Although widespread power outages brought down cellular and Internet service in parts of the region, Cellular South customers experienced only minimal service interruptions. Because of a multimillion dollar infrastructure investment and intense preparation, Cellular South’s network successfully logged 62.2 million minutes of customer use in the impacted areas over the long weekend and through the storm and its aftermath Tuesday. That total represented a 20 percent increase over normal call volumes for a holiday weekend.
On Tuesday, Cellular South opened all of its retail locations and is currently offering the opportunity for people to charge their mobile phones and make free calls from these locations. The company also established an online website (www.cellularsouth.com/hurricane) and a mobile website (www.cellularsouth.com/storm) with timely information and resources to help customers and the general public recover from Hurricane Gustav and its aftermath.
For updates, call #STORM (78676) from a Cellular South phone or call toll-free 1-CSOUTH5 (1-888-276-8845) for information about the status of wireless service and retail store schedules
“We were the only wireless provider to deliver continuous service during Hurricane Katrina three years ago. Once again, with the storms that hit the Gulf region on Monday, Cellular South demonstrated its commitment to providing the best wireless service to our customers in any situation,” said Jim Richmond, director of Corporate Communications for Cellular South. “We have continued to enhance our systems over the last couple of years since Katrina to ensure our network is not compromised during severe weather.”
Since Hurricane Katrina, Cellular South has invested over $15 million in equipment and system upgrades just in the coastal region, including $2.5 million in microwave technology to help circumvent damaged or destroyed landline systems and ensure wireless calls can be routed to their final destination. Over the last several days, the microwave system proved very successful in delivering calls to their final destination in areas where landline links were knocked out of service.
The company invested $6 million for a switch in Hattiesburg, Mississippi to increase capacity for call volume and text messaging throughout South Mississippi and another $6 million to build a 3G high-speed wireless network in this region.
“Three critical areas of concern for network reliability during and after a hurricane are commercial power outages, land-line link outages and call volumes,” said Tony Kent, senior vice president of Engineering and Network Operations for Cellular South. “In all three cases, our advance planning, investment and preparation helped ensure that our network stayed strong and that calls went through when and where they were needed the most.”
After Katrina, the company also invested $3 million to enhance back-up power sources, including adding more than 200 permanent generators at cell sites so that Cellular South’s network and customers would not be impacted by loss of power.
“We know that before, during and after a crisis, communication is critical,” Kent said. “Cellular South invested wisely to enhance the overall performance of our network and those investments helped us successfully deliver huge volumes of calls, text messages and web access without any significant issues.”
Kent said company technicians have worked around the clock in storm and flood ravaged areas to maintain service for customers, citing a case early Tuesday morning where a crew used a boat provided by Homeland Security to reach a cell site in the middle of a flooded field near Waveland, Mississippi. “We are doing whatever it takes because we know how much our customers depend on our service.”
To help storm victims, Cellular South has donated more than $10,000 worth of food and supplies through the Salvation Army for use at shelters housing people who fled or were evacuated from impacted areas.
s the official wireless communications provider for all state agencies and employees in Mississippi, Cellular South has provided hundreds of mobile phones and service to local and state emergency response agencies and the American Red Cross. In addition, the wireless provider has been on-site at the Mississippi Emergency Operations Center in Pearl, Mississippi to respond to requests for wireless communications assistance from local and state government agencies and first responders.