March 04, 2024

While All Eyes are on the Eclipse, Ours Stay on the Network

Here’s how our network has improved since the last eclipse, plus some eclipse FAQs, and more.

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Total eclipse of the Sun. The moon covers the sun in a solar eclipse.

Key Takeaways:

  • AT&T is working to keep customers connected during this year’s total solar eclipse.
  • From 5G to fiber, the AT&T Network is prepared to handle more traffic than ever. Our network handles 680 petabytes of traffic on an average business day, and we're ready for customers to share their solar eclipse moments!
  • On Monday, April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will cross North America, giving our headquarters in Dallas, TX a front row seat to watch this historical moment. Join us for this free citywide watch party!

Eclipsing Expectations: AT&T’s Network Stayed Bright During Solar Eclipse

While more than 32 million Americans watched the eclipse, we were busy watching our network spike. As totality hit across the United States, an increase of data usage followed when millions of viewers captured and shared the big moment. Smartphones became the lens through which we observed this rare phenomenon. More than 3.2 billion total messages were sent Monday – that's 510 million messages more than a typical day. Over 1.1 billion were MMS messages that included pictures and videos and 2.1 billion were text only. It’s amazing to see the power of our network firsthand, connecting so many people during such a historical moment.

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Frequently Asked Questions

We understand the importance of keeping our customers connected and we continue to monitor our network around the clock. The eclipse itself will have no direct operational impact on our wireless network.

Our network has drastically changed since the last solar eclipse in 2017. Our customers now have the benefit of AT&T 5G which provides unique experiences, faster speeds and capacity to do more of the things our customers like. We expanded our 5G network to reach more than 295 million people in nearly 24,500 cities and towns in the U.S. Our higher-speed mid-band 5G+ spectrum alone covers more than 210 million people. Our bandwidth has increased significantly in the last few years, providing for an improved experience on our network as a result. 

While the eclipse itself will have no direct operational impact on FirstNet, Built with AT&T – America’s Public Safety Network – first responders are preparing for watch parties across the country. And we’re working hand-in-hand with them to ensure they have the reliable communications they require to help keep their communities safe. So far, the team has supported 85 requests from public safety agencies in nearly every state along the path of totality. This includes optimizing the network to enhance coverage and capacity to deploying public safety’s dedicated FirstNet deployable network assets. In fact, more than a dozen FirstNet assets will be deployed to ensure first responders have the dedicated connectivity they require.

We give public safety agencies a level of support during emergencies and planned events that’s far beyond anything they’ve ever seen. Agencies on FirstNet have 24/7 access to a dedicated fleet of 180+ land-based and airborne assets, all at no additional charge. No other provider has deployable network assets dedicated solely and exclusively to public safety.  And the FirstNet Response Operations Group (ROG) – led by a team of former first responders – is at the ready to support public safety’s connectivity needs, no matter the emergency. Our focus is on serving as public safety’s true network partner to help first responders stay connected and operate faster, safer and more effectively when every second counts.

For more information on smartphone photography of the eclipse, we encourage customers to follow guidelines from NASA and their phone manufacturer.

Where to watch the Solar Eclipse

The Solar Eclipse can be seen best anywhere across the path of totality. If you’re in Dallas, the AT&T Discovery District is hosting a free, citywide Solar Eclipse Watch Party on April 8th that’s open to the public and AT&T employees. Attendees will have a premier viewing location in the District and the opportunity to listen to a panel discussion featuring educational speakers from NASA and The Achievery. Free viewing glasses will be given to the first 4,000 people in attendance and guests can enjoy eclipse-themed food and drink items from nearby restaurants.

Can’t make it to the Discovery District? Watch NASA’s livestream and learn more about the Solar Eclipse from The Achievery, AT&T's free K-12 digital learning platform.

AT&T's The Achievery is a free K-12 digital learning tool, transforming education into an entertaining and engaging experience for students, no matter where they are. With more than 1000 educational videos and standards-aligned activities, it supports grade-level learning and boosts social-emotional and digital literacy skills, essential for success in today's connected world.

Special Guest Announcement

We are excited to welcome former NASA astronaut José Hernández to our Eclipse Watch Party in Dallas. Known for his significant contributions to space exploration and his incredible journey of overcoming numerous obstacles, Hernández's story is one of resilience. His career is studded with remarkable milestones, including being the first person to use Spanish in space. Don't miss the chance to hear from him as he shares insights from his career, answers questions about science and technology, and joins us in celebrating this celestial event. Programming begins at noon CT!

José Hernández

Former astronaut José Hernández

Did you know?

Why Satellite Engineers at AST SpaceMobile Are Obsessed with Eclipses

Have you ever experienced being in the shadow of the moon? On April 8, you'll find out what it's like! That afternoon, the moon will slip in front of the sun and perfectly block it out. During this event, called the total solar eclipse, the moon's shadow will speed across Earth's surface and cause a few minutes of nighttime during the day for anyone in its path - including AT&T's campus in Dallas.

Eclipses are not just cool to see, they're also a big deal for satellites circling the Earth, like BlueWalker 3 (BW3). This test satellite is made and operated by AST SpaceMobile, a collaborator of AT&T's, and it is a superstar: Using AT&T cellular spectrum, we made history with the first-ever calls and data downloads from space directly to unmodified everyday smartphones, like the one in your pocket.

When we talk about an eclipse, we usually mean the moon moves in front of the sun, blocking its light and casting a shadow on Earth. For BW3, the Earth itself plays the role of the moon, blocks the sun, and casts its shadow on the satellite. To test satellite-to-cell phone broadband connectivity, BW3 zips around the Earth at about 17,000 miles per hour. That's about 10 times faster than a bullet, or fast enough to travel from New York to Los Angeles in less than 10 minutes! So every day, BW3 circles Earth 15 times, which means it also experiences 15 eclipses.

Why do AST's engineers care so much about this game of shadow tag? Nearly all satellite electronics get their power from the sun, including BW3. This means a spacecraft needs to convert energy from the sun with its solar panels and store it in batteries to continue working in Earth's shadow. But eclipses aren't just important for power management. Think about sitting in the shade of a tree on a sunny day, then walking into broad sunlight. In orbit, where there is no air, the temperature difference between light and darkness is far more extreme. Parts of a spacecraft can get as hot as 250 degrees Fahrenheit in the sun and as cold as -200 degrees Fahrenheit in the shadow of an eclipse. Imagine how tough your phone or computer would have to be to handle that kind of temperature swing more than a dozen times per day!

Now, you might wonder if BW3 has ever flown or will fly through the moon's shadow during a solar eclipse, like the one you're about to see at AT&T's campus. Even though BW3 flies extremely fast, circling the Earth about 5,500 times a year, the chances of it ever catching an eclipse caused by the moon are almost zero. So, this eclipse you are about to see is pretty special, and it's not something even our high-flying spacecraft gets to experience.

As you get ready to witness this astronomical event, think about how it's not just a cool sight for us on the ground, but also a reminder of the incredible things like BW3 that humans have put in space — and the awesome engineering it takes to keep them working and making telecommunications history way up there, where it's a whole different game of light and shadow.

For years, we've been working with satellite companies to help test and develop innovative, out-of-this-world solutions for remote and challenging geographic locations, including collaborating with AST SpaceMobile. AT&T supported AST SpaceMobile while achieving some significant milestones, including the world’s first space-based direct voice and video call and the first-ever 5G connection for voice and data – using AT&T spectrum and an everyday, unmodified smartphone.

 The Bell System continued to play a vital role in providing communications support for NASA, culminating in President Nixon’s first call to the astronauts on the moon in 1969. It was known as the “the longest-distance telephone call ever.” 


On July 10, 1962, AT&T’s Telstar satellite, the world’s first active communications satellite, was launched by NASA. Telstar I transmitted the first live television across the Atlantic in both directions, as well as telephone calls, data transmissions and still images. Telstar enabled us to send the First TV picture to space and back.


AT&T Bell Labs engineer Karl Jansky developed the field of radio astronomy in the early 1930s while he was researching static interference with our overseas radio communications. He discovered that the center of our Milky Way Galaxy emits radio waves. 

Historical Eclipses

Looking back at our own history we can identify a few eclipses, like when we launched the first commercial cellular telephone service with what we would consider “1G” in 1983, then introduced the 2G standard 10 years later, enabling text messaging. At AT&T, we believe each network generation is a force multiplier, and for more than 144 years, our inventors, visionaries and service-centered employees have helped us play a big role in technology’s constant evolution.

In the spirit of this moment, we’re reflecting on 10 historical “eclipses” that continue to inspire us today: 

  • Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, surpassing all previous methods of communication, such as telegraphy and letter writing. This transformed society, allowing people to speak to one another across vast distances. 
  • Katherine Johnson played a crucial role in NASA’s early 1960’s space missions, including the first American manned spaceflight and the Apollo 11 moon landing, breaking gender and racial barriers in the STEM fields. She was the first woman in her division to receive credit as an author of a research report, authoring or coauthoring 26 reports during her career.  
  • In 1968, AT&T-owned Bell System announced the adoption of 9-1-1 as the nationwide emergency telephone number, establishing a quicker way for people to reach first responders. Eclipsing our previous advancements, we were selected by the First Responder Network Authority in 2017 to build and manage FirstNet – the only network built with and for America’s first responders and the extended public safety community.  
  • In 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon, surpassing all previous achievements in space exploration.  
  • Apple released the first MacBook in 2006, a significant advancement in laptop technology eclipsing other computer brands.  
  • In 2017, Serena Williams earned her 23rd Grand Slam singles title, the most of any player in the Open era.  
  • In February 2023, Lebron James broke the NBA career points record with his 38,388th point, surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who held the record for 39 years.
  • Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” were both released on July 21, 2023, igniting a box office showdown. While there is some debate over who “won” the industry-revitalizing moment, Barbie eclipsed Oppenheimer in total sales, grossing more than $1.44 billion of the $2.39 billion combined total as of Dec. 2023. 
  • Taylor Swift spent 68 weeks at the top of the Billboard 200 with the release of her album 1989 (Taylor’s Version) in 2023, surpassing Elvis Presley as the soloist with the most weeks spent at No. 1. 
  • Caitlyn Clark broke the Women’s NCAA scoring record in 2024 surpassing 7-year record holder Kelsey Plum’s 3,527 career points. She broke Plum’s record in 13 less games.  

As a committed leader in innovation, AT&T continues to enable new technologies that eclipse the previous generation, opening up new possibilities for tomorrow.  

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