Following the devastation of Hurricane Maria, much of the country is still without power and cellular service. Thus far, AT&T has got about 60% of the country connected again.
To help restore service faster, AT&T, the FCC, and Apple are enabling connections via LTE Band 8, a provisional band of LTE that has been recently approved, but not activated or licensed in the US and Puerto Rico. The band operates at 900MHz and will allow cellular signals to reach further and penetrate deeper into buildings.
Additionally, AT&T is working with Google who has launched Project Loon balloons over parts of the island. The balloons are designed to bring basic Internet connectivity to rural or remote areas.
Working with AT&T, Project Loon is now supporting basic communication and internet activities like sending text messages and accessing information online for some people with LTE enabled phones. This is the first time we have used our new machine learning powered algorithms to keep balloons clustered over Puerto Rico, so we’re still learning how best to do this. As we get more familiar with the constantly shifting winds in this region, we hope to keep the balloons over areas where connectivity is needed for as long as possible.
To get the carrier update with LTE Band 8 support, users should navigate to Settings > General > About on their devices.
“We are working with AT&T to activate cellular service for iPhone users in Puerto Rico as the island recovers from Hurricane Maria,” Apple said in a statement. “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.”
It's expected to take months for Puerto Rico's power grid to be restored. You can donate to the Red Cross' relief efforts by clicking here.