East Coast Earthquake Prompts SMS Tremors, Talk of Emergency Wireless Network

In the moments that followed Tuesday’s large and altogether unexpected earthquake along the east coast of the United States, the rate of SMS messaging spiked nearly 15% over normal daily use, according to Syniverse, which reportedly processed better than 200 million SMS messages within the first 120 minutes after the quake.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that Tuesday’s 5.8-magnitude earthquake prompted “renewed calls for Congress and regulators to provide a dedicated wireless network for emergency workers.”

Verizon, AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and Frontier Communications saw substantial “network congestion” in affected areas after the quake happened.

The Federal Communications Commission said it is assessing a significant disruption to cell service due to the quake and will be looking at ways to improve communications during emergencies.

“We were unable to get cell phone access for a period of about an hour immediately after the quake,” Dennis Martinez, chief technology officer for the RF Communications Division of Harris Corp., tells Reuters.

“In the wake of the earthquake, cell service went dark,” added Public Safety Alliance spokesman Sean Kirkendall. “It’s a perfect illustration why public safety needs nationwide, mission critical broadband capability of its own.”