Today’s Editorial for February 5: Cell phone congestion a fact of life


Traffic is a fact of life in
Cayman. Hurricane season is a fact of life. Rising costs of living are a fact
of life here as well.

Now we learn that mobile telephone
congestion is a fact of life, too, at least when we have earthquakes.

Anyone who attempted to call
someone else using a Cayman Islands-based cell phone shortly after the
magnitude 5.9 earthquake rattled Grand Cayman on 19 January knows something was
amiss.  Most calls did not go through.

Although at the time we didn’t buy the
explanation from Cayman’s mobile phone service providers that there were no
outages on their networks, we now understand what happened: their systems
didn’t fail, they just had too much congestion. 
It’s kind of like the road system every day at the morning and evening
rush hours: they don’t actually fail, they just cease to handle the traffic in
an efficient manner.

To build more lanes on the roadways
so that they would handle the rush hour traffic would cost millions of dollars
that would have to be absorbed by taxpayers. 
Similarly, to build a mobile telephone network to handle traffic at a specific
peak time – like after an earthquake – would cost millions of dollars that
would have to be absorbed by customers.

The big difference, of course, is
that rush hour happens twice a day, five times a week and earthquakes are much rarer.  There might be a compelling argument for
building wider roadways, but it would seem silly to build a mobile network to
handle cell traffic for rare events.

Everyone who lived in the Cayman
Islands before 2003 can remember the high rates paid for telephone service,
especially mobile service.  Compared to
then, rates are now dirt cheap. We wouldn’t want to see them rise considerably just
to be able to handle rare events.

Next time there’s an earthquake, we
all need to realise we might not be able to reach friends and loved through
cell phones.  For those who don’t know
how to send a text message or use an electronic messaging service, it’s time to
learn, for those things are a fact of modern life, too.

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