Nearly 800,000 people flocked to Donald Trump's inauguration last week. Mobile data networks like AT&T spent millions in preparation for the event, and the network remained strong through ceremonies including the inauguration, parade, and parties. But no one was prepared for huge ("yuuuge!") crowds that assembled for #WomensMarch in major cities and small towns the following day.
In D.C. alone experts project that 500,000 to 1 million people rallied, joining millions in protests from New York to Paris to Rapid City. On Saturday evening CBS News reported that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority recorded 275,000 rides, compared to 193,000 for the inauguration the day prior. By Monday the D.C. MTA estimated more than 1 million #WomensMarch attendees used public transportation, the second highest ridership in the system's history after the first Obama inauguration.
WATCH: Women's march on Washington: The Top Moments (CBS News)
Though official tallies and "alternative facts" of attendance vary, mobile network capacity provides additional insight on the amount of people streaming photos, video, and status updates from the events. AT&T, the official data network for the inauguration, collaborated with other major data networks to build a robust infrastructure. The company anticipated approximately 800,000 inaugural attendees, and spent nearly $15 million over two years to quintuple infrastructure capacity in D.C. The network deployed seven Super Cell-on-Wheels units, four Giant Eyeball antennas, and two high-capacity Drum Set Antennas at the National Mall. The state-of-the-art Drum Set Antennas provide 20 times the LTE capacity of a traditional data tower.
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The network upgrades were enough to easily withstand inaugural crowds but were hammered by the amount of media streamed during #WomensMarch events. "In 2013, during Obama's second Inauguration... data usage on our D.C. area network was more than 16 times larger than it was during Obama's first inauguration in 2009. We expect to see even more data usage this year as streaming video apps have gained in popularity," said AT&T's VP of Tech Planning & Engineering Scott Mair.
Instagram was one of the primary social networks used by demonstrators. "Millions" of photos and video were publicly streamed on the mobile platform, said a company spokesperson, adding that "the [#WomensMarch] community has taken to Instagram to share their creative signs, fashion statements, and overall camaraderie."
Many of those protest sign photos went viral. According to data provided by Instagram these are the top protest signs from the weekend.
Use the green arrows to scroll between images.
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- Women's March overwhelms mobile network in DC (CNET)
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- Women's March on Washington draws hundreds of thousands (CBS News)
Image: johncouchthethird / Instagram
Dan Patterson has nothing to disclose. He does not hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Dan is a Senior Producer for CNET and CBS News.