Feature Article

November 01, 2012

Hurricane Update: Slight Improvement in Cell Tower Service Reported, AT&T, T-Mobile Will Share Networks in New York, New Jersey

There was a slight improvement in the number of cell towers knocked out of service by Hurricane Sandy – as news also came that AT&T and T-Mobile will share networks in the hard-hit areas of New York and New Jersey.

The Associated Press reported about 20 percent of cell towers were out of service in a region stretching from Virginia to Massachusetts. That is slightly better than the 25 percent of cell towers that were out of service on Tuesday. 

Image via Shutterstock

In addition, the joint effort by AT&T and T-Mobile could improve cell service to customers who were forced to use networks that had been impacted by the hurricane. Users can switch between either networks and will not be charged extra for the option, the companies said.

"AT&T and T-Mobile customers will be able to place calls just as they normally would, but their calls will be carried by whichever network is most operational in their area," a company statement said. "This will be seamless for AT&T and T-Mobile customers with no change to their current rate plans or service agreements even if the phone indicates the device is attached to the other carrier’s network."

The sharing can take place because AT&T and T-Mobile use the same GSM and UMTS standards, according to the Huffington Post.

It is noteworthy that AT&T and T-Mobile shared networks after Hurricane Katrina blasted the Gulf Coast.

With Sandy, the Huffington Post reports that Verizon may have some of the worst damage to network infrastructure. Its offices in New York City were flooded, and equipment may have been damaged. Verizon Wireless said six percent of its cell sites were down in the storm-damaged areas, according to The New York Times. 

There are parts of lower Manhattan with little or no cell coverage, the newspaper reported.

Also, some 20 percent of T-Mobile’s network was not working in New York City and some 10 percent of its network was not working in Washington, D.C., news reports said. Sprint and AT&T also saw service interruptions.

Hurricane Sandy led to floods, power outages, high winds and snow on the East Coast of the United States – all of which affected cell phone towers, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

The towers were located in 10 Eastern states, and it does not appear the service disruptions would be resolved soon, TechZone360 reported. Many cell phone towers that continued to operate were using emergency generators, though they may run out of power before utility companies can restore their electricity, the FCC warned.

"Our assumption is that communications outages could get worse before they get better – particularly for mobile," Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the FCC, said on Tuesday.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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