Giants Game + AT&T Park + No iPhone Internet = Major Fail

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By Kevin Fayle on April 22, 2009 12:06 PM

AT&T pays a little over $2 million per year for the right to put its name on the home field of the San Francisco Giants baseball team. 

For that kind of money, the company must expect at least a little positive marketing to come out of it.

That's why I was surprised, perplexed and more than a little annoyed when I found that I couldn't connect to the internet on my iPhone during my visit to the park last night.  I expected that iPhone connectivity would be a breeze at AT&T (which some people even call Telephone Park), especially considering that sales of the device seem to be the main thing providing AT&T a profit these days.
And yet, there I was, having just polished off a Sheboygan Bratwurst, enjoying the start of the third inning and a beautiful sunset in rare 80 degree weather, when the urge to communicate to the world just how contented I was came over me.  I grabbed my beloved iPhone and brought up the Facebook app. 

After writing a sufficiently smug status update, I hit the button to submit and . . . error message.  I tried again . . . error message again.

No problem, maybe Facebook is on the fritz right now, I thought.  I'll just tweet about it instead.

Nothing.  Nada.  No Internet connection at all. 

Ok, ok, no reason to panic yet - AT&T Park has WiFi.  I switched on my phone's WiFi connection and tried once more.  Still nothing.  All attempts to connect to the WiFi resulted in an endless, infuriating, battery-draining loading cycle.

No Facebook, no Twitter, no stat research on ESPN, no picture uploads . . . I couldn't even send emails to the BlackBerries of all those BigLaw friends of mine out there slaving away long into the night (the ones who still have jobs, anyway) to let them know that I was enjoying a beautiful spring evening of baseball.

How Twentieth Century.

This can't be right, I thought: Here I am in the middle of San Francisco, the technology capital of the universe, at AT&T Park, and I can't get mobile internet.  Why aren't there network relay stations ringing the stadium, I wondered, or even a giant tower in the middle of centerfield, ala Minute Maid Park's flagpole? 

This is a stadium, after all, that carries the name of a company desperate to carve out a place for itself in the world of mobile broadband.  This is an explicitly stated aim of company CEO, Randall Stephenson.  When AT&T secured the exclusive rights to carry the iPhone in the US, it seemed like it had taken a mighty step towards that goal.

But network problems have plagued the company, thanks in large part to that very iPhone strategy.  With more users riding the 3G network on the iPhone, glaring holes in service have become apparent, to the point where it's unclear whether or not AT&T can even hold on to its coveted iPhone exclusivity.

Verizon, it seems, is already lurking at the city gates

The iPhone may have been a little too successful for AT&T's own good: the company may be attracting millions of new customers just to show them what a crappy network infrastructure the company has to offer.

The Giants beat the Padres 8-2, by the way, complete with a grand slam by Edgar Renteria that, alas, went untweeted.