“Can you hear me now?” may not be the most asked question on a person’s cell phone while attending the Trump inauguration.
The four major cell phone providers; Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint, have scrambled to provide service for the thousands upon thousands of cell phone users jammed into the Washington D.C. area for today’s inauguration and the weekend festivities.
With cell phone ownership jumping from 35% back in 2012, when Obama was inaugurated, to 72% now in 2017, the phone service providers are pulling out all the tricks to help keep their people talking, tweeting, broadcasting, and sharing.
All four cell service providers have deployed technology along the National Mall in Washington D.C. to strengthen their networks in anticipation of the insane amount of expected data usage this weekend.
According to The Hill, the providers are breaking out “Cells on Wheels (COW),” portable cell antennas mounted on semi-tractor trailers that will be parked along the mall roadways to boost the capacity for their customers’ data usage.
“The COW antennas are attached to tall poles on trailers and look like white cheese wheels.”
Verizon also broke out their newest “Remote Electrical Tilt antennas,” which allow network engineers to adjust the capacity by following the constantly moving crowds.
Other providers have installed permanent network upgrades in the city and are also setting up temporary Wi-Fi hotspots.
AT&T spent about “$15 million on its network enhancements” for the inauguration.
Comcast, a cable and phone provider, announced this week that it was “installing 6,800 free hotspots that will be accessible even to those who are not customers”. Comcast stated these temporary hotspots would be open through Jan. 26th.
City officials are expecting a crowd of about a million people to attend the inauguration, not including the protesters.
The Hill reports that, in December, “Access Now, a digital human rights group, sent a letter to the major wireless carriers outlining their concerns that the networks would be overwhelmed and congested, thereby preventing protesters and journalists from documenting the demonstrations.”
In the letter, Access Now wrote, “We urge you to be prepared for a range of threats to the rights of your users, and to ensure that your company provides adequate network coverage throughout the duration of the demonstrations. Proactive preparation will help you enable access to rights, as well as enhance your reputation among users, over this important weekend.”
AT&T responded to Access Now’s letter with a promise to “promote the right of our users to hold and freely share opinions without interference, and to access the full range of ideas and information.”
The authors of the letter, Deji Olukotun and Peter Micek, told The Hill on Thursday, that they were “pleasantly surprised by the responses from the companies.”
Karen Schulz, a Verizon spokeswoman, told The Hill earlier this month when asked if protesters would benefit from the upgrades during and after the inauguration, “The coverage and capacity enhancements as well as the technological advancements to help better serve the crowds — whether temporary or permanent — will be available to everyone using Verizon service in the area. The supplemental mobile solutions in place will remain there the day after the inauguration.”
H/T: The Hill
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