HOPKINSVILLE -- The last time a total solar eclipse was seen across the contiguous United States, amateur photographers took Polaroid photos to capture the moment.
Later this summer, when the Great American Eclipse sweeps across America, and possibly 100,000 people visit Hopkinsville to view the event, most of their photographs and messages won't be spread by physical means. Hopkinsville eclipse viewers will send their pictures, videos and text messages over the cellular network.
To address the needs of the crowd during the Aug. 21 eclipse, AT&T will install a Mega Cell on Wheels, known as a Mega COW, during the eclipse.
"This solar eclipse will be one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments customers will want to share with their social network through texts, pictures and videos," said Hood Harris, president of AT&T Kentucky in a news release. "We're working to give them great coverage and fast speeds."
The Mega COW is a 10-beam antenna that provides 10 times the network capacity of a traditional single beam. It will be driven to Hopkinsville for the event. AT&T uses COWs and Mega COWS at the Kentucky Derby and at music festivals around the country to temporarily boost a location's cell coverage.
The variety of apps that have been created for the eclipse will also likely draw more network data traffic.
The Mega COW, announced by AT&T on Monday, is the first solution made public to address cellular network overload during the eclipse.
A Mega COW is a large white box, with an antenna sticking up from the top. It is more powerful than a standard Cell on Wheels, which provide less of a network boost.
The COWs started appearing around 10 years ago, when data networks began to handle data from smartphones.
With the spread of smartphones and the increase in popularity in video-sharing and streaming apps, the cellular data network has had to expand.
The boost to the city's cellular network should ensure that the visitors to the city can share pictures of Hopkinsville and Christian County to their friends and family.