Limited Wireless Calls Going Through In New Orleans

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Cellular phone coverage is steadily improving in New Orleans, but submerged areas, restricted areas and safety concerns still complicate repairs. Verizon Wireless reported coverage had returned to the French Quarter. The carrier, owned by Verizon Communications Inc., is working to bring up additional sites in the area. The company said in a late Wednesday release that crews were moved into the areas immediately surrounding New Orleans, as well as in areas in the city deemed safe.


Sprint Nextel Corp. (S), meanwhile, reported improved service, but there were few details. While service has been restored to 60% of the areas hit in Louisiana, spokesman John Taylor said New Orleans still had much less service.

“We’re absolutely committed to the 100% restoration of service,” he said. “But it will be some until that’s achieved.”

He noted that Sprint’s focus was on restoring services in other more populated areas such as Baton Rouge, La., which have taken on many of the evacuees. There is less of a priority in sparsely populated New Orleans. Taylor said to expect more specific details on New Orleans’ condition next week.

Sprint residential long-distance customers in select Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi areas will continue to get call disruptions as the carrier works with regional phone company BellSouth Corp. (BLS) to bring up the local network.

Taylor said Sprint will have to rebuild the long-distance switch brought down during Hurricane Katrina.

Cingular Wireless, a joint venture between BellSouth and SBC Communications Inc. (SBC), has crews on the ground in New Orleans, and the company reported some calls are going through the city and surrounding areas, but at reduced levels.

Service to New Orleans and the surrounding areas of Hammond and Biloxi/Gulfport are the company’s top priorities.