Airports pretty consistently have lousy cell phone coverage. Often there aren’t towers nearby, you have a ton of people trying to connect, and there are all kinds of structures that may block a signal (at least I’d assume those are the problems, as someone who knows little about telecom).
When it comes to cell phone coverage, some airports are worse than others. I fly into and out of LAX quite often, and at times I find it almost impossible to even check my email or send a text without connecting to the wifi (and as far as airport wifi goes, LAX’s isn’t great). I figured maybe I was just especially unlucky (or spending too much time on 787s), though it appears that LAX’s coverage is actually that bad. A September 2016 independent study put LAX dead last in a ranking of cellular network performance of the 50 busiest airports in the US.
The good news is that this will finally be improving. Per a meeting of the board of airport commissioners that took place on March 1, 2018, LAX has entered into an agreement with the major cell providers to upgrade the dismal coverage at the airport.
Under this agreement, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon will operate cellular communications systems throughout the airport.
As you’d expect, the primary motivation here is to improve the guest experience:
This action advances this strategic goal and objective: Deliver Facilities & Guest Experiences that are Exceptional: Upgrade every element of the quest experience. The public visiting LAX, airport tenants, and LAWA employees should experience much improved cellular voice and data performance as the result of the cellular communication improvement upon the deployment of new cellular systems. In addition, LAX should move up in future cellular service rankings for airports.
Not only that, but they believe that improved cell phone coverage will allow LAWA employees and airport tenants to conduct business more efficiently.
These new towers will generate an estimated $1,932,000 in annual licensing fees for the airport, plus an additional $200,000 in revenue from rent, with an annual increase of 3%. The cellular communication companies will be picking up the cost of the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of these systems.
These improvements will be slowly phased in, area-by-area, so it’s possible that we’ll start to see some improvements within a few months. We can expect that hopefully the entire airport is upgraded within 18 months, though like everything that involves bureaucracy, delays are likely.
(Tip of the hat to Scott)