U.S. cell networks 'assessing' Sandy outages: No fixes soon

U.S. cell networks 'assessing' Sandy outages: No fixes soon

Summary: The four major U.S. networks have issued statements on Hurricane Sandy and the ongoing recovery efforts to get the East Coast cell service running again. But don't hold your breath for anything soon.


Hundreds of thousands, if not millions are struggling to connect to Internet services or access cell services across the U.S. east coast after Hurricane Sandy swept across land, hitting New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York City and Massachusetts, just to name a few.

While storm is not over yet, the major metropolitan areas on the eastern seaboard of the United States have seen the worst of Hurricane Sandy. All that is left is to remain resilient -- something New Yorkers in particular are good at -- and to clean up the damage left behind from one of the worst storms on U.S. soil in living memory.

Three out of the four major U.S. cellular networks -- including Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile USA -- continue to "assess the damage," while AT&T was less forthcoming with reporting any outages.

Here's what the major U.S. networks had to say (emphasis mine):

Verizon said that not only was its cell service struggling, its fiber and home broadband services were also experiencing extreme difficulties, thanks to underground tunnels being flooded by the coastal surge and high tides during Monday's storm. The largest U.S. cellular network by subscribers said in a public statement today at 12:17 a.m. EDT:

The storm surge from Hurricane Sandy has resulted in flooding at several Verizon Central Offices in Lower Manhattan, Queens, and Long Island causing power failures and rendering back-up power systems at these sites inoperable.

While these sites are currently on battery power, the inevitable loss of power requires that all equipment at these sites be powered down to prevent damage. Customers that are served by these central offices will experience a loss of all services including FiOS (voice, internet, video), high speed internet, and telephone services. Some customers may experience intermittent busy signals while attempting to dial 311 service for non-emergency calls. Verizon engineers continue to assess the damage at these locations and we will post updates as additional information is available.

At 12 midday ET today, the largest U.S. cellular carrier noted that Lower Manhattan was "severely impacted" and continues to work to bring its networks up to speed. According to Reuters, most of the network problems stem from the storm knocking down "many poles and power lines/Verizon cables [...] due to heavy winds and falling trees."

AT&T, the U.S.' second largest cellular network, said it is monitoring the situation and is aware of "some issues" in areas impacted directly by the storm. An AT&T spokesperson told ZDNet via email:

As we continue to closely monitor our wireline and wireless networks for service disruptions, we are experiencing some issues in areas heavily impacted by the storm.

We are in the initial stages of performing an on-the-ground assessment of our network for damage and crews will be working around the clock to restore service. We are deploying personnel and equipment as soon as it is safe to do so.  

Sprint, the third largest U.S. networks, said that flooding and damage to its infrastructure are only compounded by a backlog of connections, or data overload, forcing a limited network to process as much as it can. In a prepared statement, a Sprint spokesperson told ZDNet that the company was working on more specifics, but said for now:

Sprint is experiencing service impacts in the states affected by Hurricane Sandy and the concurrent winter weather conditions, particularly in the New York tri-state area, parts of Pennsylvania, and parts of New England. These impacts are due to loss of commercial power, flooding, loss of cell site backhaul connections, site access and damaging debris.

Weather and safety conditions are still dire in some areas, but our technicians are assessing the damage and servicing sites as they become known to us and as the areas are deemed safe to enter.

Given the on-going weather conditions, we cannot provide a specific number of impacted customers, but we ask that they remain patient at this time and exercise caution in the aftermath of the recent events.

T-Mobile USA, the smallest of all the major U.S. networks, did not say where most of the firm's infrastructure was most affected, but left a statement on its website. (T-Mobile USA was contacted by ZDNet but did not reply at the time of publication. If we hear back, we'll update the piece.)

Severe high winds and weather conditions continue to affect many areas. Due to the impacts of Sandy, T-Mobile customers may be experiencing service disruptions or an inability to access service in some areas, especially those that were hardest hit by the storm.

T-Mobile rapid response engineering teams (ERT) are assessing the situation and we are moving as quickly as possible.

Image credit: NASA.

Topics: Government US, Data Management, Networking, Telcos, AT&T, Verizon

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  • Hence why I keep pushing for hybrid solutions, and why "pure" won't work.

    This is why I push for hybrid solutions (using both internet and local resources), rather than a "pure cloud" (internet only).

    The principle of "your information anywhere, anytime" is better served when your information is synchronized with local storage, rather than accessed remotely.

    We can put plenty of storage and processing power onto devices as small as cell phones - why not take advantage of that?

    Thankfully, the hybrid solution has come true via apps (and to some extent HTML5, although that is still unreliable), rather than what the cloud purists were pushing (internet only, with no local storage other than the bare minimum needed to run the browser).
  • Kudos to Clearwire and Citrix

    Sandy passed pretty much right by us, here in the Baltimore suburbs, and I was quite worried that I wouldn't be able to work today (I'm an IT contractor, so I only get paid hours worked). We were pretty much ordered to telecommute, as the city has imposed driving restrictions downtown. To make matters worse, though I haven't lost power, last evening around 7:00 PM my Comcast internet went down

    Now about a mont ago I ordered a wireless hotspot that operates on Clearwire's WiMax network. So hoping against hope that Clerwire's tower would be functional where Comcasts cables were not, I switched it on last night and much to my surprise... A SIGNAL!!!

    So today I've been working from home all day and will be collecting a paycheck thanks to Freedompop/Clearwire.

    Also want to give a shoutout to Citrix. I've been checking Freedompop's usage meter website and it looks like my Citrix session is costing me about 10MB an hour... which is, quite frankly, amazing. Even though I'd used up some 275 MB of my free 500 MB this month, I'm probably not going to pay for an overage this month. But even if I do, it'll be pennies compared to what I'd lose in pay if I had to take the whole day off.
    • Kudos to Clearwire and Citrix

      Let me also give a shoutout to my ASUS Tranformer, the Android tablet that's a laptop when you need it to be. While I could plug my hotspot into the USB port of my dektop PC (and enjoy the advantages of my udual-monitor setup) I shudder to think of how much data I'd be consuming with applications checking for updates in the background (Adobe, Microsoft, anti-viruds etc.) A single big Windows update could easily blow through the free data I've got left.
    • Wow

      like Rhonda responded I'm amazed that people can earn $8743 in a few weeks on the computer. did you look at this (Click on menu Home more information)
  • no verizon signal

    up until about an hr ago in brooklyn ny, ive been getting a pretty strong LTE signal.. then it just went off to searching.. lets hope they fix it as soon as possible and if it takes weeks let's hope we won't have to pay for this month. probably wishful thinking though :) Thank god my area didn't sustain much damage from the storm
  • T-Mobile

    Lousy coverage in south jersey... idk who to try next att was epic fail too.
  • No denial, IMHO

    Zack - I'm an AT&T employee, so perhaps I'm just being sensitive, but how do you interpret the statement "crews will be working around the clock to restore service" to mean "AT&T is in denial" (as you claim)? Clearly all telecoms, utilities, businesses and residences in the path were hard hit by the storm.
  • Always good to have a working satellite phone :)

    Hopefully everyhing will be to normal asap. Luckily I have some of them, unfortunaly I'm on the other side of the atlantic, so I could not provide any help :(