Upgraded wireless networks in D.C. put to the test

Over the weekend, some cell phone users attending pre-inauguration festivities were affected by scattered service outages.

Beefed-up cell phone networks in Washington, D.C., got their first real test over the holiday weekend--with reports of scattered outages affecting people who attended the pre-inauguration concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday.

According to a story in The Washington Post, Sunday's concert-goers "sent 10 times the volume of wireless calls, text messages, pictures and videos as on the busiest hour of a typical day." Some estimates put the crowd at 400,000.

"The vast majority of calls went through on the first try," Verizon Wireless spokesman John Johnson told the Post. "We'll be making every adjustment we can make. I don't believe there's any critical capacity we can add, but (Sunday) did help us to do some fine-tuning."

The major wireless carriers have updated the capacity of their networks, spending millions of dollars and preparing for months, in anticipation of a strain on the networks during the presidential inauguration festivities. Even so, some congestion was still expected.

"We did experience some mild call-blocking, as was expected, but with the capacity we added and the number of calls we got on the network and the amount of activity, our network worked about as well as we expected," Crystal Davis, a spokeswoman for Sprint Nextel, told the Post.

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association has been advising people to choose texting over talking, and to delay sending snapshots. The trade group also suggested those who are meeting up with others should be sure to have a back-up plan. A few million people are expected to crowd the National Mall on Tuesday to see Barack Obama sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.

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About the author

Anne Dujmovic is an associate editor at CNET News. After working more than a dozen years in newspapers, including a seven-year stint at the San Jose Mercury News, Anne migrated north to Portland, Ore. There, she honed her pastry-making skills as an apprentice. Although she's returned to journalism, she still misses the free pastries. E-mail Anne.

 

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