DOD satellite systems boost Gulf cell coverage

NORTHCOM Katrina briefing

The Defense Department has taken the extraordinary step of using military satellite systems to help improve cell phone coverage in the Gulf Coast states that lost much of their commercial communications infrastructure in Hurricane Katrina.

In a news briefing this morning, Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of U.S. Northern Command, which is responsible for DOD Katrina disaster response, said the command is providing some military satellite bandwidth to cell phone companies so that they can get back to their servers and enable cell phone transmission among the civilian population in Mississippi.

Keating did not provide additional details, and the Defense Information Systems Agency has not yet responded to a query from Federal Computer Week for more information.

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco made it clear in a letter she sent to President Bush Sept. 2 that the state needs help to reconstitute its commercial and public safety communications systems.

Blanco told Bush that the hurricane devastated Louisianas communications grid was, and the state needs significant assistance in restoring governmental communications.

The re-establishment of cell phone coverage and public safety networks is necessary to establish communications among governmental officials at all levels and among response agencies, she added.

Blanco told Bush that the radio system that is currently operational in the greater New Orleans area was designed to support 800 users; there are currently 2500 users. To address the radio communications requirements, we need additional frequencies: 25 800 MHz trunking repeaters, tower crews, 1,000 portable radios [and] three 100-foot tower trailers.

Blanco said Louisiana also needs additional staffed mobile command centers that provide satellite uplink to support additional voice and data needs at public safety and governmental sites.

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