Herding COWS to make cell service better during pope’s visit

Listen
 A COW, or cell on wheels, rises  on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. (ATT Wireless)

A COW, or cell on wheels, rises on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. (ATT Wireless)

With the pope coming to town in the fall, wireless providers are beefing up service in the area where Francis will celebrate Mass for an estimated 2 million people.  

It will take a lot of work to keep calls, texts and emails moving in such a crowd.  

The solution, said Brandy Bell Trusky of ATT Wireless, is a herd of COWS.

“Cells on wheels or COWS, that’s basically a portable cell site that we bring in during large events to deal with the spike in network traffic,” Trusky said. “Most recently,  we brought two COWS into the Parkway for Philly’s Fourth of July festival.”

Engineers are also working to maximize existing bandwidth to find ways to make sure everyone who wants to tweet a selfie can do so, Trusky said.

“Text when you can.  Texting moves across the network a little easier.  We also say take advantage of Wi-Fi hot spots where you can,” she said. “Phone calls would be your last resort.”

The company is also working to boost its coverage in the Pennsylvania Convention Center for the World Meeting of Families, which will conclude before Pope Francis arrives.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.