Coming soon: Massive cell phone use increasing odds of network collapse

The first thing to go might be your smartphone’s connection to YouTube, with videos becoming increasingly choppy and then one day just failing to download. In your impatience, you decide to scout out the latest posts in the Twittersphere, except that, too, is temporarily down. Your e-mail is stalled, and even a simple text is now too arduous, as the world’s phone networks come crashing down. In the following months, it’s almost impossible to get a lasting connection, even for a voice call.

Welcome to 2013, and the first mobile meltdown.

Although this is the worst-case scenario, some kind of collapse in cellular networks in the near future is a real possibility. They are already showing signs of strain: Your phone may temporarily cut out in large crowds or at a sporting event or music gig, and if you live in New York, San Francisco or London, you may have found it increasingly difficult to make calls in your home city.