Since the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto and U.S Virgin Islands, many have lost communications due to the destruction of cell towers. A couple of weeks ago we reported that the FCC has given permission to Google parent company Alphabet to deploy its Project Loon in the flood-affected areas.
Balloons filled with lighter-than-air gas are released into the stratosphere. These balloons then travel toward the affected areas. Once they reach the destination, they can communicate with source signal from ground stations connected with local service providers and distribute network. Each balloon can provide coverage up to 5,000 square kilometers.
Apple has collaborated with AT&T and Alphabet to enable emergency LTE in Puerto Rico. Apple have partnered with AT&T, which is able to provide limited connectivity with support for text messaging and basic web access. Apple is issuing a carrier update this week using the service-enabled LTE Band 8 support. This LTE Band 8 support will work on iPhone 5c and up running iOS 10 or higher, and it should also work for AT&T customers using Galaxy devices from S6 onward, Moto G, Motorola Z2 Force, as well as the BlackBerry Passport and KEYone.
Apple gave a statement about its work in Puerto Rico:
“We are working with AT&T to activate cellular service for iPhone users in Puerto Rico as the island recovers from Hurricane Maria. 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. The update allows iPhone customers with iPhone 5c and later models running iOS 10 or higher to connect to a provisional band on the AT&T network so they can be in touch with loved ones and get services in this time of need.”
AT&T has been able to restore 60 percent of communications access in Puerto Rico, and almost 90 percent of access has been restored in Virgin Islands.
Project Loon was first launched in Peru to provide communications in areas affected by widespread flooding. The Loon Balloons floated over Peru and, using the same technology, were able to provide basic internet services to thousands of people.