Mobile phones face midnight meltdown on New Year's Eve

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The Independent Online
MILLIONS OF mobile phones could crash on 31 December, the Home Secretary said yesterday as he gave details of measures to cope with possible public disorder.

Jack Straw said that parts of the network could be cut off when people try to call friends and family at midnight. "It is highly probable a great many mobile phones will be used around midnight ... High levels of use could swamp the system," he said.

Mr Straw told MPs that arrangements had been made to "manage the networks", which could mean all but emergency services being cut off. There is also an alternative network, which will connect the Government, the police, fire services and the military. With events including pop concerts and firework displays across the country, Mr Straw conceded: "It is an exercise in predicting the unpredictable."

The Army will be on stand-by, with some troops ready to go into action at a few minutes' notice. Police leave has been cancelled and the fire services are to be on special alert.

One fear is that overcrowding could get out of hand, particularly in central London, where between 1.5 million and 2 million people are expected to be on the streets. A centre with emergency planning staff will operate round the clock and a committee of ministers will monitor events.