EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the second in an ongoing series about preparations for the full solar eclipse on Aug. 21 in eastern Idaho.
IDAHO FALLS — With an expected 500,000 people in eastern Idaho for the full solar eclipse on Aug. 21, you can expect there will be trouble with cell phone and data coverage.
With so many extra phones being brought into the region, it’s a very real possibility that some areas will be unable to keep up with the demand on wireless cell and data networks.
But preparations are being made to solve those expected problems — with network upgrades and a device called a COW.
The COW or Cell on Wheels is a device being deployed by network providers like Sprint and AT&T to bolster networks. A COW is a mobile cell tower capable of providing fully functional service to areas of need. It is often used in areas that have experienced natural disasters or, like eastern Idaho in August, have a major event with lots of people.
“This solar eclipse will be one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments customers will want to share with their social network through texts, pictures and videos,” said Tara Thue, director of external affairs for AT&T Idaho. “In Idaho Falls, we’re working to give them great coverage and fast speeds for this scenic event.”
Regional Sprint spokesman John Votava said the company plans to upgrade parts of its cellular network that will extend and expand service beyond the eclipse.
Ensuring network coverage for their customers isn’t the only thing network providers are concerned about.
“Verizon has prepared our networks for the additional capacity we expect during the eclipse and have in place emergency contingency plans to ensure access to first responders and other authorities,” Meagan Dorsch, Public Relations for Verizon Wireless told EastIdahoNews.com.
Dorsch said Verizon is not planning to deploy additional temporary network assets for the time being.
All three network providers said they have worked to enhance their network coverage ahead of the eclipse.
Even with the enhancements and COWs, so many extra people, all needing cell coverage, could still cause problems.
“When hundreds of thousands of people in a limited geographic area access wireless networks, potentially at the same time, issues can occur,” Suzanne Trantow, lead public relations manager at AT&T told EastIdahoNews.com.
For information about eclipse-related information specific to eastern Idaho, visit www.eastidahoeclipse.com.