Ahead of Snowstorm, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Prepare for a Mess

As a major winter snowstorm heads toward the Northeast U.S., the big-four wireless carriers say they are ready to respond to any problems.

Winter Storm Jonas, COWs, mobile carriers, mobile networks, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, emergency response team

With Winter Storm Jonas growing in intensity as it approaches the Northeastern United States megalopolis, the big-four wireless carriers say they are ready to cope with weather-related problems that might arise and to keep their customers connected and safe during the weekend storm.

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon all issued advisories as the snowstorm headed north, detailing to customers the steps they have been taking to ensure that their wireless networks will perform as needed as Jonas plows into the Eastern seaboard and major cities, including Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York.

AT&T said it has an "arsenal of disaster response equipment and personnel on standby" ahead of the storm and that the company is ready to respond quickly if outages or other problems arise. The preparations include the activation of AT&T's storm preparedness process, the refueling of emergency generators that are positioned within the region, and the installation and testing of high-capacity backup batteries at cell tower sites, according to the company. AT&T's national reliability center is also monitoring outages across the region.

"We know our customers rely on us, particularly during major snowstorms like this one," J. Michael Schweder, president of AT&T Mid-Atlantic, said in a statement. "That's why we perform extensive drills and simulations throughout the year. We do all we can to have our networks prepared when severe weather strikes."

At Sprint, the company's network teams are already monitoring its systems and began their storm preparation activities in advance of Jonas, Sprint spokeswoman Roni Singleton told eWEEK in an email response to a query. "If network [restoration] is needed, we have resources ready to transport, fuel and maintain portable generators," she wrote. "We've got hundreds of generators ready to deploy in impacted markets across the East and South." Also ready are temporary, portable Cell-On-Wheels (COW) trailers that can be brought in to provide services when normal networks are damaged or inoperative.

T-Mobile said it has been preparing for the blizzard conditions, snow, ice and cold temperatures being brought to the area by Winter Storm Jonas by monitoring the approaching weather and preparing equipment and personnel based on real-time information.

T-Mobile has also positioned COW trailers across the area, fuel tanks to keep the equipment powered up and teams of engineers and rapid-response workers for fast response to any incidents that arise, the company said in a statement.

In addition, T-Mobile stores that are open during and after the storm will provide phone charging stations for free to all consumers who need help, including customers of competitors.

Verizon said it is ready for the approaching storm with a cadre of large-scale, on-site power generators and other backup systems that are designed to keep its network going amid such storms. In addition to armies of its own COW trailers, the company also has Cells On Light Trucks (COLTs), Cellular Repeaters On Wheels (CROWs) and Generators On A Trailer (GOATs) at the ready to respond to any network problems as needed. Fuel delivery tankers are on standby if needed to refuel generators and portable equipment, according to the company.

"During severe weather or an emergency, we want our customers and communities to feel confident in our network's coverage and strength," Verizon said in a statement. "In addition to network preparations, we work to ensure residents of impacted areas can reach loved ones and start personal recovery by readying mobile stores, mobile communications centers and charging stations for deployment, as well as collaborating with local response agencies to prepare emergency equipment."

Wireless customers of all four carriers are being advised to prepare for the approaching storm by keeping their smartphone batteries fully charged in case of power outages and to have a backup charging method, including an in-car charger or spare batteries, if necessary. Smartphone users are also reminded to keep their devices dry during the inclement weather, including keeping the devices in a sealable plastic bag if you have to go outside. Users can also set their devices to maximize battery life and conserve power, the companies advised.

Families should also have a central meeting place in the event of an emergency where they can all gather, as well as emergency phone numbers stored for easy use if needed. Users can also forward their home telephone numbers to their cell phones if they have to leave their homes.

In the event of network problems, users are advised to try texting rather than calling because it requires fewer network resources, especially when system traffic is high during emergencies.

Mobile users can also download the FEMA app to get information in the event of weather emergencies in their areas.