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Wireless carriers continue restoring service in Gulf Coast region
Posted: 04-Sep-2005 [Source: MTN]

[Major US wireless carriers continue to restore service in Gulf Coast region. MobileTechNews looks at the latest information as supplied by Alltel, Cingular, SprintNextel, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.]

ALLTEL:

Alltel's Hurricane Recovery Team is making significant progress restoring wireless service and reopening retail stores. Service has been restored to Baton Rouge, La. and the majority of Jackson, Miss. Customers in these areas will continue to encounter difficulty placing or receiving calls due to extremely high call volumes.

Alltel is providing free nationwide roaming, long-distance and text messaging over the next two months to customers in the New Orleans, Biloxi and Gulfport, Miss., areas. Customers also will not incur any overage charges during that time period. Alltel is providing 250 anytime minutes to prepaid customers in these areas. Prepaid customers also will receive free text messaging and no overage charges over the next month. Alltel will continue to evaluate providing additional assistance to customers.

In addition, hurricane refugees and their loved ones can make free phone calls from Alltel stores to anywhere in the country during normal business hours. Customers also can recharge wireless phone batteries and receive assistance with damaged handsets and accessories. Alltel is sending 60,000 minutes of free long-distance calling cards to evacuees at the Astrodome in Houston.

CINGULAR:

Cingular network technicians are in New Orleans working to restore service in the areas hit hardest by the hurricane. Restorations efforts are being executed out of the company's four staging areas located in Mobile (AL), Port Allen (LA), Lafayette and Tickfaw (LA).

Service in Mobile, Baton Rouge and in Jackson, MS is up and running. Based on Friday's efforts, Cingular continues to make progress in Biloxi, Meridien, Hattiesburg, Gulfport and Brookhaven. Some customers are still able to send and receive calls in these affected areas but at significantly reduced levels.

Cingular Wireless has set up free emergency calling stations at its open company-owned retail stores across Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana to help the many individuals and families who are without power and phone service due to Hurricane Katrina.

Free phone calls to friends and family anywhere in the United States can be made at Cingular stores during normal store hours. The calling stations are available to anyone who simply needs to use a phone. All Cingular stores will offer free calls as they open.

The company has also set up a free mobile calling station at the Cajundome in Lafayette where thousands of evacuees are being housed.

SPRINT NEXTEL:

Sprint Nextel announced that service restoration efforts for customers along the Gulf Coast are paying dividends as more and more wireless sites and wireline services ravaged by Hurricane Katrina are coming back online.

New Orleans, meanwhile, continues to remain a challenge. Flooding, power and safety concerns are hampering service restoration for all telecommunications providers. Sprint has assembled a massive command center and restoration team near Baton Rouge to effect repairs where it is safe to do so.

Sprint Nextel has made progress in restoring wireless and wireline services across the Gulf Coast. Technicians have rerouted long-distance traffic around New Orleans enabling Sprint Nextel local telephone company customers to make long-distance calls in the Tallahassee area and in the Florida Panhandle, including Ft. Walton Beach. Sprint Nextel teams continue to work to restore dedicated Internet access to corporate customers in northern Florida.

Sprint Nextel also has made significant progress in restoring wireless service in Baton Rouge and across the state of Mississippi, also hit hard by Katrina. More than 75 percent of wireless services in Mississippi is now operational. Safety issues continue to make it more difficult to get to some sites in the region to effect repairs.

T-MOBILE USA:

T-Mobile USA announced the company has restored its wireless service to a significant level Saturday in the hardest-hit areas of New Orleans. T-Mobile engineers successfully repaired, and are operating, several sites in the area including a high-capacity cell site now running on generator power on top of the Crowne Plaza Hotel Astor on Canal Street.

The wireless service is now accessible from many areas across downtown New Orleans -- including the French Quarter, Convention Center and the Superdome -- as well as Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. In an effort to keep as many people connected as possible, T-Mobile is enabling virtually all users of GSM/GPRS phones, whether or not they are T-Mobile subscribers, roaming access to the network in the area.

T-Mobile also continues to provide priority network access in the area and throughout the Gulf Coast to public safety officials, emergency first responders, and others in need.

VERIZON WIRELESS:

Verizon Wireless reports service in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Pensacola, Florida; and Jackson, Mississippi has returned to normal, while service improvements continue in Mobile, Alabama, along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, including Biloxi, and in New Orleans and surrounding areas, including Mandeville, Lacombe, Hammond and Covington, where technicians have been able to move in and begin restoring the network. Service has also been restored at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International airport where helicopters are transporting those that have been rescued from roof tops.

Continuous monitoring of cell sites and switches in the affected areas has been under way from the company's national Network Operations Control Centers located in New Jersey and Texas, assisting recovery teams on the ground in identifying service status and conditions.

Verizon also offers these tips to help prevent the network from being overloaded:

1. Communicate through TXT Messaging since this service uses less bandwidth than voice calls. TXT messages continue to have a higher success rate of getting through in many areas where service has not returned to normal.

2. Try to limit wireless phone usage as much as possible by calling an out of town contact to let them know you are safe and asking them to spread the word to your family and friends. This will help keep the network from being overloaded for emergency workers who are depending on wireless communications in their rescue and restoration operations.


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