When the Steelers and the Seahawks head to Ford Field to play in Super Bowl XL Feb. 5, the COLTs and COWs are going to be there too.

We’re not talking football; we’re talking cellular phone service.

COLT is short for Cell On Light Truck; COW stands for Cellular On Wheels. Both are movable, generator-powered trucks and trailers dispatched to Detroit by Verizon Wireless to beef up the wireless phone service during Super Bowl week.

Besides the temporary COLT and COW mobile setups, Verizon has activated five new cell sites and is installing additional equipment on all the other sites in the downtown area.

Greg Haller, Verizon president for the Michigan-Indiana-Kentucky region, says the additional equipment will boost capacity in and around Ford Field by 300 percent, Cobo Center by 100 percent and throughout the remainder of downtown Detroit by 25 percent.

That means more people can use their mobile phones at the same time and that there will be fewer dropped calls and better reception.

The company expects it can handle the cellular capacity for many of the more than 100,000 fans expected in town for the game.

Verizon, meanwhile, has spent two years planning to handle the Super Bowl spike in Detroit cellular traffic. That included doing research at Houston and Jacksonville, Fla., the sites of the last two Super Bowls, where detailed charts were analyzed showing the hour-by-hour wireless traffic leading up to and after the game.

While past Super Bowls may offer patterns that can be predicted in Detroit, the way wireless is being used has changed a lot, even over the past year.

Now, with camera phones accounting for as much as 45 percent of all the wireless phones being sold, users are not just making voice calls but snapping pictures and e-mailing them along.

“We expect a lot of pictures to be taken by people who want to send them back home through their phones to friends and family,” says Verizon spokeswoman Michelle Gilbert. “There will surely be a lot of “look where I am’ pictures at Ford Field that will be zipped off.”

Gilbert says that in the last three months of 2005, more than 100 million camera pictures and videos were sent over the Verizon network, a fourfold increase from the 25 million sent during the same period in 2004.

Then there’s text messaging. Verizon has seen a 600 percent increase in text messaging traffic over the past year.

A December 2005 survey by Tegic Communications found 60 percent of adults in the United States have used their phones to send text messages telling the recipients they miss or care for them.

Most of those 100,000 plus expected in town for the game are from out of town and would be calling back home.


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