Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Solar eclipse may cast a shadow on using cell phones

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With millions of people traveling to all parts of the state of Texas to follow the path of totality of the solar eclipse, they should become aware that problems may occur with cell phone usage, especially in the more rural areas. The event is expected to put a strain on local cell towers as the population is expected to triple in some areas.

It was reported that during the 2017 eclipse people using their cell phones to share photos and navigate through traffic overwhelmed neighboring cell phone towers. Now that the public relies on cell phones for practically everything, including driving directions, it has been suggested that eclipse followers should bring along a hard copy of maps and maybe a compass in case they are unable to access GPS.

Some cities and towns are encouraging the public to text instead of calling. By texting for communication on April 8, it will limit the congestion of cellular networks. With so many extra phones being brought into a particular region, it’s a very real possibility that some areas will be unable to keep up with the demand for wireless cell and data networks.

One cell phone carrier issued a statement that said people across different networks saw slowdowns during the last eclipse in 2017.

Back in 2017, AT&T data revealed that there was a 40% increase in text messaging and a 15% increase in voice calls in the 24 hours before the eclipse.

The event is expected to put a strain on local cell towers, as the population is expected to triple in some areas. Some cell towers won’t be able to handle the extra traffic. This eclipse will be a communications traffic jam on a historic level. At least it will be unless service providers have stepped up their game along the path of totality—which is exactly what some have planned to do.

In preparation for the 2017 eclipse, all the major cell carriers, including AT&T as well as Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint, deployed mobile installations to beef up cell service. The installations were known as COWs (“Cell on Wheels”), COLTs (“Cell on Light Trucks”) and RATs (“Repeaters on a Trailer”).

All the big players in the telecommunications game have been preparing for the solar eclipse, which will occupy a 60–70-mile-wide path across the nation.

Some NASA scientists do warn that cell service could get spotty, temporarily. In a recent article, NASA officials said a solar eclipse suddenly changes the structure of the ionosphere, which can temporarily disrupt radio signals and GPS navigation.

Emergency responders recommend you having a backup plan for directions travelling to and from the viewing because, when you have that type of influx into the community, there's no guarantee you're going to be able to get on your cell phone and use your GPS systems.