Morning Brief: Mobile Phone Traffic to Spike on Inauguration

With millions expected to flood into the Washington area for the presidential inauguration Jan. 20, wireless carriers are projecting an explosion of cellular phone traffic.

Some fear that so many calls, text messages, photos and video clips hitting the airwaves at the same time can choke communication networks and result in delayed messages and dropped calls.

So wireless operators are urging people to avoid making calls and instead send text messages because they take up less bandwidth, staff writer Kim Hart reports.

TeleCommunication Systems in Annapolis says it works with the top carriers -- Verizon Wireless is its biggest client -- to deliver about 25 percent of the nation's text messages. Last year, users sent nearly 200 billion messages, the company estimates. Even though the carriers are preparing for the spike in use, Mark Titus, TeleCommunication Systems' senior director of product management, told Hart consumers could still experience congestion.

Two local companies, TeleCommunication Systems and AppTek, seek to enhance text messaging at the inauguration. (Bigstockphoto)

Titus pointed to the text message President-elect Barack Obama's campaign sent to 6 million voters last year when he won the Democratic nomination.

"That message blast was not properly coordinated with carriers," he said, so the influx of messages was interpreted as a cyber-attack by some networks, causing the traffic to be blocked or delayed.

The company is also working with the Federal Communications Commission to develop a location-based broadcast system so weather alerts and public safety warnings can be sent to the cellphones of residents of a geographic area. That saves network resources by avoiding having to send millions of individual messages, Titus said.

In other news:

* In Anne Arundel County, where there were once trees and fields stand office buildings adorned with the names of giant military contractors: Northrop Grumman, Sikorsky, Raytheon and more. The road leading to the Patuxent River Naval Air Station has widened from two lanes to six and become lined for miles with shopping centers and big-box stores, staff writer Ashley Halsey III reports.

Halsey details how the transformation and challenges outside the Southern Maryland base in the past decade have helped guide those laying the groundwork for the transfers that will begin in earnest in 2011. Washington region planners are contemplating what effects the military base realignment and closure (BRAC) process could have on Fort Belvoir and Fort Meade.

* Last week, the North American arm of the Serco Group of Britain closed on its acquisition of Reston-based SI International, a government contractor that services the Department of Defense and other federal agencies.

The deal comes at an uncertain time for government contracting, with a ballooning federal deficit and the change in presidential administrations. Chief executive Edward J. Casey Jr. had some thoughts on those and other issues here.

* Washington is expected to be the nation's most-visited destination by charter buses this year according to a forecast from the American Bus Association.

Inauguration packages will help boost the expected number of bus visitors beyond the 7 million who came last year, as will the reopening of the Smithsonian American History Museum and new tour packages focused on African American culture and history and the Lincoln bicentennial, said Theresa Belpulsi of Destination D.C.

By Alejandro Lazo  |  January 5, 2009; 9:19 AM ET  | Category:  Morning Brief
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