Me and my smartphone: What to expect
at the Inauguration

The million-plus people at the 2009 inauguration used their cellphones mainly for texting and calling. Monday’s crowd likely will be smaller, but this time around people will be using data-sucking gizmos to do everything from checking the weather to Skyping with Aunt Grace in Missouri. Wireless providers have a plan of attack, and you should, too.

AT&T said data usage on its D.C. area network is more than 16 times larger than it was during Obama’s first inauguration; Verizon said its traffic is 12 times greater. If too many devices try to communicate simultaneously in the same area, data traffic becomes congested and slow.

Traffic new devices can generate
Compared with the data usage of a single old-school cellphone:

Average usage per service (actual numbers vary greatly by device)

Three major companies that serve the area have boosted capacity for the inauguration and parade. In addition to permanent upgrades, you’ll see temporary cell towers dotting the Mall.

200 percent more data capacity than on a typical Monday.

150 percent more than on a typical Monday. Verizon will also have a remote command center and on-site help to deal with problems that arise.

25 percent (voice) and 37 percent (data) compared with a typical Monday.

Whether you get a signal — and how strong it is — will depend on how many people near you are hogging the bandwidth. Some suggestions from Lawrence McWright, AT&T’s D.C. area network director:

Text or tweet when you can.

Save photos and videos and send them later.

If you can’t get a signal, move to a less crowded spot.

Take advantage of Wi-Fi hotspots in restaurants or hotels.

Best bet: Go old-school and call people.

SOURCES: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, CTIA — The Wireless Association, Cisco VNI Mobile.
GRAPHIC: Bonnie Berkowitz and Cristina Rivero - The Washington Post. Published Jan. 20, 2013.