology Department Director Ron Braden indicated that gigabytes were flying in the villages during the holidays.
‘100 Percent Better Than 2012’
According to Braden’s figures, an average of 572 clients per day sent and received an average of 650 gigabytes per day — a data figure Braden described as “a lot” — with no reported system crashes. Braden said voice traffic is harder to track, but believes that system was fine, too, since voice service isn’t as taxing on a system as sending big dollops of data through the ether.
“We’ve heard that it was 100 percent better than (in 2012), and that was our goal,” Braden said.
Riley was out of town for much of the holiday season, but said he hadn’t heard any complaints about service in the villages.
The improvement in Vail Village and Lionshead should be felt through most of town throughout the course of this year. Crown Castle has plans to install the remaining towers this year, with everything up and running in time for the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships, to be held in February.
Some Areas Still Without Coverage
While the full 23-site system will improve service through most of town, not everyone will see an improvement in every part of town. Cellular signals travel in a straight line, like FM radio signals. That means people tucked away in some of Vail’s hidden areas won’t have a clear shot from their phones to a tower.
“We’ll never get to 100 percent,” Braden said. “But we’ll get most of town covered.”
And another carrier may jump on the Crown Castle system. Braden said the company is currently negotiating with Verizon Wireless, which hasn’t been subject to the same number of complaints and was actually first in Vail with 4G LTE service.