• United States



by Paul Kerstein

Cell Operators Restore New Orleans Networks

Sep 06, 20053 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

Mobile operators continue their efforts to restore service in the areahit by Hurricane Katrina. T-Mobile USA Inc. appears to be offering themost coverage in New Orleans, a city that is still underwater anddangerous to enter.

By Saturday, T-Mobile had opened a cell site on top of the Crowne PlazaHotel Astor on Canal Street in downtown New Orleans. That site plusseveral others in the area are providing coverage in the FrenchQuarter, the convention center, the Superdome and the airport in NewOrleans. T-Mobile technicians have been able to enter the city and workon cell sites under the escort of the U.S. National Guard.

On Monday, Verizon Wireless Inc. said it was offering only limitedcoverage in central New Orleans but had restored service at the airportand areas to the southwest of the city. Technicians are preparing to beescorted into the city center to work on repairing the company’snetwork there, Verizon said Monday.

Cingular Wireless LLC has crews on the ground in New Orleans, wheresome calls are being supported through the city but at reduced levels.Sprint Nextel Corp., meanwhile, called the situation in New Orleans”tenuous” due to the challenges from continued flooding and safetyissues.

Many of the operators have deployed cell sites on wheels, mobile cellsites that can be quickly moved into an area to either boost networkcapacity or extend service to uncovered regions. Cingular is using 30cells on wheels and Verizon has almost 20 in the region.

T-Mobile’s New Orleans switching facility operated throughout thehurricane and continues to support calls. After the hurricane hit,T-Mobile airlifted supplies, technicians and fuel, with the help oflocal law enforcement, to keep the switch up and running.

Many of the operators are also donating or loaning cell phones toemergency workers as well as local residents in an effort to supportrelief efforts and to help reunite families.

T-Mobile, Cingular and Verizon are all offering free phone calls topeople affected by the hurricane at their retail locations. SprintNextel said it will soon offer details of its pricing and billingpolicy for people in the region.

Verizon and T-Mobile are suggesting that customers consider using textmessaging instead of making voice calls. When networks are heavilyloaded, users may not be able to make voice calls but since data istransmitted essentially when space is available on the network, textmessages have a better chance of eventually getting through.

Independently, wireless enthusiasts at a group called CommunityWireless have begun travelling to the Gulf Coast region to help set upwireless networks, likely based on Wi-Fi, as well as a low-power FMradio station in an effort to help affected people and emergencyresponse efforts.

By Nancy Gohring – IDG News Service (Dublin Bureau)