Puerto Rico is at its most connected for the first time since two Category 5 hurricanes landed devastating blows to the US territory’s power and communications grid.
Project Loon, an operation from within Alphabet’s X lab, has deployed its balloon-mounted cells above the island. The project has partnered with tone of the largest networks on the island, AT&T, to serve customers on 900MHz spectrum. Band 8 is a provisional space in the United States, but the FCC has granted Loon use of it for LTE in the United States.
In turn, Apple is pushing out a new carrier settings package for iPhone users to install in the next week. Those who have fringe access to restored service will be able to then take advantage of the more abundant connection through Band 8.
Apple released the following statement on its action to TechCrunch:
We are working with AT&T to activate cellular service for iPhone users in Puerto Rico as the island recovers from Hurricane Maria. Apple engineers have created a special carrier settings update which users connected to Wi-Fi or who are connected to a cellular network will automatically be prompted to download throughout the week. The update allows iPhone customers with iPhone 5c and later models running iOS 10 or higher, to connect to a provisional band on the AT&T network so they can be in touch with loved ones and get services in this time of need.”
AT&T claims it currently has 60 percent of Puerto Ricans and 90 percent of Virgin Islanders served with its service.