Columbia, SC (WLTX) - So you're planning to enjoy the eclipse, maybe take a few photos, post a video or even live stream it. That's all great, but the problem is there are thousands (maybe millions) of people planning the same thing.
So how are cell phone companies planning to accommodate? We reached out to four major carriers and here's their plan for the Midlands:
For the AT&T customers, rejoice. This company gave us the most detailed plan.
They're working on nearly 20 network enhancement projects around the Columbia area. Hotels, the University of South Carolina, SC State Museum, Riverfront and Finlay Parks will all get a boost on the internet connectivity during the eclipse.
AT&T reports they've invested more than $800 million into South Carolina wireless networks during 2014-2016 and made more than 2,500 upgrades.
All good news for the cell coverage of AT&T customers during the eclipse.
Many of the coverage sites in South Carolina have either been or will be upgraded to 4G LTE service prior to the eclipse.
Some areas that have already been upgraded with 4G LTE are Beaufort, Goose Creek, Mt. Pleasant, Greenville, and around Sumter National Forest. They've also made upgrades to their network along highways like Interstate 26and US-50.
Those that are pending are in the North Myrtle Beach, North Charleston areas.
What does that mean? Sprint says it'll deliver greater speeds and capacity to support high data traffic.
"We're continuing to evaluate locations in South Carolina where temporary mobile cell sites and additional capacity might be needed to ensure our customers have a great experience" said Roni Singleton with Sprint's Public Relations team.
Verizon had the most generic response. For South Carolina, Karen Schulz, with their national external communications team told News19, "we will have a team analyzing network usage and making adjustments as needed during the eclipse." Schulz said they will not have mobile equipment deployed to Columbia.
As for the rest of the path of totality, they're enhancing coverage in part of Oregon and Kentucky. Verizon will deploy a cell on wheels at Solarfest near Madras, one in Bend and another on in Hopkinsville, KY where they're expecting exceptionally large crowds.
Verizon reports haven invested more than $122 billion since 2000 to increase coverage nationwide.
A T-Mobile spokesperson gave News19 this statement, "We’re boosting coverage and capacity in several areas by adding temporary mobile sites and expanding existing network capabilities so that our customers can quickly and easily connect wherever they are." They said Columbia is one of those areas.
If all else fails, here are some tips to use your smart phone in large crowds provided to us by AT&T:
- Text messaging. Text messages may go through more quickly than voice calls because they require fewer network resources. Depending on your text or data plan, additional charges may apply.
- Be prepared for high call volume. During an event, many people may try to use their phones at the same time. The increased calling volume may create network congestion, leading to “fast busy” signals on your wireless phone or a slow dial tone on your landline phone. If this happens, hang up, wait several seconds and then try the call again. This allows your original call data to clear the network before you try again.
- Keep calls to a minimum, and limit your calls to the most important ones. This will ensure that emergency personnel have open lines, in the event of an emergency.
If you're in a rural or remote location, here are some tips to maximize your connectivity provided by Sprint:
- Customers are encouraged to disable app updates on their devices.
- In instances of heavy congestion, customers are encouraged to send SMS text messages instead of making voice calls.
- Customers are encouraged to fully charge their device battery before heading to rural areas or to bring backup charging devices like a portable battery.