Tomorrow's inauguration activities will stretch Washington's mobile networks, very possibly to the breaking point, according to The New York Times.

Crowds in D.C. are expected to number two million (or more) for Barack Obama's big day. It's a pretty safe assumption that the number of mobile devices on will number only slighty less. 

Incredibly, the major mobile operators are asking their users to rein in their mobile usage during tomorrow morning's event. Text messages, calls, photo sharing, Twitter tweets and Facebook updates? Save 'em for later, say the telcos. Despite system upgrades and temporary cellular radio towers, there just isn't enough area bandwidth for that level of sharing.

The Times says the event has the potential to be a "wireless Woodstock," but only if providers can deliver the essential infrastructure. 

On top of the basic human desire to share the momentous event with friends and family, countless news organizations are counting on citizen journalists to share their impressions of the day. That's a lot of mobile communication.

“We can only bend the laws of physics so much,” said Joe Farren, spokesman for the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association.

James Katz, director of the Center for Mobile Communication Studies at Rutgers University, wants to see some flexibility and agility tomorrow morning. “This is a great opportunity for the cellphone companies to show they are reliable companies that do get calls through,” he told the Times.

Rebecca Lieb

Published 19 January, 2009 by Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb oversees Econsultancy's North American operations.

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