Gulf Coast Carriers Make Ready For Hurricane Season

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South Mississippi is no stranger to hurricanes and loss of cell service. Some 13 years ago post-Katrina, Coast residents experienced spotty cell service, at best, in the days and weeks following the storm, with the hurricane knocking out antennas and power to some 1,000 towers. In 2017, when Hurricane Harvey hit the coast of Texas, Fortune reported the storm knocked out power to 70 percent of the cell towers in affected counties, including wiping out service and internet to nearly 200,000 homes.

With Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project predicting a “busy” hurricane season for 2018, which began June 1, Emergency Management poses the question, “how will cell phone service be affected in South Mississippi” this year?

AT&T and C Spire are the primary carriers for the coast and have taken steps to prepare for the next natural disaster in the area, according to JD Ledbetter, interim executive director for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

“We have met with both C Spire and AT&T and they are both confident they have prepared their infrastructure to quickly recover from a storm,” Ledbetter said.

From 2013 to 2015, AT&T invested more than $875 million in its Mississippi wireless and wired networks to upgrade reliability, coverage, speed and overall performance, reported Emergency Management. In an email statement from AT&T, the company said, “We are committed to keeping our customers connected during the upcoming hurricane season and have already taken steps to prepare.”

C Spire has also made improvements to its network including implementing backup generators for most towers, as well as having more portable generators ready to roll in case of a disaster. “In an emergency situation, essential voice and data communications are critical for public safety and emergency responders who need to get through as fast as possible,” said C Spire Chief Network Officer Keith Paglusch.

Verizon and Sprint are also preparing for impending storms along the Gulf Coast. Sprint public relations director Roni Singleton said the company has invested in “new cell sites and small cell technology,” pumps for towers that could become flooded, and reviewed “portable generator storage locations and adjusted fleet count.”

Jeannine Brew of Verizon said the company has invested in a network that will recover quickly should a hurricane hit the Gulf Coast. “The Verizon network team works year-round preparing for hurricanes and other disasters,” she said.

June 20, 2018

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