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From the air, the devastation Hurricane Maria delivered to Puerto Rico seems to be catastrophic.
USA TODAY

SAN FRANCISCO – So many U.S. satellite tv for pc telephones are being shipped to Puerto Rico proper now that telephone suppliers say they could run out by subsequent week.

With 90% of the island’s cell phone network down and few landlines operating, satellite phones are one of the few ways for people to communicate and for relief workers to coordinate efforts. Unlike cell phones, the heavier and more powerful phones don’t rely on cell towers or landlines. Instead, they communicate directly with satellites in orbit around the earth. 

“Our industry is a small one and everybody’s just had their shelves wiped out because demand is so high given all these hurricanes,” said C.J. Webber, CEO of the SatPhoneStore in Miami.

He just got an order for 350 sat phones from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “We’re scraping the bottom trying to get them those phones, so even FEMA’s having trouble,” he said.

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The situation in Puerto Rico is unprecedented, said Matthew Desch, CEO of Iridium Communications, which runs the world’s largest satellite constellation for satellite phones.

Normally after a big disaster, satellite phone usage lasts about three to five days and then falls off as temporary cell towers mounted on trucks are brought in.

“That isn’t happening in Puerto Rico. We’ve had eight days of incredible spiking of usage — up 100 times over normal,” he said.

There are usually no more than ten Iridium phones working in Puerto Rico. As of Friday, that number was around 2,000, he said. “And that doesn’t include the phones the Department of Defense is using there.”

The Miami-based Satellite Phone Store has shipped hundreds of satellite phones to people heading to Puerto Rico over the past two weeks, said marketing director Marco Spasovski.

“We’ve seen a massive jump in rentals,” he said.