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Data networks to be pounded tomorrow.

It looks like tomorrow is going to be a big day for mobile broadband in Washington DC, so much so that some of the mobile carriers are actually asking people to cut down on their cell usage during the actual event. According to the New York Times, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint are all asking customers to cut back on their usage tomorrow especially in DC itself. All three major carriers are bringing in lots of extra capacity to be able to handle the call volume, this being in the form of temporary towers and COW’s (Cell On Wheels), that are being brought in to increase the capacity. 

This is a problem that honestly cannot be completely overcome. There is only so much capacity that is physically possible in one particular area, and considering that they are figuring on as many as three million people on the mall tomorrow to watch the Inauguration, that is a lot of people, who are all going to be taking pictures with their camera-phones, uploading them to flickr, facebook, and twitter amongst other places. 

I use the cell networks a lot for getting online while I am out in the truck, as well as for general communications and email. In the news industry we often use cellular telephones in the trucks for IFB (audio to the reporters ear) and PL (Producer Line) back to the station, which in this situation is going to be pretty impossible. Hopefully all of the news networks in the area all are going to be running with regular landline connections. Wireless is great, but there is only so much that it can do when demand increases. 

What is my suggestion for keeping in touch, if you are lucky enough to be down there tomorrow? Use text messaging, as text messages use an incredibly small amount of capacity to send and receive, and have a much better chance of getting though. 

This also brings up a question about overall network capacity in the area, as even if the airwaves are saturated, might the switching networks and backbones have issues tomorrow with everyone trying to send those millions of photos back through the network? I also wonder how many social networking sites will end up going down, or experiencing some downtime due to the dramatic spike in posts during such a short period of time. 

Original Article in the New York Times

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