Sprint Nextel reports that
there was some loss of service, mostly due to loss of commercial power, but the
company has already dispatched teams with generators and repair teams to bring
the network fully on line. Sprint maintains a fleet of COWs and COLTs, so those
are probably included in the mix of repair teams.
Verizon Wireless and
T-Mobile have also established charging facilities for customers at their
stores where they're providing free phone service and Internet access to
anyone-not just their own customers. Verizon Wireless reports that the vast
majority of their company stores on the East Coast are open to help customers.
So with all this going on,
why is it that you still can't use your cell phone? The basic answer is
capacity. Even though you may see an indication of a strong signal on your
phone, that doesn't help much if the cell site you're trying to reach is
already loaded to capacity. You can keep trying, but even if you do get
connected, there's a good chance that you'll get dumped when someone with a higher
priority needs the site.
The wireless companies all
recommend that you use Short Message Service (SMS) text messaging if at all
possible. SMS requires very little bandwidth. Delivery isn't time-sensitive, so
chances are that your message will get through, even if it takes a few minutes.
You might also try using a landline phone. While their circuits can also be
overloaded, you don't also have to contend with the problem of an overloaded
cell site. T-Mobile recommends that you try WiFi calling if your phone is
equipped for that. Then your call goes outside of the normal wireless network
and travels instead on the Internet.
The bottom line is that if
you're in an area that's still suffering the effects of the hurricane, reliable
cell phone service may be a few days away. The first responders need the access
more than you do, and that's why they get first dibs. Incidentally, if you need
to get a message out that involves an emergency, health and welfare, or
personal safety, and you know or can find a ham radio operator, they will be
able to get your message out.
You can probably find a ham
radio operator in your neighborhood, but most shelters, emergency operating
centers and many hospitals or fire stations will be staffed by amateur radio
operators who are members of the Radio
Amateur Civil Emergency Service
(RACES) who are trained to handle emergency
The amateur radio folks
can't help you with your business needs, but they can save your life. That's
probably more important. In the meantime, be patient. Your cell phone will work
in a couple of days.