In Crisis, Companies Turn to Messaging
SAN DIEGO -- With cellular networks being flooded with calls on Tuesday after the apparent terrorist attacks on the United States, a number of companies turned to
A cloud of depression hovered over attendees at a
A number of vendors here touted the power of text messages, which run predominately over Internet Protocol, and wireless modems as a way to avoid clogged cellular networks.
"It is not just about voice anymore," says Tom Wheeler, president and chief executive officer of the CTIA. "This conference is about moving beyond voice."
Wheeler delivered a heartfelt message during the opening session of the conference and praised the performance of cellular communications in helping people check on their families and organize relief efforts. He also celebrated the increasing power that data is playing in keeping the world connected.
Similarly, employees of Wireless Knowledge were thankful that their own software helped them check on workers in the company's New York office, located near Times Square. Early Tuesday morning the vendor sent out a data message to all employees, asking them to respond with their whereabouts via text message, either by PC, mobile phone, handheld PC, or two-way pager, says Jeff Ross, director of business development at Wireless Knowledge.
"It was sort of a virtual roll call," Ross says.
Although Ross had difficulty joining into conference calls arranged with an unnamed carrier due to network congestion, his company was able to conduct this large scale data-based check-in.
Prodigy Communications set up a similar service open to the general public, creating an online message center that allows users to notify others of their name and location and send a brief message. The "I'm Okay" Message Center can be accessed via
Another company present at the CTIA event also used its own wireless modem technology to contact employees and check on their safety.
"Communications over phones were proving to be challenging," says Andrew Harries, senior vice president of corporate development at Sierra Wireless. "While the phone systems have been overloaded, we have been able to keep in touch. The Internet has a much greater capacity to handle the communications."
Sierra Wireless workers turned to their personal digital assistants with wireless modems attached to send e-mail and text messages to each other over IP instead of using cellular networks.
Nortel Networks donated 5000 cell phones to the New York and Washington, D.C. areas to help people communicate. The phones use a two-way direct connect technology, in addition to standard phone communications, that allows users to send quick bursts of voice communication over the network instead of tying up a line during a conversation, according to Travis Larson, a CTIA spokesperson familiar with Nortel's technology.