Verizon, the U.S.' largest cellular network by subscribers, and AT&T, the second largest, said today that their networks are close to being fully operational on the East Coast, days after Hurricane Sandy hit more than U.S. ten states.
It comes after lower Manhattan, which was severely affected by power and Internet outages, is starting to see the lights flicker back on, after utility firm Con Edison reported that its power grid was being restored across the city.
While many remain without Internet access and have no estimate as to when their service will resume, cellular networks are beginning to operate semi-normally across major metropolitan areas.
AT&T said that nearly 97 percent of its cell masts in Sandy-hit regions are now operational. Also, more than 90 percent of its cell masts in New York City are running again, up from 80 percent on Thursday.
A Sprint spokesperson told ZDNet that engineers have "fully restored service" to Sprint subscribers customers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.
"Sprint's network in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut is now 85 percent operational, but engineers continue to work in portions of New York City, Long Island, Fairfield County, Connecticut, as well as communities in northern and central New Jersey, which were the areas hardest hit by the storm."
Meanwhile, Verizon said that 98.1 percent of cell masts in the U.S. north-east are now working, and that voice and text messaging overages will be credited to Verizon cellular subscribers in the New York City and New Jersey.
The cellular giant added that any late fees have been suspended, and that 93 percent of its Verizon Wireless retail stores are now open across New York City.
The news was reported in two Reuters news agency wires a short while ago.
However, Verizon warned that its fourth quarter earnings could be dinged as a result of Sandy. In an 8-K regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company expects its operating results to be hit as it strives to reinvest and repair its network after its New York operations were heavily impacted by flooding.
Verizon senior vice president Robert Barish noted in the filing:
Verizon's wireless and wireline businesses have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy through a large portion of the Northeast. Verizon is currently directing its resources toward significant remediation efforts to restore communications services to affected customers, which may take some time. It is not possible at this time to estimate the impact that the storm and the required remediation may have on Verizon's operating results for the fourth quarter of 2012, but we expect that it could be significant.
Sandy knocked out 25 percent of the U.S.' wireless companies' cell sites in the states affected by the storm, according to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday.
But while the FCC warned that things may get worse before they get better, some extraordinary agreements signed between companies are helping their customers to communicate once more.
AT&T and T-Mobile USA, who share almost identical cellular network technology, partnered up to share their networks in affected areas, allowing subscribers on both networks to roam across the networks if the cell reception was operational or better.
The two cellular firms said that customers could 'roam' for the same price as if they were on the same network.
Updated at 9:30 a.m. on November 5: with comment from Sprint.