Carriers have been working since before Hurricane Ida hit the Gulf Coast to ensure network resiliency, pre-staging assets like generators and fuel, for example. Here’s an update on where things stood as of yesterday in Louisiana, the state hardest hit by the Category 4 hurricane, plus Mississippi and Alabama.
AT&T said its wireless network was operating at “more than 85 percent of normal” in Louisiana and the carrier will continue to make repairs as quickly and as safely as possible. That compares to Monday, when AT&T said its Louisiana wireless network was operating at “60 percent of normal,” and it had “significant” outages in New Orleans and Baton Rouge because of power outages, flooding and storm damage. Key network facilities went offline Sunday night and some remained inaccessible Monday. The wireless network in Alabama was operating normally and Mississippi was experiencing “minimal impacts” to its wireless service.
All of its wireline facilities were online, although many are running on backup power. “We are deploying additional generators and refueling them as needed,” said AT&T in its daily update.
The carrier has 13 mobile satellite cell towers on-air, and additional assets were on the way to areas impacted by the storm. According to AT&T, commercial power may not be restored soon, and it’s prepared to maintain and refuel generators until commercial power is restored.
AT&T is waiving overage charges to provide unlimited talk, text and data for AT&T Postpaid & PREPAID customers with billing addresses in 388 zip codes across Louisiana and Mississippi from August 29, 2021 through September 4, 2021. Customers in these areas may still receive alerts during these dates, but accounts will reflect the credits and/or waived data, voice and text charges.
Verizon said Tuesday that despite extensive flooding and debris preventing access to some facilities, site surveys to assess damage to cell sites and network facilities are ongoing – some being completed with airboat reconnaissance. The team has prioritized restoration efforts, focusing on first responders and search and recovery efforts.
“In downtown New Orleans and Baton Rouge, there are a few scattered cell sites experiencing issues, but the majority of Verizon customers are experiencing minimal service interruptions thanks to service from nearby cell sites,” said the carrier. Its teams are focused on assessment and recovery plans for the areas with gaps in coverage, which include the coastal areas of Louisiana, Thibodaux, Morgan City, Houma, Slidell, Hammond, La Place, and the southern coastline of Lake Pontchartrain.
Verizon continues it’s refueling operation to keep generators at its cell sites and network facilities running until commercial power is restored. Verizon says its engineers are confident it has the needed fuel and crews to keep that operation running 24×7 until that happens.
On Monday night, Verizon engineers began deploying temporary mobile network equipment, bringing up one cell site in Morgan City using satellite links to connect the cell site, and deploying two mobile cell sites in support of government and fire department staging areas.
Tuesday’s recovery efforts included a plan for further deployment of mobile assets to support local shelters, state and local emergency operations centers, 911 centers, hospitals, sheriff departments and fire departments. With flooding still a significant barrier, Verizon teams planned to use highboy trailers and airboats to assist with these deployments and activations. The carrier also planned to focus on fiber restoration or temporary replacements for fiber, the connection between cell sites and the rest of the network, using satellite links or microwave links.
Verizon is providing unlimited calling, texting and data to its consumer and small business customers in the following parishes beginning August 30 through September 5:
Louisiana Parishes: Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, Pointe Coupee, Saint Bernard, Saint Charles, Saint James, Saint Tammany, St Helena, St John the Baptist, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne, Washington, West Baton Rouge, West Feliciana
Mississippi Counties: Pearl River, Pike
T-Mobile said its network across Louisiana and Alabama was “about 70 percent” on Monday, the latest data available. “Some customers in these areas may experience intermittent impacts to voice, data and text service. The situation is still very fluid as first responders and utilities assess the damage caused by the storm,” the carrier said in an update.
The aftermath of large storms is usually a time of high demand for wireless networks as customers look to stay in touch with loved ones and authorities, noted the carrier. “We want to remind customers that if they’re unable to make a call, they may still be able to request help via text or WiFi calling (if a working WiFi connection is available). Find information about WiFi calling here.”
To help keep customers connected, through September 3, T-Mobile is offering free talk, text and unlimited data for T-Mobile, Sprint consumer and business customers (except Enterprise and Government accounts), and T-Mobile Pre-Paid who are not already on unlimited plans in select areas of Louisiana and Mississippi. Metro by T-Mobile customers always have unlimited talk and text on all plans.