Cellular South Ready for 2010 Hurricane Season

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Wireless Provider Bolsters Network For Uninterrupted Service In Any Emergency

When disaster strikes, people depend on their wireless phones as a lifeline to the outside world, not just for a day, but for weeks and sometimes even months at a time.

The 2010 hurricane season officially starts today and Cellular South is taking steps to bolster its network and mobilize employees to protect against a major storm-caused disaster.

The latest forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts an “extremely active” season with as many as a record 23 named storms and 14 hurricanes expected to form in the Atlantic Ocean this summer and Cellular South has prepared its wireless network and workforce for a wide range of disasters, including major weather events such as hurricanes.

The company routinely reviews and updates its emergency preparedness plans and conducts drills throughout the year to test the readiness of its network and back up systems. "Our preparations are designed to give customers maximum reliability from their wireless phones at the time of greatest need," said Trey Howard, director of Network Operations for Cellular South. "When disaster strikes, people depend on their wireless phones as a lifeline to the outside world, not just for a day, but for weeks and sometimes even months at a time."

Those preparations and network investments proved critical in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, killing 1,500 people and causing $80 billion in damage. With most other carriers' wireless networks destroyed or seriously damaged by the onslaught of Katrina, Cellular South played a vital communications role in the days following the storm, carrying over 2.6 million calls a day only a few days after the storm hit and logging a 470 percent increase in the number of minutes used by customers of other wireless carriers on its network.

"For many of our customers and others as well, Cellular South was the first and only means of communications available during and after Hurricane Katrina," Howard said. "We want our customers to know that we stand ready to respond to whatever circumstances come their way."

Howard said the wireless carrier's 1,100-member workforce, along with the company's extensive network resources, will be on "high alert" throughout the 2010 hurricane season, which begins today and runs through November. Cellular South also stands ready to activate its Emergency Response Plan, which guides the deployment of company resources and personnel during a crisis.

Since 2006, Cellular South has invested over $350 million as part of its broader $530 million overall network investment on new technologies, facilities and network-strengthening efforts, including:

  •     $8 million in equipment and system upgrades along the Mississippi Gulf Coast to help improve wireless communications in the event of another hurricane.
  •     $3 million in microwave technology to help circumvent damaged or destroyed landline telecommunications systems and ensure wireless calls can be routed to their eventual destination.
  •     $3 million to install more than 200 permanent generators in cell sites so the network and customers are not affected by commercial power outages.
  •     $8.1 million to build two new super switch facilities in Hattiesburg, Miss. and Mobile, Ala. to further increase capacity for voice and data services throughout south Mississippi, the Gulf Coast and south Alabama. The facilities, designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane with winds of up to 250 miles per hour, are equipped with large-scale built-in battery back-up and heavy-duty, diesel-powered generators.
  •     Continued expansion this year of the company’s 3G mobile broadband network with activation of 158 new 3G high-speed data sites so that 8 out of every 10 customers across the company’s service area have access to high-speed data services.
  •     Activation of 100 new cell sites this year with on-site generators and expanded fuel tanks to extend power-generating capacity.

“These investments by Cellular South will help ensure that essential communications continue for our consumer and business customers even when we experience severe weather and other life-threatening situations,” Howard said.

The company is coordinating its emergency response preparations with local, state and federal agencies, including the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, the office of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

About Cellular South
Cellular South is a privately-owned diversified mobile communications company passionately committed to helping customers get the most out of their wireless devices and services. The nation’s largest privately owned wireless communications carrier accomplishes this goal by providing the most reliable and advanced 3G nationwide wireless voice and data network, offering industry-leading smartphone devices and accessible flat rate plans, and through its online and in-store Discover Centers, which give customers easy, simple and convenient tools, tips, advice and information to get the most out of their mobile phone. For more information about Cellular South and its products and services, as well as its ground-breaking Cellular South Original user generated programming, visit http://www.cellularsouth.com. This news release and other announcements are available at http://www.cellularsouth.com/news/.

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