AT&T at Citizens Bank Park: Still not ready for prime time

Last week, my colleague Bob Fernandez wrote about AT&T Wireless’ plans to upgrade its network at Citizens Bank Park for this year’s Phillies season.

Last night at the Phillies 14-7 trampling of the Nationals, I was reminded why AT&T needed to get its act together soon or face subscriber defections.

One example: A friend texted me a couple times — or tried to — during the game’s wild and crazy opening innings, when Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick and Nats starter Craig Stammen vied for the title of Quickest Flameout.

Neither made it through two full innings. But as the home-team pitcher, Kendrick fell first.

“He’s thrown 50 pitches, given up five runs, and gotten five whole outs,” I wrote.

“Goodbye Kendrick. This is painful,” my friend replied moments later, after Phils manager Charlie Manuel took the slow walk to the mound.

The trouble is, Kendrick was pulled with 2 outs in the top of the second inning, which is when my friend sent his text. That was before 8 p.m. But the text didn’t arrive till about 10, during the seventh inning of a long, long game.

No earth-shaking problem, of course. But AT&T is selling a service that doesn’t work very well at a place where more than 40,000 people are expected to gather about 80 more times this year — and more if the Phillies, as widely predicted (and hoped), make the playoffs again.

For the record, my iPhone’s Internet service didn’t work, either, the only time I took a stab at it — trying three times to see what the record was for most hits in a nine-inning game, after the Phils hit nine in the first two and both teams had turned to their bullpens. (According to 31, by Milwaukee, in a 22-2 victory over the Blue Jays in 1992.)

Three “cannot access server” messages were enough to make me give up, especially since I know Internet service can be a big data hog.

But text-messaging isn’t. It uses a tiny amount of bandwith.

Do other companies systems’ work better at crowded events? How about other systems' smartphones? Inquiring minds want to know.