With 2 million people expected to converge in Washington D.C. Tuesday for the inauguration, one should expect weak cell phone signals, dropped calls and unsent texts. For those trying to get in touch with loved ones at the event, good luck with that.
But folks in D.C. may not be completely incommunicato thanks to a Santa Ana company that has spent the past week improving celluar service “tenfold” within the event’s square mile.
In D.C., Powerwave Technologies Inc. installed a handful of its Nexus Repeaters (pictured on right), a portable device that captures cell signals from cellular towers up to a mile away and reroutes them to the thick of the crowd. The devices, introduced seven months ago, were placed inside and outside of buildings, on top of telephone poles and, most importantly, in places right where the highest traffic is expected.
Combined with mobile companies’ efforts to limit voice calls, multimedia messaging and Twittering during the inauguration, mobile networks have a better chance staying up.
“Each operator has done its best to utilize all available (wireless) spectrum. But it is still a challenge to provide the capacity at an event this large,” said Dave Quinn, Powerwave’s vice president of its wireless solution group.
“The Nexus Repeater can take signals from any operator’s base station and extend the signals into the heart of the crowd. … From a general standpoint, I would say it increases capacity tenfold because you’ve got a higher quality signal so you can make calls,” Quinn said.
So, instead of many people within a mile of a tower getting a weak signal, the Nexus device allows more people in one spot to get a decent signal. On the other hand, this also means that people not in the targeted zone may see poorer coverage. But that’s the point. Unused wireless signal in one region is being rerouted to areas that need it.
“Our product transmits a full 70 megahertz band spectrum. I imagine, it can handle hundreds of thousands of calls simultaneously. If our technology wasn’t used, you’d have weak signals everywhere and with so much demand, it’d be difficult to make a call and maintain a call,” Quinn said.
Powerwave’s Nexus devices works with every type of cellular technology — from Verizon’s CDMA to AT&T’s GSM, 2G to 3G data networks, text messages to streaming video. And while Quinn won’t disclose which cellular companies are using Powerwave’s repeaters, he added this: “Every operator has done everything possible to make sure they’re covered.”
The company’s technology is already in use by public safety networks. The inauguration installation, however, will likely be temporary. Since the cell phone companies purchased the repeaters, they will likely take them down after the event and deploy them elsewhere at future, crowded events.
Quinn did note that even Powerwave can’t promise that all 2 million spectators can all make a call at the same time. That is limited by the wireless spectrum within the region. To avoid a wireless traffic jam, the cellular companies are urging attendees to limit calls, photo messaging and other comunication during the event.
CTIA-The Wireless Association, an industry trade group, offers inauguration tips for consumers:
All images courtesy of Powerwave.
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