'COWS' Bolster Cell Service For Inauguration Despite some interruptions, cellular carriers said their preparations for President Obama's inauguration paid off. Providers unleashed herds of "COWS," or cells on wheels, to enhance cellular coverage for Inauguration Day.
NPR logo 'COWS' Bolster Cell Service For Inauguration

'COWS' Bolster Cell Service For Inauguration

A woman takes a picture using a mobile phone on the National Mall during the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images hide caption

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Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

A woman takes a picture using a mobile phone on the National Mall during the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

Cell phone providers took extra steps to try to make sure mobile service was functioning in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, especially near the Capitol and along the inaugural parade route.

AT&T rolled out a herd of "COWS" — not the kind you'd find on a farm, but "cells on wheels." Cellular providers typically roll these out for big events like the Super Bowl and natural disasters. AT&T also boosted wireless capability along the parade route and in 11 hotels where the company expects there will be intensive cellular useage, according to spokesman Mark Siegel. Still, Siegel said there were some instances where people experienced "some congestion" placing calls because of heavy demand.

A spokesman for Verizon Wireless said the company saw three to five times the normal call volume today, compared to last Tuesday. But, he said, the majority of customer calls were going through on the first attempt.

A spokesperson for T-Mobile said it, too, had deployed some COWS to assist with coverage and that its preparations also included boosting voice and data capacity at nearly 100 cellular sites in the Washington, D.C., area. Despite some congestion along the National Mall, T-Mobile officials said that during the hour before President Obama's speech, their network was able to support 10 times the number of calls to and from Washington, compared to a typical day.

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