In Puerto Rico, AT&T deployed its helicopter Flying COW (Cell on Wings) for the first time ever in a real-world environment delivering LTE data, voice and text services to customers. The news comes as FCC Chairman Ajit Pai toured the area to assess the status of recovery efforts and consult with local government officials on next steps that the FCC should take to help the restoration of communications networks. (see top story)
The Flying COW is providing wireless connectivity to customers in an up to 40-square mile-area. It flies 200 feet above the ground and can extend coverage farther than other temporary cell sites — it’s ideal for providing coverage in remote areas, according to the carrier.
LTE-connected drones hold a lot of potential for FirstNet-subscribers. This deployment gives AT&T a chance to help restore temporary connectivity on the island as well as assess how first responders can use the drone in the future.
Operating as a cell site on a drone, the Flying COW is currently deployed in the San Juan area and the carrier plans to relocate it in a few days to support additional areas, including the military hospital at Manatí Coliseum. Nearly 70 percent of the population in Puerto Rico and nearly 95 percent of the population in the U.S. Virgin Islands are connected again, according to AT&T.
The FCC’s latest report shows 48.9 percent of the cell sites in Puerto Rico are out of service. In 49 out of 78 counties, more than 50 percent of the cell sites are not working. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, 38.8 percent of cell sites are out of service. In St. John, 88.9 percent of cell sites are not working.
Verizon, meanwhile pledged an additional $4 million and a commitment to identify organizations that could provide significant long-term recovery assistance to the islands. The carrier initially pledged $1 million to recovery efforts in September. Verizon doesn’t operate a wireless network in Puerto Rico nor in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but is “deeply connected to the communities there, through our customers and our employees,” said company chair/CEO Lowell McAdams.
November 8, 2017