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Featured January 2020 Earthquake

FCC: 31.7% of P.R.’s wireless cell sites are out-of-service post-earthquake

The Federal Communications Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau confirmed that 31.7% of the cell sites providing wireless communications in Puerto Rico are out of service as a result of this week’s earthquakes.

In total, cable and wireline companies reported 258,637 out-of-service subscribers in Puerto Rico as of Jan. 8, which may include the loss of telephone, television, and/or internet services, the FCC stated.

The strong seismic activity that produced back-to-back 6+ magnitude earthquakes on Jan. 6 that triggered an islandwide blackout that persists in many areas knocked out a significant percentage of cell sites in many parts of the island.

According to the FCC’s report, the town of Luquillo has 66.7% of its cell sites down, followed by Guayanilla — which is close to the epicenter — with 55.6%. Quebradillas (55.6%), Aibonito (54.9%), Juncos (54.5%) Aguadilla (52.9%), San Germán (50%), and San Sebastián (50%) followed.

The number of cell site outages in a specific area does not necessarily correspond to the availability of wireless service to consumers in that area.

That is because wireless networks are often designed with numerous, overlapping cell sites that provide maximum capacity and continuity of service even when an individual site is down.

“In addition, wireless providers frequently use temporary facilities such as cells-on-wheels (also known as COWs), increased power at operational sites, roaming agreements, or take other actions to maintain service to affected consumers during emergencies or other events that result in cell site outages,” the agency said.

The FCC gathered its data from local telecommunications service providers who began reporting their infrastructure status earlier this week.

Communications providers serving all of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities must “expeditiously submit” to the FCC the status of their communications equipment, restoration efforts, and power.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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