Some Wireless Service Now Repaired in New Orleans

Verizon Wireless to deploy mobile units to storm-ravaged areas

NEW YORK - A number of wireless carriers said this weekend they are starting to restore service in the New Orleans area in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, in some cases with generators on the roofs of hotels.

The collapse of the communications network in the New Orleans area has been widely blamed for contributing to the disaster there, as local officials were unable to talk to each other and to federal authorities to arrange relief in the days after Katrina laid waste to the city.

Verizon Wireless said it is at work restoring parts of New Orleans and surrounding areas including Mandeville, Lacombe, Hammond and Covington. It has also restored Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, which is being used for relief airlifts.

The company, a venture of Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone, said it has restored service in Baton Rouge and Jackson, Mississippi, and is working to bring back Mobile and Biloxi. In addition, Verizon said late Saturday it was awaiting approval to deploy COWs -- Cells on Wheels -- to boost coverage in the affected areas.

T-Mobile USA said late Saturday it has set up a cell site on the roof of a hotel on Canal St. in New Orleans, running on a generator, and has reestablished service in many areas of the flooded-out city. T-Mobile said its network is now available at the Superdome, the convention center and Armstrong Airport.

The company's main hardware in the area survived the storm, it said. T-Mobile is a unit of Deutsche Telekom.

Sprint Nextel Corp. was more cautious on New Orleans, saying as of Saturday night that it remained challenging. The company said it has assembled a team in Baton Rouge to make repairs in areas where it was deemed safe. The company, whose Nextel phones are popular for their walkie-talkie capabilities, has provided 3,000 phones to relief officials.

A spokesman for Cingular Wireless was not immediately available to comment on the state of their network in the region.

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