Hurricane Florence impacted wireless networks when it hit North Carolina last month, but those networks showed considerable resiliency, according to a report from mobile network testing company OpenSignal. The report looked at the Hurricane Florence wireless network impact on networks operated by four carriers.

OpenSignals studied the effects of the storm and its aftermath on Wilmington, Jacksonville, Myrtle Beach and Fayetteville.

Carriers took precautionary steps before the Category 1 storm hit on September 14. As a result, LTE network availability decreased from an average of 95% during the 30 days before the storm to a low of 86.8% on September 16. Service returned to normal three days later.

OpenSignal noted that its results were influenced by the reduced number of people using the networks in the four cities. Many heeded calls to evacuate as the storm approached. “However, the sum of 2G, 3G and 4G availability remained close to the previous thirty days’ average of 99.3%, hitting its lowest on Sunday, September 16 at 97.7%,” wrote OpenSignal blogger Francesco Rizzato. “With most of the smartphones usually connecting to 4G, when the hurricane downed a number of LTE cell sites, an increasing number of mobile users connected to the available 3G and 2G networks, showing that although users could not experience the best speed, they still had access to mobile technology.

The firm collected 10,073,034 measurements from 1,499 devices in the four cities from August 14 to September 20.

Hurricanes – and their impact on communications – have been in the news. Hurricane Michael made the biggest headlines, with initial reports of 264,000 people without service and 554 cell sites down (19% of those in the storm’s path). After the storm, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai chided carriers for not restoring services quickly enough and joined Florida governor Rick Scott in calling for service credits for October.


Image courtesy of flickr user Kabsik Park.

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