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Verizon Wireless is installing a portable "Cell on Wheels" at the event for its customers.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
If you’re part of the masses raising your cellphone into the air to try to send off a text message at FloydFest this weekend, chances are you’re going to have to be a little patient.
AT&T’s coverage map indicates that it doesn’t offer any service to the rural region where the festival is held each year. Verizon Wireless normally reaches the area, but that’s before up to 15,500 music fans descend on Floyd and push its already spotty network to the brink.
Festival organizers say they’re aware of the problem and have done what they can to address it. For the past three years Verizon has set up a portable “Cell on Wheels” (or COW) to help its customers’ cellphones limp along.
AT&T representatives said Wednesday they have no plans to use the technology in Floyd this year, but they’ll consider it in the future.
Linda DeVito, FloydFest’s development director, said Verizon’s COW looks like a big antenna that sticks up from a portable base. It receives signal from each cellphone and then transmits it through an onboard satellite.
So far, she said the COW seems to be working pretty well for visitors on Verizon phones.
COWs are frequently used at similar events, according to Brian Joseph, CTIA-The Wireless Association’s assistant vice president for regulatory affairs.
He said a smartphone uses about 35 times as much data as a traditional phone and a tablet uses 121 times. So when a lot of people gather and use a lot of data, the networks tend to need a little help.
“The carriers really have gotten this down to a science,” Joseph said. “Not only for these types of summer events, you see these with car races and outdoor concerts similar to FloydFest, but now they do it with regularity for emergency situations.”
Joseph said there are too many variables to predict how sturdy the mobile network will be this weekend, but the COW will definitely help strengthen signals.
“This company has had a strong foundation of customer service,” DeVito said. “Whether it’s ticketing, to what we provide in terms of our music, to how we provide for cell service. It’s really important to us.”
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