On the 20th day of January, in the year 2009, the earth might just stand still. No, not because we are electing the first African-American to the highest office in the land! A much more serious issue is afoot. This is the day that cell phone carriers forecast a significant drain on the wireless capacity in Washington DC, not allowing the record millions attending Barack Obama's inauguration to "phone home"…or phone anywhere, for that matter! Carriers are expecting wireless traffic to escalate to more than four times the norm, where demand will outstrip supply, and the likelihood of cellular users getting a "No, We Can't" response from their wireless service will become a definite possibility.
Can you hear me now?
"No We Can't"
When the maddening crowds head to Washington, D.C., for the swearing in of the 44th president's inauguration, there's one major question burning in my minds of many: Will my cell phone work? Well, think of a wireless network like a US highway. Even though the infrastructure might have required adding additional lanes, if millions of travelers suddenly decide to mobilize, you are bound to run smack-dab into some major congestion. For this reason, the US government wants Inaugural event attendees to decrease cellular network usage by texting instead of placing voice calls or sending photos or videos until after the events are over.
Hey, I’ve got your number...
In the cellular age, we live in, no one plans ahead! Who goes to the grocery store with a list any more? Much easier to call your loved one, friend of family member once you get there to ask about what you forgot to buy. The same scenario will play out over and over again at the inauguration. You know all of folks who are planning to attend. You’ve Twittered them or communicated with them on Facebook or MySpace. You’ve uploaded their digits. So you assume, it will be just as easy to hook up with them by cell, once you get there! Wrong!
But who’s counting?
Just to put things in perspective, four years ago a paltry 200,000 people showed up for George W. Bush's second inauguration (God only knows how that man got elected a second term!). About 1 million people were in Times Square in New York City when the ball dropped this past New Years Eve. This year’s Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia topped out at 2 million pilgrims. And guess what? That’s about the same number anticipated to descend on Obama’s record-breaking inaugural event.
Mum’s the word…
Due to this impending crisis, the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association is advising people to text and not talk. Text messages and e-mails travel through the network at quicker speeds than voice calls, especially during peak traffic times. Users should also get in the habit of snapping, and saving! Sending photos via the cell network eats up valuable capacity, so it might be wise to save your pictorial slideshows for post-inaugural transmittal!
Who’s on First…
CTIA notes that the big four wireless operators--AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile USA—are spending millions of dollars to increase capacity on their networks. But we all know about best laid plans, particularly when considering the upgraded accessibility for emergency first responders. While network congestion may cause problems for regular cell phone subscribers, these first responders will not encounter issues. Calls by emergency responders such as police, firefighters, and medical crews will be given priority over other wireless traffic, avoiding the communication issues, such as the ones that occurred during the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Barack’s Bad Habit...
The CrackberrySo while being forewarned is forearmed, the one burning question remains, however… will Barack Obama forego the use of his "Crackberry" during the inaugural proceedings?
Well, not according to a CNN interview he held with John King recently. He talked about the privacy issues that threatened his ability to maintain normal communications, and his optimism, unlike his predecessor to be able to continue to use his Blackberry after he enters the Oval Office.
While King noted that Barack’s life was about to change on Inauguration Day and he would "have to give it up," our President-elect responded by stating "I think we're going to be able to beat this back…I think we're going to be able to hang onto one of these (Blackberries)… as long as I think BEFORE I press ‘send’."
So our assumption is: "Yes He Can" communicate without any interruptions on the 20th day of January, the year of our Lord! It’s the rest of the 2 million that may experience a ton of dropped calls!
However, when all is said and done, cell phones should be the least of your worries, anyways! If you are truly going to attend the inauguration, what should really be of concern… is the lack of Porta-Potties!
Washington DC Porta-Potty