Boston Cell Networks Overwhelmed in Aftermath of Bombings

Tuesday, 16 Apr 2013 09:58 AM

By Courtney Coren

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Congested wireless networks prevented many cellphone users from making calls Monday, following the horrific Boston Marathon bombings.

Initial reports suggested that the Boston-area system had been shut down by law enforcement to ensure that other bombs if present could not be detonated by a wireless device. But those reports were late retracted, according to Politico, when it became clear the problem was technical one due to the inability of various cell services to handle all the sudden phone traffic.

The networks were so jammed with calls that the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency sent out a message via Twitter saying, “If you are trying to reach friends or family and can’t get through via phone, try [texting] instead (due to less bandwidth).”

Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon all reported having disruptions to their service due to the high volume of calls.

“We are experiencing some above-normal call blocking in Boston as a result of today’s events,” Sprint told Politico. “Sprint did augment capacity on its cell sites along the marathon route in preparation for today’s race, and voice levels are returning to normal as law enforcement and first responders have cleared out the area as part of their response.”

It is not unusual for wireless networks to become overwhelmed during both emergencies and at events where there are a large number of people gathered. Cellphone companies were criticized for wireless outages during Hurricane Sandy and Inauguration Day in January.

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