When the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve, three teams from Global Wireless Solutions were testing carrier networks in New York’s Times Square.

It took hours of waiting in line along to get the teams in place to do their ground-level testing, according to GWS CEO Paul Carter.  The New Year’s Eve testing is the first of a new series of public benchmarking efforts that GWS has planned, centered around evaluating carrier networks’ performance during specific events.

“We’ve put a lot of focus on OneScore and our customer-centric ranking methodologies, and ranked AT&T the best overall network nationwide. We thought we would do something a bit more fun, let’s say, but also relevant — and try and come up with an event-scoring methodology that people could understand very quickly,” Carter said. “This is the first of what we want to do with many events throughout the country this year.”

He said that the team’s data from New Year’s Eve not only generated a picture of specific network performance, but how things changed over the course of the day and night in Times Square. Some metrics held relatively steady, and others rose and plunged along with the ball. Overall, GWS gave mobile network performance a score of 77 — about a C-level score, Carter explained.

Carter noted that in the lead-up to the ball drop, there are hours of musical entertainment and time during which the crowd gathers. The GWS teams began testing from about 5 p.m. in the afternoon.

“There’s not necessarily one big rush, as it were,” during that time period, he said, comparing the environment to a sports game where there is an extended period of high crowds and high traffic with breaks in the action. But in Times Square, Carter added, there are many people (an estimated 1 million) packed into a relatively small area, all very close together — a much different case than in a stadium, where traffic might be concentrated around the field but people are also moving through the rest of the building.

But then, he said, “things got pretty hairy around the midnight hour,” when people in the crowd ramped up their social media sharing of the event. Uploading a test video file went from taking about 10 seconds to taking about 16, while photo upload time increased from about 5 seconds up to 9 seconds, he said. After 1 a.m., when the throng had largely cleared out, those numbers fell back to as good or better as they were earlier in the day, Carter added. Interestingly, he pointed out, download speeds held quite steady over the course of the night — it was on the upload side where the network impacts of the spikes in traffic were seen.

GWS’ testing also revealed some of the network features at work to support the boom in traffic. He said that all four national carriers had two-component and three-component carrier aggregation at work, and a couple of them had four-component CA. There was a “fair amount” of 256 QAM modulation, and several carriers had a small amount of 4×4 multiple-input multiple-output at work, Carter noted.

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