Cell phone service providers prepare for solar eclipse

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Wireless cell phone providers are busy preparing for Monday's solar eclipse, some making network upgrades in South Carolina.

More than 1-million people are expected to make their way to South Carolina, with thousands traveling to Charleston.

Some citizens in the area have shared concerns about wireless networks potentially jamming up, while others had different thoughts.

"I guess I never thought about it," said Diane Markiewicz of West Ashley.

Cell phones have become a critical part of our personal and work life, but on Monday, usage could be impacted due to the solar eclipse.

"I think it could," said James Mixon of Charleston. "I don't know that much about it, but if you've got some major accidents how are we going to get in touch with people?"

"If it affects the towers, it could affect us," said Laurie Tisdale of West Ashley.

AT&T spokeswoman Ann Elsas said the company has made more than 2,500 wireless network upgrades across the state, including the Charleston area.

They expect customers to be able to use their phones like they would any other day during the big event.

No, [I'm not surprised by that] at all," Tisdale said. "Not at all. If everyone has cell phones that go down it's going to be a blast to that company, all of them."

Cell phone users are encouraged to keep their calls to a minimum.

This will keep the lines open for first responders who may be called to an emergency.

"It's going to be bad out here," Mixson said. "The traffic is going to be really bad. If they're out on the road when it happens, people are going to be slamming on breaks to look at it, people are going to be on their phones. No telling how many accidents we're going to have from this thing."

"I'm more worried about wrecks because of the GPS lagging [with everyone on their phones]," said Laura Mote, of North Carolina.

According to AT&T, text messages are more likely to be sent quicker as opposed to making a phone call.

You should also make sure your phone is fully charged in case of an emergency.

Verizon spokeswoman Karen Schulz said the company has made advancements to the network over the last few years and a focused on building "permanent solution [including] the temporary network assets such as COWS and COLTS to supplement coverage and capacity at events, concerts…"

As for South Carolina, Schulz said some of the enhancements include the addition of capacity to cell sites and the introduction of small cells (mini cell site technology that includes a radio, antenna and fiber connection, and sits on existing structures like a traffic light or utility poles) in every top metro market to manage added wireless traffic.

"We continue to evolve the technology used in our 4G LTE network which results in both speed and capacity enhancements for our customers," Schulz said.

Other enhancements include carrier aggregation, RET (Remote Electrical Tilt) antennae and the ability to scale deployments and changes through SDN (software defined networks).

Elsewhere across the country, Verizon is planning on deploying a COW (Cell On Wheels) at special events in Oregon and Kentucky where they are expecting exceptionally large crowds.

"Because of [previously mentioned] enhancements, we are not deploying any mobile assets in South Carolina," Schulz said. "However we will have our team of engineer monitoring the network closely and on hand to make optimization adjustments as needed."

Messages to other service providers including Sprint and T-Mobile were not immediately returned.

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