Cell networks handle inauguration volume smoothly

Months of planning by the USA's biggest cellphone carriers paid off Tuesday, with the Washington, D.C., networks of AT&T, Verizon and Sprint handling millions of additional calls, texts and downloads without any major incidents or failures.

Months of planning by the USA's biggest cellphone carriers paid off Tuesday, with the Washington, D.C., networks of AT&T, Verizon and Sprint handling millions of additional calls, texts and downloads without any major incidents or failures.

As of midday, Sprint s was reporting a 211% increase in traffic — voice, data and text — in and around the Mall area in downtown Washington, site of the noon ET presidential inauguration. "There have been some delays in text deliveries and receipt, but otherwise, it's going very, very well," said Sprint spokesman John Taylor.

He said calling volume dropped considerably after the swearing-in ceremony.

The story was much the same at Verizon vz, which saw call volume more than triple in the hours leading up to the inauguration. Even so, there were no major disruptions, says Verizon spokesman John Johnson.

"Even in the most crowded areas, the vast majority of calls are going through on the first attempt," Johnson reported, calling in on his cellphone near the swearing-in site.

There had been some concern that massive amounts of picture transmission by enthusiastic crowds, eager to record their own piece of history, might cause network crashes during the swearing-in. But that didn't happen.

"Text and pictures (transmission) have not experienced any delays," Johnson says.

AT&T t also reported no problems, despite a six-fold increase in text messaging and a doubling of call volumes.

"We have had some congestion, which is no surprise, given the large number of people and heavy usage, but overall, we are pleased," AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said in an e-mail.

All three carriers have been adding capacity — in the form of cell towers and "backhaul" equipment, some temporary, that connects towers to the local land-line network — in downtown Washington for months.

Sprint says it put in enough capacity to handle 10 to 15 times the normal call loads. AT&T expanded local capacity by more than 80%. Johnson at Verizon, the hometown phone company in Washington, declined to say how much capacity it added, saying only: "We've been getting ready for this for a long time."

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