On the Road to Recovery in Puerto Rico

By Neville RayOctober 28, 2017

This has been an unrelenting hurricane season with three significant back-to-back storms pounding multiple states and islands and leaving behind tremendous devastation. As communities in Texas, Florida and across the Caribbean continue to rebuild, it's much too early to "look back" and provide an analysis of lessons learned over the past two months. While recovery in Texas and Florida is well underway and seems to be going well, unfortunately Puerto Rico continues to face significant challenges. As every day brings progress and even some setbacks, today I wanted to share a progress report on our recovery efforts there and also share some updates on new developments.

Due to solid preparation and the investment we've made in our network, T-Mobile was able to get service up and running again quickly after Hurricane Irma hit the island in early September. But when Category 5 Maria made landfall less than two weeks later, its intensity wreaked widespread havoc on the island's electrical grid, clean water supplies, telecommunications backhaul and most of the island's cell sites. To say this was an unprecedented hurricane for Puerto Rico is an understatement.

While it seems in a disaster of this magnitude that you can never do enough fast enough, I'm very proud of all T-Mobile is doing to restore service and assist our customers, employees and others in the affected areas. Likewise, I want to commend the quick actions of many others who have come together - including other wireless companies, the FCC and the Puerto Rican government - to provide much-needed funding and regulatory relief.

After Maria passed, our team did what we could to mobilize as quickly as possible to get help to the island. That came in the form of a dozen cargo planes and multiple barges packed full of supplies and equipment, including trucks, cells-on-wheels, cells-on-light-trucks and hundreds of portable generators. We even provided the Federal Aviation Administration a large generator to help keep the San Juan airport open allowing for the delivery of life-saving supplies. We sent hundreds of emergency and disaster relief experts specializing in the restoration of communications networks to the island. In all, to date we have recovered more than 80% of our original pre-storm outdoor signal in Puerto Rico. We are working every day to close that gap and increase the density of our coverage in the higher populated areas. ¡No vamos a parar!

Our team has also left no stone unturned when it comes to getting people connected until infrastructure destroyed by Maria can be replaced. One of these solutions is Project Loon, an experimental system that our engineering experts worked on with the team at X, Alphabet's Moonshot factory. This balloon-based LTE access allows us to deliver more limited data and texting services to customers in hard to reach areas and I'm pleased to share that this is live as of today! Another example is our partnership with Vanu. We have worked with them to deploy several self-contained portable cellular network units that provide voice, data and text capabilities in some of the hardest hit areas.

While service recovery has been ongoing, we have also worked hard to take care of our 600 employees on the island by providing them with supplies and generators to power their homes. We even converted some of our retail stores into charging and daycare centers! We're also deeply committed to broader community rebuilding initiatives. We've provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds to match our employees' donations and our ongoing #HR4HR effort in partnership with Major League Baseball's World Series to support Team Rubicon's hurricane relief projects has raised awareness and more than $1.6M. It's been a runaway success - so much so that John Legere just announced today that we're upping our minimum donation to $2M! So go tweet #HR4HR!

We call places like Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas home, too, and that's why the team is so passionate about restoring service as quickly as possible. We are grateful for others who care as deeply as we do and have stepped up to offer support in this challenging situation. One company that deserves a callout is CAT5 Resources, which has helped with refueling activities and other key resource needs. We also appreciate the FCC's proposal to accelerate Universal Service Fund (USF) support to wireless companies in Puerto Rico. It will help us repair and replace badly damaged infrastructure, including antennas, transmitters and transmission lines.

As rebuilding progresses, we also recognize that we must continue to be prepared for the future. T-Mobile has every incentive to work hard to prepare our networks long before disaster hits and to get service up and running as quickly as possible after it passes. When the time comes, we also stand ready to partner with the FCC and its Hurricane Task Force to develop additional innovative and practical approaches to hurricane preparedness and recovery.

I want to close with a simple thanks to so many who have worked incredibly hard and continue to make these efforts a priority. And to the customers and employees who have been personally impacted, let me reinforce my earlier statements - we are with you. I can assure you that T-Mobile is 100% committed to getting Puerto Rico back on its feet and we won't stop until all we need to do is done!