Inauguration Gets Extra Cell Towers Despite Lowered Expectations

One-third fewer attendees are expected to attend this inauguration than the last one, but smartphone and tablet traffic is expected to be up.

Nearly 2 million people flocked to the National Mall for President Barack Obama's historic inauguration in 2009. This year, for his second swearing-in, projections peg the crowds to be between 600,000 and 800,000, according to a WJLA report.

Mike Cornfield, a George Washington University political science professor quoted in the story, offered a possible reason for the projected downturn in attendance: "It simply lacks the dramatic transfer of power from one president to the next."

WJLA also detailed comments President Obama uttered to supporters while campaigning:

I think a lot of folks feel that, "Well, he's now president. He's a little grayer. He's a little older. It's not quite as new as it was."

Compared to the 10 official balls held for the 2009 inauguration, only two official balls are planned for this go around.

While less than half as many attendees are expected, more will carry high-tech smartphones, tablets and other devices that require wireless access.

The Washington Post is among the outlets reporting that phone companies are placing temporary towers and other equipment in the National Mall area to handle the expected increase in wireless traffic.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, said in a statement that "[we're] putting measures in place to make sure people can call, tweet, Facebook and document their experience on smartphones and social media."

In 2009, there was only one COW (cell on wheel) and one SatCOLT (satellite cell on light truck) to help mitigate the wireless congestion. This year, three COWs and another SatCOLT are in place, as well as signal repeaters in three local hotels.


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