Cellular networks brace for Inauguration Day crush

The nation's wireless carriers are expecting a crush of voice calls, text messages and picture messages out of Washington, D.C., today at President-elect Barack Obama's Inauguration ceremonies, and said Sunday's live concert in the capital gave them a hint of what is to be expected.

The wireless carriers have increased capacity for the expected volume of traffic on the networks, and for weeks have warned customers to expect scattered outages in their networks. In December, T-Mobile USA said it would deploy Cells-on-Wheels (COWs) to boost capacity in Washington, and AT&T Mobility said it planned to boost capacity on its HSDPA network.

More than 400,000 people crowded the Mall by the Lincoln Memorial Sunday for a free concert, which gave Verizon Wireless a chance to do some last-minute adjustments to its plans for Inauguration Day. Sprint Nextel also has said it would boost capacity for its macro network, and while it did experience some network disruptions Sunday, the network performed as well as was expected. More than 1.2 million people are expected to crowd the Capitol and the Mall today.

CTIA is urging people attending the Inauguration to send text messages instead of making voice calls, and to try to wait on sending picture or video messages until after the event.

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