When the ball dropped to usher in 2008 so many people texted New Year's tidings that mobile networks jammed, the AP reports. Sadly, this is nothing new: Bounced missives in the midst of disasters like 9/11, the '03 blackout, and Katrina can be life and death matters. But full backup emergency networks would cost "billions," one expert says: "Someone's got to pay for it."
Service providers have been working to expand network capacity but the number of mobile phones in use has nearly doubled since 2001. These devices are increasingly used for such bandwidth-clogging tasks as SMS, MMS, video, web surfing, checking e-mail—and, yes, making phone calls.