Inauguration 2013: Phone companies adding towers to increase cell ability

When a record 1.8 million people converged on the National Mall for the 2009 inauguration, cell phone service was nearly non-existent.

Dianne Hammond was at the capitol during the ceremony for the swearing in and couldn't contact her friends.

“When I tried to make calls down at the mall and also headed back home,” Hammond says. “I wasn't able to reach anyone.”

Cell service providers AT&T and Sprint have erected a dozen towers throughout the National Mall. AT&T says it will provide five times the amount of service it did four years ago.

Greater bandwidth is necessary because, unlike 2009, more people will be using social media like Twitter and Facebook and sending videos while they are down on the mall.

“We're focused on increasing the data capacity in the area since we know customers are going to be using more data than last time,” says Ryan Joyce of AT&T. “We've increased capacity over 200 percent in the last 18 months.”

Wifi hot spots will also be available at places like Starbucks and McDonalds. Providers are hoping that will cut down on the demand on these mobile units.

MPD's Chief Cathy Lanier says solid cell service is critical to a successful inaugural day.

“When it comes to the general public, safety around the city - not just on the mall, but the entire city - we want to make sure,” Lanier says.