Much of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico is still without power and has limited cell phone service, but Dallas-based telecom giant AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is working to get Puerto Ricans communicating again with each other and the outside world.
TechCrunch reported that AT&T and Apple, along with Alphabet’s X division, have been working with the Federal Communications Commission to enable a provisional band of LTE that was recently approved, but not activated in the U.S., and in Puerto Rico where it is not licensed.
The activation of the LTE Band 8 will allow iPhones to connect with Alphabet X’s Project Loon balloons around Puerto Rico that were activated a few days ago. Alphabet is the parent company of Google.
PROJECT LOON EXTENDS CONNECTIVITY TO REMOTE AREAS
“We’re using both traditional and innovative technologies, and are collaborating with humanitarian groups, local and federal governments, and organizations like Project Loon who are bringing additional resources to Puerto Rico to assist in the recovery efforts.”
“We’re using both traditional and innovative technologies, and are collaborating with humanitarian groups, local and federal governments, and organizations like Project Loon who are bringing additional resources to Puerto Rico to assist in the recovery efforts,” AT&T said on its hurricane relief update page.
Project Loon is a network of balloons floating on the edge of space, Alphabet said. It is designed to extend internet connectivity to people in rural and remote areas around the world.
What is LTE Band 8? It’s a 900Mhz band that offers much-improved range over lower frequency bands. It allows mobile devices to reach more-distant cell towers, distribute the load to now-accessible towers, and it can better penetrate buildings and other obstructions.
AT&T HAS DEPLOYED 17 PORTABLE NETWORK POINTS
TechCrunch said that many phones are not equipped to operate on Band 8, but that people with devices from iPhone 5c and higher that run on iOS 10 or higher can download a carrier setting and begin using it right away.
“We are working with AT&T to activate cellular service for iPhone users in Puerto Rico as the island recovers from Hurricane Maria,” Apple said in a news release. “Apple engineers have created a special carrier settings update which users connected to Wi-Fi or who are connected to a cellular network will automatically be prompted to download throughout the week.”
AT&T said it has connected more than 60 percent of people in Puerto Rico and 90 percent of residents in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The company said it has deployed 17 portable network points including 14 temporary cell cites so far, in the islands.
Some Android devices sold by Samsung — whose U.S. telecom headquarters is in Richardson — and others should be compatible with LTE Band 8. All LTE devices are compatible with Project Loon, according to the release.
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