Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wireless companies prepared for Isaac's impact on mobile networks

During hurricane season, consumers and businesses and are encouraged to have an emergency plan prepared and assemble an emergency kit. (Photo courtesy of C Spire Wireless)

Hurricane Isaac, which has now been downgraded to a tropical storm, made landfall along the Louisiana Gulf Coast and wireless carriers were ready to ensure your mobile devices would work as conditions worsen or if wireless networks were threatened.

This year's hurricane season started on June 1 and emergency mobile plans are in place for AT&T, C Spire Wireless, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and others.

AT&T stands ready to keep their networks working with the "first nationwide" preparedness certification in hand from the Department of Homeland Security. This certification enhances their Network Disaster Recovery program, which includes a $600 million investment and 320 technology-equipped trailers that are ready to deploy to areas damaged by hurricanes or other disasters.

AT&T's disaster tips for consumers and small business include keeping you phone battery charged at all times, emergency numbers in your contacts' list and having a family communication plan.

For C Spire Wirelesscustomers in Mississippi and along the Gulf Coast, the wireless communications company says they are ready with two hurricane "super switches," which are rated to withstand a Category 5 storm.

These super switches facilities in Hattiesburg, Miss. and Mobile, Ala., have reinforced interior walls, steel reinforced roofs and a 500 kilowatt diesel generator, along with a battery grid. The facilities are designed to operate after the loss of commercial power, which can last for days.

“We live in a wireless world so when severe weather or a natural disaster strikes, individuals, families and emergency responders depend on their wireless phones as a lifeline to the outside world,” said Eric Hollingsworth, vice president of Network Operations for C Spire Wireless. “We are committed to providing our customers with the best network coverage."

C Spire also has set up a special storm hotline at 1-888-276-8845, which gives an update on the status of their personalized network and emergency response plan.

As a service to emergency responders, C Spire is waiving the one-time activation charge and monthly service fee for their Wireless Priority Service (WPS) to ensure a higher priority network connection during a disaster.

Sprint Nextel's Emergency Response Team, or ERT, is on standby for Isaac's anticipated impact. These "seasoned emergency" professionals can restore wireless services, mobile broadband devices and ensure coordination among emergency responders.

If networks are threatened, Sprint's Satellite Cell on Light Trucks, or SaColt vehicles, are ready to deploy whatever resources are needed to first responders and public safety officials.

As a further show of support during national disasters, Sprint supplies state and local agencies with 25 mobile devices and wireless services free of charge for 14 days.

Verizon Wireless has been preparing for severe weather threats since last year, with a $39 million investment just in south Mississippi to ensure wireless network are safe and reliable. This is part of a national network investment that exceeds $70 billion for increased capacity and new services.

“Wireless communication is critical to Mississippians, especially during storms and other severe circumstances,” said Krista Bourne, president of the Houston/Gulf Coast region for Verizon Wireless. “We work hard to maintain the strongest infrastructure and provide the best, most reliable services to our customers in any situation.”

Verizon's disaster resources include mobile cell towers and 35-foot trailers that serve as mobile centers. The trailers have 50 charging ports available for customers with low batteries on their mobile phones.

You'll also find sit-down stations with Internet and mobile phones, along with eternal LCD screens for the latest weather information.

In the event of power loss, Verizon's generators have pre-arranged fuel delivery and expanded fuel tanks for extended power-generating capacity.

As Isaac continues to move through Louisiana, all the wireless companies will be monitoring weathers conditions throughout the night to ensure their networks remain active.

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