AT&T deploys Super Cell on Wheels to help provide cell phone service during inauguration

- When the massive crowds gather in the nation’s capital for the inauguration of Donald Trump, most people will have cellphones to help capture the historic moment. There is some new equipment that is being installed around Washington D.C. that will hopefully prevent the wireless meltdowns that have happened during the previous two inaugurations.

AT&T said they are ready for the big event this time as they have put up temporary towers along a two-mile stretch of the National Mall. These towers are known as Super Cell on Wheels (COWs) and other providers have also put them on the National Mall as well for their customers.

“We have set up seven of these COWs on the National Mall,” said Brian Harrison, technical communications manager for AT&T. “Our objective really is to make sure that we have got plenty of capacity across the entire mall.”

AT&T has spent $15 million and conducted two years of testing and planning to deploy these enhancements. They have had 50 engineers work on this project. They said this technology did not exist four years ago and it is believed things will finally run smoothly for this inauguration.

“They are utilizing a very high capacity type of antenna,” Harrison explained. “You notice up there at the white antennas, they look like a cheese wheel, and what they do compared to previous inaugurations and regular cell sites, normally a cell site has an antenna and it forms like a pie-shaped pattern, and everybody who is out there in that pie is being served by that one. These antennas take that same pie shape and they break it into tiny little slivers of pie so you can get a lot more radio resources for the users who are actually out there. It means at the end of the day, people are going to be able to stream easier, get their calls through, do anything they want to do by us having the additional capacity. We actually have COWs that are from 2nd [Street] all the way to the Lincoln Memorial.”

Close to a million people are estimated to be at the National Mall on Jan. 20. But how realistic will it be for customers not to encounter any issues or wireless overloads in the area?

“We never obviously can say 100 percent that there is not going to be a problem somewhere, but at the end of the day, we have invested $15 million into this to make sure that we have every asset that we could possibly put out here to make sure the customer experience is what they expect from AT&T.”

Between calling, texting or going online, Harrison said the best way to communicate is through texting because it is the method that uses the least amount of bandwidth.

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