It's hard to tell exactly where the cell phone outages are happening without exact information from the wireless companies, but because of the way cell phone technology works, we know that the densest areas with the most power outages and the worst weather damage—i.e., downtown Manhattan—are where cell service is hurting the most. Here's what we know: The Federal Communications Commission said Sandy knocked out 25 percent of all cell sites. As of Wednesday, Verizon said that 6 percent of its cell sites were still down, T-Mobile said that 20 percent of its New York City network was down and 10 percent was down in Washington, and AT&T declined to comment, reports The New York Times's Edward Wyatt. Those numbers might not sound huge, but because of the nature of the outages, they are enough to frustrate downtown Manhattanites.
The two biggest things that affect cell sites during storms are physical damage from wind and electricity. Both of those things happened during the storm over the last few days, especially in New York City and New Jersey, but all along the East Coast. Even with the power out in these areas, the sites can run on batteries and back up generators. Sprint has said its back-up power sources can last between 2 and 3 days, reports CNET's Merguerite Reardon. In the meantime, these companies can send people out to refuel. But the F.C.C said to expect that things will get worse as some sites shut down and others overload with users.