News Analysis: Hurricane Irene churned up the Eastern seaboard and no longer exists. But it left behind a lot of damage. And one way or another, that helps explain why you still may not to make calls on your mobile phone.
For most of us, waiting for
Hurricane Irene to pass
was more than an annoyance, but not really a
crisis. For a few, the storm was deadly; it uprooted lives along with ancient
trees, caused widespread flooding and destroyed its share of homes.
It also uprooted businesses
that were without power Aug. 29, in some cases without access to their facilities
and in a few cases, underwater.
Depending on where you were
, cell phone coverage was the least of your
But while the storm has dissipated,
many people still don't have reliable cell phone coverage. If you're surprised,
you shouldn't be. The same factors that affected phones on the East Coast
during the earthquake a week ago, affect them now. Basically, there's too much
demand, and not enough capacity. In addition, unless you're a first responder
or a government official, you don't have the priority codes to gain access to
otherwise overcapacity cell sites.
However, unlike the problems
after the earthquake
, wireless providers have an
additional set of challenges
. The most obvious is that cell towers are tall
objects that can be blown over in high winds and in some cases, that's what
happened. A more common problem is that many cell sites rely on commercial
power and when that went out, so did the cell site. While many cell sites have
emergency generators, those can't be installed in every case, such as when the
cell transmitters are on top of a building and the landlord doesn't want a
Now wireless companies are
busily engaged in restoring service where necessary, and keeping existing cell
sites running. AT&T was hard hit in its eastern North Carolina locations,
and has already dispatched cells on wheels (COWs) and cells on light trucks
(COLTs) to provide service. Here's a video of the AT&T team dispatching
to keep things running in the wake of Irene.
Verizon Wireless and
T-Mobile reported minimal damage, and are working to keep their cell sites
running by refueling generators as needed and bringing in mobile generators
where possible. Verizon Wireless also dispatched the company's Verizon
Experience Vehicle, which is really a
mobile office with complete wireless
, voice over IP and Internet capability
to King and Queen County, Virginia. This county was particularly hard hit
by the hurricane.
The vehicle will be used by
the local government and emergency services organizations to provide
communications and a work area until restoration can be accomplished to the
county's facilities. The VZW Experience vehicle is
housed in a tractor-trailer