The national mall won't be the only thing pushed to its capacity this Tuesday. With millions of people expected to attend the inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president, cell phone carriers are worried that all that texting and twittering and emailing during the event will crash their network.
The major carriers have been spending millions to upgrade their networks in time for the massive gathering, but it may not be enough. That's why the same carriers are taking the unprecedented step of asking users to limit their conversations.
"If some of these estimates come true, people should anticipate delays with regards to sending text messages or making phone calls or getting onto the Internet," said Joe Farren, spokesman for the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Associaton, an industry trade group, in an report published by the New York Times. The group asks that users send SMS texts rather than make phone calls or send emails because the service uses less bandwith. "We can only bed the laws of physics so much."
In order to try and keep up with the traffic, most cell phone carriers have brought in some version of a mobile cell tower to increase their band with. Sprint, Verizon and AT&T have all added some bandwith, but it may not make a difference.
Social networking sites have the same bandwith concerns. Facebook and Twitter are both prepared for overstressed servers during the inauguration.
The bottom line for this unprecedented gathering is that consumers shouldn't be surprised if calls don't get out of D.C. on Tuesday. But that shouldn't stop them from getting upset with their provider.