Network stress test in D.C. on Jan 20th

With an estimated 2 million plus people flocking to Washington D.C. on Jan. 20 for the Obama inauguration festivities, it is sweat bullets time for cell phone carriers, satellite providers and network backbones. And let's not forget about how Twitter may break tomorrow too.

All of the major cell phone carriers are asking customers to limit phone calls and delay sending photos, despite pumping millions of dollars to "temporarily and substantially" upgrade their networks in Washington D.C. The upgrades got a shake down during Sunday's concert on the National Mall, which was attended by 400,000-plus, but carriers are urging people to send text messages rather than trying to make phone calls and to hold back on sending photos (and we would assume videos as well) until after all is said and done.

Carriers have dropped in more radios to cell towers, more backhaul to network centers, and portable COWs (Cells on wheels) and COLTs (Cell on light trucks) to supplement existing switching centers. Some calls may get routed via satellite rather than landline to bypass bottlenecks. Enhancements have been added by major hotels, and you can also expect everyone has staff a-plenty to cover nearly all contingencies.

Consumer advocates aren't pleased, saying that people who have a flat-rate, all-you-can-use plan are now being told that it isn't all-you-can-use and consumers won't get QoS in D.C. on Jan. 20.

If that wasn't enough fun, social networks are expecting a traffic spike as all the tourists, er inauguration attendees, upload their pictures to websites and Twitter away. Twitter is doubling its throughput for the event. The company hopes it will be enough.

For more:
- NY Times reports on the challenges of the perfect telecom storm. Article.
- Jaded Chicago bloggers put in their two cents worth. Blog.

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