Cellphone signal congestion

Last week I went to the Rose Bowl to watch the USC-UCLA football game. Crowd of 88,000 people. I tried to reach my friend on my cell phone, but it would not connect to anything. My phone did indicate that it was getting a signal.

My friend had the same problem. We are both Verizon users. I heard someone behind me tell me that their Verizon phone wouldn’t connect.

However, another friend sitting next to me was an AT&T wireless subscriber and his worked fine.

Normally my phone does work at the Rose Bowl when there are smaller crowds. So can one carrier’s capacity get overwhelmed in this particular way.

Once I was about a mile away from the Rose Bowl, the phone worked again.

Yes there is a maximum number of phone calls that can be going on for a given cell. The maximum number varies due to a whole list of things. It will depend on location of the phones, how much they are talking the geography of the area rf interference etc.

Wouldn’t this mean that it’s better to have your service from a less popular company?

It’s almost like the Yogi Berra saying “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”

Or maybe watch the dang game, instead of yakkin’ on your cell phone and distrubing everybody sitting nearby?

But I wanted to meet up with my friend BEFORE the game…

Not exactly. What matters is supply versus demand, not just supply. Cell towers are expensive, and carriers scrimp as much as they can get away with.
If, say, AT&T is popular in that area, they may installed equipment with a capacity of 2,000 simultaneous calls. Meanwhile, Off-brand X has equipment with capacity for only 150 calls. If the crowd has 1999 AT&T callers and 175 Brand X callers, AT&T calls get through while Brand X doesn’t, despite Brand X having only 9% as much call volume as AT&T.

Having said all that, different cellular technologies have different capacities, with the latest digitial whizbang being far, far more high-capacity than 2 or 4 or 6 year old technology. Wen we get to true cellular VOIP, the spot capacity will be gigantic and cell overflow will become very rare.

Voice over IP is not going to do squat for cell phones. CDMA and WCDMA already only use up channel capacity when the phone is transmitting voice or receiving voice. They are not like landline phones that get 64Kbits each way for the duration of the call.