BEDMINSTER, NJ — Verizon Wireless made more progress today in strengthening communications in many of the hardest hit and most affected areas of the New Orleans and Gulf Coast regions in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Network teams have continued additional restoration of the company's network operations in key parts of Louisiana: Verizon Wireless has brought up additional cell sites in the southern section of New Orleans, Hammond, and on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Verizon Wireless currently has coverage in the French Quarter and the company is working to bring up additional sites in that area. Crews have begun to move into the areas immediately surrounding New Orleans and into the city where it is safe to do so.
In addition, progress has been made to restore network operations in Mobile, Alabama, and the Florida Gulf Coast, where service is operating normally in both locations. "We have made dramatic improvements to our service over the last week and are beginning to restore cell towers and other network equipment in the central New Orleans area," said Verizon Wireless South Area President Jack Plating, who is leading the company's recovery efforts. "With the complete loss of even the most basic infrastructure in the hardest hit areas, such as roads, this is undoubtedly a difficult process but we are making progress each day and are dedicated to getting our customers up and running again as soon as possible."
As of Wednesday, September 7, 2005, conditions are as follows:
- The surrounding areas of New Orleans to the southwest, particularly the Houma area, and the cities of Slidell, Hammond, Mandeville, Lacombe, Covington, Metairie and Kenner have good coverage with a few pockets of limited coverage. The areas approximately 20 miles north of Lake Pontchartrain, particularly the Independence, Loranger and Folsom areas have good coverage, although service may not be available in all areas. Service is operating normally at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
- There is service in the French Quarter; however, the central New Orleans area is experiencing limited coverage.
- In the Baton Rouge area, customers should not experience any problems except for a very few select areas.
- Verizon Wireless' cell site is operational on the roof of the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino in Biloxi - the site of FEMA's base of operations in the area.
- Verizon Wireless' cell site is operational at the Gulfport-Biloxi Regional Airport, a major base of operations for the National Guard. The Biloxi / Gulfport area has limited coverage, although the company continues to bring up additional cell sites daily and coverage is improving.
- COWs (Cell on Wheels) have been deployed to boost coverage at the following locations:
- Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi
- FEMA's relief distribution center in Gulfport
- The Ocean Springs area
- The Jackson area has normal coverage with no sites down.
- The Mississippi Gulf Coast continues to experience some outages with a few areas with limited service, although the company continues to bring up additional cell sites daily and coverage is improving.
- The Alabama Gulf Coast now has the majority of service restored with a few areas of spotty coverage. In the Mobile area service has returned to normal.
- The Florida Gulf Coast area is operating normally.
(EDITORS: To view the most recent network updates, visit http://www.verizonwireless.com/news and click on MEDIA INFORMATION FOR HURRICANE KATRINA.)
Verizon Wireless support staff and equipment, including Cells on Wheels and thousands of wireless phones to be used and distributed to emergency personnel, from throughout the country are being brought in to support the restoration effort. In addition, the company's support and recovery staff has joined military personnel to tour some of the hardest hit and most devastated areas of New Orleans, conducting surveys of areas that are flooded by boat.
Verizon Wireless' network reinforcement and support includes:
- Nearly 20 COWs (Cell on Wheels) have been brought in to help increase wireless coverage in the hardest hit areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Some have been deployed, others are waiting on stand-by.
- More than 80 percent of Verizon Wireless' cell sites in the impacted area are equipped with permanent generators to provide power in the event of power loss, this capability is critical if roads are impassable in the wake of a storm.
- Verizon Wireless has also deployed dozens of portable electrical generators from across the country to the area. These are now in place to provide emergency power to cell sites without permanent generators.
- Verizon Wireless Disaster Recovery teams are coordinating with wireline and power companies to reestablish connectivity to cell phone towers in the area.
- Continuous monitoring of cell sites and switches in the affected areas continues from the company's national Network Operations Control Centers located in Texas, assisting recovery teams on the ground in identifying service status and conditions.
(EDITORS: Broadcast-quality B-roll footage featuring network recovery, reinforcement and support is available online. Log on to www.verizonwireless.com/multimedia to preview and request video segments, which can be received in newsrooms digitally, by tape or via satellite.)
About Verizon WirelessVerizon Wireless owns and operates the nation's most reliable wireless network, serving 47.4 million voice and data customers. Headquartered in Bedminster, NJ, Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) and Vodafone (NYSE and LSE: VOD). Find more information on the Web at www.verizonwireless.com. To preview and request broadcast-quality video footage and high-resolution stills of Verizon Wireless operations, log on to the Verizon Wireless Multimedia Library at www.verizonwireless.com/multimedia.####