Three of the island’s major wireless carriers reported progress on their network recovery efforts as of Wednesday, as more consumers in Puerto Rico regain services.
T-Mobile confirmed it had restored wireless service in the center of the island, connecting the municipalities of Orocovis, Comerio, Ciales, Florida, Morovis, Corozal, Barranquitas, Aibonito, Cayey, Cidra, Aguas Buenas and Naranjito.
Jorge Martel, general manager of T-Mobile Puerto Rico, confirmed that San Germán, Hormigueros and Cabo Rojo and Ponce and Mayaguez have been added as well.
In total, T-Mobile is covering 38 municipalities — with wireless voice and in some cases LTE data — including Arecibo, Coamo, Villalba, Hatillo, Barceloneta, Manatí, Ponce, Luquillo, Río Grande, Bayamón, Caguas, Carolina, Fajardo, Guaynabo, San Juan, Toa Baja and Mayagüez.
In addition to repairing antennas, T-Mobile is using available technologies to connect customers to its network including satellite and microwave technology and temporary solutions, he said.
“We’re working tirelessly to connect to Puerto Rico and today we reach isolated villages or little access,” Martel said.
“We recognize the importance of communication and we will not stop until completely lift the system,” he said, although he was unable to specify how long it will take to be back at 100 percent capacity.
“Much remains to be done but our engineers, and added to the 500 experts, technicians and support staff who has come to work with us recovery network. We continue to use all available technology to achieve it as soon as possible,” he added.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, as of Tuesday, 78.9 percent of the cell sites in Puerto Rico were out of service. Eighteen out of the 78 counties in have 100 percent of their cell sites down. The numbers represented a drop from the prior day, when 81.1 percent of cell sites were out of service, and 23 towns had no working cell sites. The drops were likely due to power outtages.
Meanwhile, AT&T informed that as part of its ongoing restoration work in Puerto Rico it has deployed 14 temporary satellite dishes that process more than 400,000 calls and 1.5 million texts per day. The carrier’s network is processing 9 million calls and 5 million text messages a day.
The carrier is reconfiguring the transmission of calls, texts and data to be done over satellite, versus fiber. This temporary solution helps connect more customers in less time, AT&T said.
“Fiber damage was significant in Puerto Rico, and reconnection and reinstallation of all that fiber will take time. Commonly, calls, texts and data travel on our network via fiber,” the carrier said. “As we work to complete the repairs, we are reconfiguring our network to relay via satellite. With this solution, calls, texts and data can travel through the network wirelessly via satellite.”
AT&T has extended the period for customers to receive unlimited data without additional charges until Oct. 31.
Claro, meanwhile, said has reconnected more than 900,000 of its clients and other providers in 48 municipalities of Puerto Rico. All local wireless carriers have opened their networks to roaming, as recovery efforts take place.
Coverage in the metro area remains stable and progressing, the carrier said.
“There are notable increases in Carolina with 45 percent of customers accessing Claro’s signal and 38 percent in Bayamón. Likewise, progress has been recorded in areas with radio bases radiating in Toa Alta, Florida and Vega Baja among others,” Claro said in a statement.
On the other hand, service in San Germán reaches 75 percent, Guayanilla 67 percent, and Hormigueros, Santa Isabel, Yauco and Florida all have 50 percent service. A total of 63 towns have one or three of the carrier’s fixed voice, data and long-distance services available.
The carrier, grouped under the Puerto Rican Telecommunications Alliance, urged the government to expedite the process of restoring power throughout the island.
“Businesses and the government itself can hardly operate efficiently without an appropriate telecommunications structure,” said Pedro Andrés, president of the trade group.
“For example, without telecommunication services, banks can not operate and that means that people will not have access to money, businesses could not process electronic transactions, medical plans will not work and suppliers will not be able to dispatch goods. That is, the island will be paralyzed. That’s how delicate this matter is,” he said.