Cell phone providers boosting service for papal visit

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- AT&T and Verizon are beefing up cell phone service in Philadelphia ahead of the pope's visit next month.

During the papal visit, more than a million people could crowd the Ben Franklin Parkway.

"Using their smartphones and/or tablets - whether they want to share the event on social media, texting or phone calls - this is a challenge," said Brandy Bell-Truskey, AT&T.

The concern is that the demand could overwhelm existing towers.

Part of the solution - an upgrade including the installation of three dozen small cell towers.

Both Verizon and AT&T say they studied usage at prior mass events from New Year's Eve at Times Square to Wawa Welcome America in Philadelphia.

"What we did is project that usage into what we assume is going to happen on the Parkway next month," said Clint Pagano, Verizon Wireless.

The goal to quadruple existing capacity in parts of Center City.

The price tag for these upgrades - $47 million.

Such costs were not a factor the last time such crowds gathered along the Parkway for a papal visit. During the 1979 visit of Pope John Paul II, cell phones were experimental.

Now 36 years later they are everywhere.

"It is our expectation that when you press send, that call or that data session is going to go through," said Pagano.

Temporary towers will also be brought in to help boost service.
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