--Manhattan coverage improves, efforts continue in other regions
--AT&T says 96.5% of cell sites functioning; Verizon Wireless at 98.1%
--Storm-battered Staten Island, Long Island still spotty
(Updates with additional information from AT&T and T-Mobile beginning in the sixth paragraph)
By Thomas Gryta
As power returns to some areas hit hard by Sandy, especially in many parts of Manhattan late Friday and early Saturday, wireless networks are showing improvement in their service.
Some outages continue in the storm-hit region, as the restoration of power is crucial to the operation of a cellular network and some areas are still in the dark or remain difficult to access.
Consolidated Edison Inc. (ED) returned power to most of Manhattan late Friday and power crews around the New York and New Jersey area continue to make progress. Cellular networks are a collection of individual sites that connect wireless devices to a core, wired network, but they also require power to function. While backup generators and batteries provide some cushion, obtaining fuel and gain access to the cell sites themselves can make it harder to keep power flowing.
Power will help the situation, but some sites are also down because they have no connection to the core network or because equipment is damaged. The wireless carriers have had technicians working on the problems around the clock.
The Federal Communications Commission reported late Friday "continued steady improvements in wire-line and wireless communications networks throughout the affected area."
AT&T Inc. (T) reported Saturday morning that 96.5% of its cell sites are up and running across the region hit by Sandy. More than 90% of its sites across New York City are now working, the company said, and it expects to continue making progress "as power and other infrastructure issues are resolved."
On Thursday, the company said about 80% of its New York City sites were operating. Earlier this week, AT&T signed a roaming agreement with Deutsche Telekom AG's (DTEGY, DTE.XE) T-Mobile for New York and New Jersey.
Verizon Wireless said early Saturday that 98.1% of its cell sites in the affected area of Hurricane Sandy are working, up from 94% shortly after the storm. In a statement, the company noted "significant improvement" in New York and New Jersey, including lower Manhattan. The company is a joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group PLC (VOD, VOD.LN).
In a statement Saturday, T-Mobile said that service has returned to many impacted areas in New York City since late Friday, with about 95% of sites in Manhattan now working.
The company said it is working on many sites on Staten Island but is providing coverage throughout the borough using generators to boost service. It has had trouble gaining access to some areas of Staten Island because of storm damage. The company said more than 75% of its sites are operating on Long Island.
T-Mobile said it is continuing to have problems gaining access to some cell sites in New Jersey and it is focused on hard-hit areas including Hoboken and the Jersey shore.
Write to Thomas Gryta at email@example.com
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 03, 2012 18:59 ET (22:59 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.