Rush to boost cell service before Pope’s visit

Rush to boost cell service before Pope’s visit
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The city is currently prepping to accommodate morethan a million people in Philadelphia for the visit of Pope Francis during the World Meeting of Families.

That extends to the cell phone companies who keep Philly’s iPhones and Androids humming.

As anyone who has ever attended an event with more than hundreds of thousands of people knows, cell phone service can become completely jammed. Local carriers have plans to stop that from happening in Philly.

Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T all confirmed that they will be adding additional cellular service capacity to their networks, including in the form of mobile units.

“We’ll do everything we can to make sure our customers have the speeds they expect for all the Tweeting, Facebooking and Instagramming they have in them when the Pope visits Philly,” said T-Mobile spokeswoman Monique McKenzie. McKenzie said they will set up a special “distributed antenna system” from City Hall, up Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum.

Verizon will “deploy additional ‘temporary’ assets to boost our ability to handle increased voice and data usage (web surfing, selfies, video, app downloads, etc.) that we know we will see with at an event of this unprecedented scale,” said spokesman Sheldon Jones.

Jones said Verizon will be sending mobile cell-service enhancement devices to the areas where the most people congregate.

“Verizon Wireless has been preparing for the Pope’s visit ever since the World Meeting of Families announced it would host the annual conference in Philadelphia. Planning began in April 2014,” Jones said.

AT&T spokeswoman Brandy Bell-Truskey said they are also planning “a number of temporary wireless network enhancements to help support the expected massive crowds who want to call, text, post and tweet from this historic event.”

Sprint currently plans to deploy four Cell on Wheels units to serve the Jumbo-tron area where Pope Francis’ Sunday mass will be displayed, and for other high usage locations during the World Meeting of Families.

Spokesman Scott Sloat said they will be increasing the capacity of cell sites in the area of the Art Museum and Independence Mall for pope-related crowds.

Comcast spokesman Jeff Alexander said plans were still taking shape.

“We’re working with the World Meeting of Families organizers to determine needs and best ways to serve attendees but don’t have details to share at this time,” he said.