- Disaster-ready Verizon stocks up on mobile cell towers
By Tom McGhee
Denver Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 30, 2004 - Denver Post
Verizon Wireless didn't have to go to the barnyard to replace its
lumbering cows with more sprightly colts.
The company still uses COWs, or cells on wheels, to provide cellular
service in disasters ranging from fires to snowstorms that knock out
cellphone service. But Verizon has added COLTs, cells on light trucks,
for quicker response times.
Bedminster, N.J.-based Verizon on Tuesday unveiled a new COLT that will
be kept in Denver for rapid disaster response anywhere in Colorado. The
company maintains the cell-tower trucks for disaster response in cities
throughout the nation.
Cellular antennas and other equipment mounted in the vehicle can be up
and running within hours compared with the day-long process needed to
deploy the company's older COWs, said Rick Enfield, director of
operations for Verizon in Colorado and Wyoming.
COWs are cumbersome and more costly to use than the new trucks, Enfield
Deploying a COW can require three trucks: one to carry the antennas,
another for a generator and a third to carry other equipment, Enfield
said. Verizon must hire trucking contractors to transport cells on wheels.
Redundant equipment included with Verizon's COWs makes them more
difficult to deploy than COWs used by some of the company's competitors,
said Verizon spokeswoman Jenny Weaver.
Other wireless companies such as Redmond, Wash.-based AT&T Wireless also
have programs to provide service in emergencies, said Kim Kuo, a
spokeswoman for the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet
Association, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that represents the
AT&T uses cells on wheels, said AT&T spokesman Mike DiGioia. But unlike
Verizon's, most can be deployed quickly.
"It's not something that requires several trucks. The vast majority of
COWs we have are pretty nimble, and it can be just a matter of putting a
hitch on it," DiGioia said.
The mobile equipment in Verizon's new truck costs $500,000 and is able
to process thousands of calls in one hour.
The 25,000-pound vehicle features two retractable masts, 30 feet and 60
feet tall, a microwave antenna, an emergency power generator and a small
Verizon also uses the slower COWs for sporting and other events that
bring people - and their wireless phones - together in numbers large
enough to swamp the surrounding stationary network.
Verizon wouldn't say how many emergency vehicles it has in its fleet.
"We have a fleet of COWs and we have a growing fleet of COLTs," said
Verizon spokeswoman Jenny Weaver.
When Verizon had requests from emergency agencies fighting the Hayman
fire two years ago to provide service near the blaze, COWs went to the
Verizon has taken even more dramatic action to cope with disasters in
the past. In 2000, during the Hi Meadow fire near Bailey, the company
used helicopters and llamas to transport equipment to the rugged
terrain, Weaver said.
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