Thursday, November 1, 2012

First Electricity...Now the Cellphones Are Out in NYC...

Flooded Tunnel Under Battery Park This Morning

As if being without power isn't bad enough, many cellphone users across greater New York City and surrounding areas have no cellphone service, or only intermittent service this morning.  

Omnimetrix, an equipment monitoring and control firm that services the cellphone industry said this morning that as many as 50% of the towers in Sandy's damage swath, including NYC, are operating on generator power this morning.

While generators are equipped to supply power for 7-10 days in most cases, some failed to start due to becoming inundated with seawater from the storm surge.  In addition, high winds caused physical damage to some of the towers themselves, resulting in sporadic or even non-existent service in some areas.

A Dark View Looking North on Broadway Last Night

During the initial hours following a disaster I always try and encourage folks to avoid using cellphones to call into or out of the impact areas if at all possible.  Unless it's an emergency, please preserve the available network resources for use by emergency response and recovery crews.  Instead of making a voice call, try sending a text or e-mail, which is less taxing on most networks.

The service provider that seems to be suffering the most so far is AT&T, which shouldn't come as a surprise as they have an extensive network across the impact zone.  As of this writing AT&T has not supplied an estimate as to when service will be fully restored.  I would imagine they, like countless other government agencies and companies, are still assessing the level of damage this morning which they must do before formulating a plan to get everything back online.

***UPDATE at 9am on 11/1/12:
The FCC said late yesterday that 25% of cellphone towers are damaged and/or non-functional in the areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.  

As of this morning, much of lower Manhattan is still without wireless or wire line phone service.  Those areas that do have wireless service are being taxed heavily, especially as more and more people gradually start flowing back into the region to work, etc., and try to make calls or use data feeds.  This has resulted in an increase in periodic outages or slow performance in those areas that do have service.

AT&T and T-Mobile have announced a plan where they will "bounce" customer phone calls or data requests back and forth over their networks.  When a customer makes a call or requests data, the stream will be carried by whichever network is most operational in their area.

Meanwhile, Verizon says that 94% of its sites are now functional, and Sprint reports that 75% of its network is fully operational in the region at this time.  Those networks also reported "hiccups" yesterday as more people came into the region and started using their phones, and they are expecting more of that type of "rolling outage" as more people return to the region today.

I think the bottom line at this point continues to be this:  don't use your cellphone if you can help it, until more of the network comes on line.  This will allow emergency workers and other recovery crews to use the network resources that are available so that they can get their jobs done as quickly as possible.

If you are interested in this particular aspect of the aftermath of Sandy, please bookmark this post and check back for updates.  Also, please be sure to check the homepage of the blog and refresh there for all of the latest posts...

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