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Big Carriers Developing Workarounds for Weather-Based System Outages

Sprint has been testing small cells held aloft by a drone

NEW YORK � With all the negative press associated with temporary failures of cell phone systems in south Florida, after Hurricane Irma, and in Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria, it�s not surprising that there�s more news about the big carriers research in to ways to mitigate weather-related outages.�

Sprint has been testing small cells held aloft by a drone, aimed at extending the reach of its 2.5GHz 4G network. The company recently said the “aerial small cell” can extend the range of its 2.5GHz 4G LTE network up to ten square miles, after initial tests in Midlothian, Texas, outside of Dallas, according to The device uses the Magic Box small cell from Airspan Networks Inc mounted on a drone from CyPhy Works. The Magic Box is a small connects to subscriber devices and a nearby cell site or cell-on-wheels � up to six miles away, delivering both customer connectivity and wireless backhaul over the air.

Not to be outdone, AT&T has been testing its own drone-based small cell program and says it will field test a “higher capacity helicopter flying COW soon,” according to a company spokeswoman. The helicopter will apparently support 4G LTE connections, and they�ve been testing it in “a field in Atlanta” since February 2017, also according to lightreading. Unlike Sprint�s newly unveiled flying “Magic Box” mentioned above, AT&T�s COW is connected to the ground via a thin tether.�