Startups / Technology

When big crowds gather, AT&T, Verizon bring in the COWs

A mobile cell tower — known in the business as a "cell on wheels" (COW) — is keeping smartphones humming as hoards of Star-Spangled Spectacular attendees descend on Fort McHenry.

This "cell on wheels" is parked outside Fort McHenry. (Photo courtesy of AT&T)

Baltimore famously dropped British war hopes in the Battle of Baltimore. Now, as Charm City marks the 200th anniversary of its role in ending the War of 1812, AT&T is trying to keep cell calls from meeting the same fate.
The carrier deployed what’s called a cell on wheels.
One of the generator-powered, self-cooling portable cell towers has been parked near Fort McHenry for two weeks, and will stay a couple days beyond the end of the Star-Spangled Spectacular, the weeklong celebration of Baltimore’s role in the creation of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which kicked off with fireworks on Saturday.
“We know we’ve got a large aggregate of people that are going to be in that area,” said Brian Harrison, a technical communications manager for AT&T.
The cell on wheels — or COW, as it’s called — will add capacity to the network serving the fort and nearby boats, preventing dropped calls and unsent text messages. COWs have been deployed during emergencies, at inaugurations, even 2012’s Star-Spangled Sailabration, Harrison said.
“It’s got all the same equipment [as a cell tower]. It just happens to be located on a truck,” he said.
In addition, Harrison said the carrier increased the frequency range for 4G LTE customers around the Inner Harbor.
Besides the temporary enhancements, AT&T has also added permanent 4G LTE capacity along the Interstate 83 corridor in Timonium and along Merritt Boulevard in Dundalk. Service has also recently been enhanced at M&T Bank Stadium, spokeswoman Elyssa Rae said in an email.
Melanie Ortel, a Verizon Wireless spokeswoman, said that carrier also parked a COW at Fort McHenry and enhanced systems in and around Inner Harbor-area attractions.

Companies: AT&T / Verizon Wireless

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