Wildfires, power shut-offs impact cellular networks in California

More than 350 cellular sites in northern and southern California have been impacted by the widespread electrical grid shut-downs by utility PG&E, as well as wildfires burning across the state.

The FCC activated its disaster reporting program for 32 California counties across the state, from Los Angeles and San Diego to Shasta and Sonoma. Wildfires are burning in both northern and southern California, and PG&E has put in place forced power outages in an attempt to prevent blazes from starting. The largest blaze is the Kincade fire, at more than 75,000 acres and 45% containment. In Los Angeles, the nearly 750-acre Getty fire is forcing evacuations and two new blazes sprang up overnight: the Hillside fire in the San Bernadino area, and the 46 fire. Strong winds are expected to continue in southern California through today.

According to the FCC’s Disaster Information Reporting System, 351 sites in the 32 California counties are out of service due to power outages, or 1.8% of the total sites in those areas. The percentage held steady from yesterday.

While the impacted sites are a small percentage of the overall number of sites in those counties, in some counties the overall percentages of dark sites are higher. In Sonoma County, 68 sites were out due to power problems, more than 16% of the 420-odd sites across the county. Calaveras County had seven sites out due to power issues and another out due to backhaul issues, which accounted for more than 18% of the 43 sites in the county. Other counties which had reports of 10% or more of their cell sites out of service included Napa and Lake County.

In Orange County, nearly 130 sites were out because of power issues, with another nine impacted by either damage or transport problems; but those sites were only around 4% of the more than 3,000 sites in the county. Thirty-eight sites were out of the more than 7,000 serving Los Angeles County, due to backhaul issues in the wireline network.

The FCC’s report noted that Marin County outages were down from more than 35% of sites to 5.2%, as of Wednesday morning.

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