Apple and AT&T are working together to bring cellular connectivity to iPhone users in Puerto Rico who have been struggling with mobile reception since Hurricane Maria hit the region a more than a month ago.
AT&T is enabling LTE Band 8 in the region to improve network connectivity. This new LTE band has only been recently approved by the FCC in the US but not licensed for commercial use. Since most mobile towers in Puerto Rico are without power, AT&T is using Alphabet’s Project Loon balloons for the project. The service is already live in the region. Since LTE Band 8 operates at the 900Mhz frequency, it offers a wider network coverage area.
All iPhones starting from iPhone 5c and above and running iOS 10 and higher support LTE Band 8. However, users will first have to download and apply a carrier setting on their handset to enable the functionality. Apple says the carrier setting update will roll out from this week and will automatically be downloaded on devices connected to Wi-Fi or a mobile network.
“We are working with AT&T to activate cellular service for iPhone users in Puerto Rico as the island recovers from Hurricane Maria,” read an Apple statement. “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.”
The Project Loon powered balloons will allow people stuck in Puerto Rico to get in touch with their families over text messages and internet.