HOUSTON, TX — Tropical Storm Gustav may be headed for the U.S. Gulf Coast, and Verizon Wireless has its digital network throughout the region ready to deliver reliable wireless coverage and service in the event of severe storms. The company's network crews and disaster response teams including many veterans of previous storm seasons along the Gulf are already on alert in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
The company has made extensive investments and efforts to prepare its network for emergencies and provide the most reliable ongoing wireless service for Gulf Coast residents and businesses. Since the beginning of the year, the company has invested more than $137 million throughout the region to strengthen and enhance its wireless network.
Highlights of these long-term enhancements include expanding and enhancing regional switching facilities, erecting new digital cell sites with on-site back-up power, expanding the company's (EV-DO) highest-speed (Revision A) network technology, and completing a Disaster Response Trailer (DRT) mobile customer service unit. In addition, teams of Verizon Wireless "test men" have been rolling across the region in a fleet of specialized test vehicles to fine tune the network and ensure reliable, comprehensive coverage in preparation for this storm season, as they do throughout the year.
"As we've seen in past storm seasons, wireless communication is crucial during an emergency," said Kay Henze, Houston/Gulf Coast region president for Verizon Wireless. "Verizon Wireless has the nation's most reliable wireless network and we prepare year-round for severe weather. Advance preparation enables us to implement a comprehensive plan to make sure the network stays strong and calls go through when and where they're needed most."
While this year's hurricane season has heated up recently with Tropical Storm Fay, these kinds of intensive investments and preparations proved critical during the height of extraordinary storm seasons in 2004, 2005 and 2006. In those years, the Verizon Wireless network across the Gulf Coast remained strong, while many other wireless communication networks struggled to serve residents, businesses and emergency response officials. During Hurricane Katrina, Verizon Wireless averaged a 90% call completion rate during the days and weeks following the storm, while the closest competitor's call completion rate was 79%.
Additional highlights of the Verizon Wireless 2008 Hurricane Season preparation and network enhancement include:
- A comprehensive emergency response plan, including preparing emergency command centers across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi Alabama, Georgia and Florida in case of a crisis.
- Enhancements to its regional switching facilities, which doubled its traffic capacity and back-up power redundancies. Many are designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane and serve as regional emergency operations centers in the event of a storm.
- A new 35-foot $150,000 Disaster Response Trailer to be used as a temporary customer service location in areas impacted by a disaster.
- Erecting 59 new cell sites across the Houston/Gulf Coast region since the start of the year, of which about 85 percent have their own on-site generators.
- The company also has a fleet of Cells on Wheels (COWS) and Cells on Light Trucks (COLTS), and generators on trailers (GOaTS) that can be rolled into hard-hit locations or areas that need extra network capacity.
- Pre-arranging fuel delivery to mobile units and generators to keep the network operating at full strength even if power is lost for an extended period of time.
- The company has expanded its EV-DO wireless broadband network, including launching its highest-speed Rev. A network throughout the region. This allows the most advanced wireless services (downloads, location-based applications, video messaging, etc.) and makes the network more reliable for usage by residents and emergency agencies.
These new technologies, facilities and other network-strengthening efforts are part of Verizon Wireless' hefty multi-million dollar investment in the region over the past year. Nationally, Verizon Wireless has invested an average of $5.5 billion annually to enhance its digital wireless network, and a total of more than $45 billion since 2000.
(Editor's Note: To accompany a Verizon Wireless Test Man, tour a network facility or obtain broadcast-quality video B-roll and still images of network operations/emergency preparations, contact Gretchen LeJeune at 713.219.8028 or 713.204.2100).
About Verizon Wireless
Verizon Wireless operates the nation's most reliable wireless voice and data network, serving 68.7 million customers. Headquartered in Basking Ridge, N.J., with 70,000 employees nationwide, Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) and Vodafone (NYSE and LSE: VOD). For more information, go to: 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.