Sandy downed 25 percent of cell masts, says FCC

Summary:The worst storm to hit the U.S. in living memory has downed around a quarter of all cell masts across the ten states affected by Sandy, the federal regulator said on Tuesday.

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Hurricane Sandy has pulled down around 25 percent of the U.S.' wireless companies' cell sites in the 10 states affected by the storm, federal regulators said on Tuesday.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) told reporters that most of the cell towers still operational are being powered by generators but could run out fuel before domestic electricity service is restored to the affected areas, reports the Associated Press news agency.

In spite of the downed trees and the massive power outages, the landline phone network has held up better in the affected 10 states hit by Sandy than the cell networks have. That said, more than a quarter of landline customers are affected by outages in Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York City and state.

However, the FCC did not give an estimate to how many users were affected by the cell outages.

911 call centers have held up well, according to the regulator, but some are affected by the power outages and are re-routing calls to other centers outside of callers' nearby locations.

"The storm is not over. And our assumption is that communications outages could get worse before they get better, particularly for mobile networks because of the flooding and loss of power," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said during a conference call late yesterday.

Out of the major U.S. cellular networks, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile all said  they would continue to "assess the damage" left by Sandy, but did not have a time frame of when services might be up and running again. 

Verizon said its offices had flooded, and those served by those offices "will experience a loss of all services including FiOS (voice, internet, video), high speed internet, and telephone services." Sprint said customers "particularly in the New York tri-state area, parts of Pennsylvania, and parts of New England" would be most affected.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile USA did not give any definitive response on where it was most hit; neither did AT&T, but said they would continue to assess the situation on the ground.

Image credit: Shara Tibken/CNET

Topics: Government : US, 4G, Networking, Telcos, Verizon

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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