Sign o' the times? In the old days, corporations demonstrated largesse in times of disaster by sending in trucks loaded with canned soup and blankets. But at a press conference today, Mayor Bloomberg announced AT&T is sending special hotspot trucks to NYC, to help alleviate the crippled communications systems left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Hooked up to the satellite grid, the self-contained trucks will spray both Wi-Fi and cellular in a radius around them, and also offer charging stations that passersby can use to gas up their mobiles.
The Mayor was not specific, but I did a little digging and these trucks are presumably the "Satellite COLT (Cell on Light Truck)" vehicles you see pictured here. They're part of AT&T's Network Disaster Recovery Team, in which the company's invested over half a billion dollars. The team, which has been quietly doing exercises and delivering global disaster relief since 1992, consists of engineers, technicians and "a fleet of more than 320 self-contained equipment trailers and support vehicles that house the same equipment and components as an AT&T data-routing or voice-switching center." It's kind of cool, something like a Special Forces unit for the telecommunications industry:NDR's recovery equipment is maintained in warehouses across the United States and in Europe—positioned strategically so the equipment can reach AT&T's network offices quickly.
...Some of the...equipment is installed in fly-away containers that can be shipped by commercial air carrier. Following the earthquakes in Chile in February 2010, AGN recovery nodes were flown to Santiago and set up near a permanent telco office in case aftershocks made that building, and its equipment, unusable.
You can get a brief look at the Satellite COLT in the video below, starting around 1:27: