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USTelecom Members Pump Up D.C. Network Coverage for Inauguration

01.19.2017

Put millions of Facebook Live, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram uploads on the National Mall on Inauguration Day and communications gridlock seems a likely peril. Fortunately, USTelecom members are rolling out new equipment and innovative technologies to keep customers connected amidst the expected data surge as up to a million people converge for the inauguration activities. The success of these mobile technologies depends upon the powerful, ubiquitously wired broadband infrastructure providing the foundation for wireless traffic.

Network demands are expected to greatly outpace the last two inaugurations. When President Barack Obama took the oath in 2009, only 10 percent of the U.S. population used smartphones. Today it’s close to 90 percent. We’ve become a nation enthralled with live video and instant photo uploads on social media.  

Wiring the Freedom and Liberty Balls

Smart City, the nation’s leading provider of technology services to convention centers, and this year, providing technologies for the upcoming Super Bowl in Houston, has deployed a team of experts to meet the tech needs for those attending inaugural balls. The company will offer connectivity for the Freedom Ball, the Liberty Ball and the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. “This is such a large event that the Smart City team in our Washington, D.C. office is being augmented with three members from our national customer service team, the East Coast Vice President and the Technology Vice President,” said Smart City President and CEO Martin Rubin. “Since we have handled over 75,000 events, I can tell you that it is very, very rare that we send this many executives for one event,” he said.

COWs, Giant Eyeball

AT&T said it has invested $15 million in new technologies for the inauguration, the company’s largest temporary network deployment. The investments will boost LTE capacity across the D.C. area by 400 percent, including deployment of seven “Cell on Wheels” (COWs) equipped with new high-capacity antennas that provide more than 20 times the LTE capacity compared to a traditional cell site. And, as documented in this Washington Post video, visitors will see the Giant Eyeball Antenna, whose spherical shape allows engineers to distribute data traffic based on a crowd’s data consumption.

While the 2013 Inauguration drew a smaller crowd than in 2009, the D.C. area network experienced more than 16x the data usage. Consumption is expected to be much higher this year, said Scott Mair – AT&T Senior Vice President of Network Planning and Engineering. The success of mobile technologies depends upon the powerful, ubiquitously wired broadband infrastructure providing the foundation for wireless traffic. Many don’t realize that virtually every wireless signal ultimately travels over the nation’s wired infrastructure. Meeting the huge communications demands of big events like inaugurations and Super Bowls means we need to be committed to policies that optimize investment in our nation’s broadband infrastructure.

Portable Towers, Antenna Targeting

To meet anticipated demand, Verizon plans to boost capacity 500 percent and use smart technologies to target coverage in spots where the needs will be the greatest. For the first time, the company will be using electrical tilt antennas that can remotely change antenna angles, along with a technology that divides crowds into sectors like slices of a pie, which can be adjusted individually to handle wireless traffic. This new infrastructure previews widespread upgrades Verizon plans to make as part of its network this year, according to Nicola Palmer, Chief Network Officer for Verizon Wireless. “We’ve been preparing our network in the D.C. area for months to be ready for this historic event,” said Palmer.

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