Cellphone service disrupted following explosions on marathon course

The heavy volume of mobile phone calls around downtown Boston following explosions at the Boston Marathon has clogged cell service, blocking many from getting through to people at the scene.

“We are experiencing call blocking due to what’s happening,” said Mark Elliott, a Sprint spokesman. “The network is blocking calls because the number of calls coming in exceeds the capacity.”

He didn’t know what the exact volume of calls has been since the explosions occurred, but said many thousands of calls made at the same time can overwhelm cell towers in the area. “There’s no way the network can handle that kind of traffic,” he said.

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There have been numerous reports of many people not able to get through to their family and friends at the marathon.

In a statement, AT&T said: “As we coordinate with local officials, customers in the area may be experiencing issues with wireless voice and data service due to a spike of network activity and related congestion. We recommend customers use text messaging for emergencies. We also advise customers to keep non-emergency calls to a minimum. To help, our temporary Wi-Fi turned up for the Boston Marathon will remain on for an extended timeframe.”

Elliott of Sprint said that mobile phone users should text the people they are trying to reach in the area instead of calling to free up the mobile networks for emergency uses.

Verizon Wireless, meanwhile, issued a statement, saying: “Verizon Wireless has been enhancing network voice capacity to enable additional calling in the Copley Square area of Boston. Customers are advised to use text or email to free up voice capacity for public safety officials at the scene. There was no damage to the Verizon Wireless network, which is seeing elevated calling and data usage throughout the region since the explosions occurred.”

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