Tier 1 wireless carriers Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), AT&T Mobility ( NYSE:T), Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile USA said that their networks are fully operational in the aftermath of Monday's explosions in downtown Boston near the Boston Marathon finish line despite reports by the Associated Press that said Boston Police had ordered a shutdown of cellular service throughout the city.
All Tier 1 operators reported that their networks experienced an overwhelming amount of traffic during the crisis and that made it difficult for people to make and receive calls. In the aftermath of the explosions, the carriers recommended that customers use text messaging to communicate and refrain from making voice calls to help ease the congestion.
Verizon spokesman Tom Pica said that Verizon enhanced its network voice capacity to enable additional calling in the Copley Square area of Boston. "There was no damage to the Verizon Wireless network, which is seeing elevated calling and data usage throughout the region since the explosions occurred," Pica told FierceWireless.
Likewise, AT&T noted that it was keeping its temporary Wi-Fi network that it had in place for the Boston Marathon turned up for an extended amount of time to help ease communications.
Sprint said it experienced some minor call blocking on the company's Boston network due to increased traffic but added that it had augmented network capacity along the Boston Marathon route in preparation for the race.
Nevertheless, Monday's crisis in Boston highlights the fact that intentional cellular disruptions can be ordered by the government in the event of an emergency. According to The Verge, the government has a framework, called Standard Operating Procedure 303, that details an orderly shutdown of a network and the re-establishment of the service after the emergency has passed.
In August 2011, San Francisco's Bay Area Transit Authority ordered a temporary disruption of cellular phone service in four downtown San Francisco subway stations to thwart an anticipated protest. The BART officials faced intense scrutiny over their decision and the FCC later said it would look into the situation.
FCC to investigate San Francisco BART's wireless service shutdown
BART in cell phone shutdown imbroglio
San Francisco's BART directors agree to limit shutdowns of wireless system