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Call failed: The problem with using cellphones at HallOUween — and how to fix it

The Athens Halloween Block Party is no time to become separated from your friends.

It's crowded, loud, and a lot of intoxicated people are stumbling around the streets of Athens. And to top it all off, you'll probably struggle to place a phone call or send a text message. 

But why? 

The Post spoke with Brian Josef, assistant VP of regulatory affairs for the CTIA, a trade group that represents the wireless industry, about why cell service is spotty during the Halloween Block Party, and how it could be fixed. 

Odds are, your reasoning as to why that happens is spot-on: Wireless carriers engineer their networks to handle a specific amount of traffic, so in the case of an event like Halloween, which can significantly increase the amount of traffic in the Athens area, the network just isn't ready.

“You just have a significantly larger population in that area for a one-time occurrence," Josef said. "So, that’s different and unusual for the usual traffic demand. Obviously wireless carriers engineer their networks to handle the usual traffic demand.”

But Josef said the problem isn't just a function of people in an area — it's what they're doing in that area. 

"That said, we’ve also seen — really in the last year or two — a tremendous rise in the use of bandwidth-intensive applications or services," Josef said. 

He's talking about apps like Snapchat and Periscope. Those services eat up bandwidth, and they're relatively new to the networks, Josef said. Combine that with an irregular spike in cellphone traffic, and you experience the issues we see at the Halloween Block Party.

But it can be improved. Josef said carriers regularly set up temporary cell sites for situations similar to the block party  — the presidential inauguration, for example, when thousands of people crowd into the National Mall in Washington D.C.

The stipulation, though, is that those temporary sites are usually the result of a formal request by city governments or event organizers, and those requests need to be given at least to 60 days in advance. 


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