Notable cellular, energy improvements accomplished since 2022 power outage

  • Published
  • By Lauren Russell
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Officials from the 66th Air Base Group have made significant strides in the past year to improve cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity as well as energy resilience following a power outage here in 2022.

The impacts of the outage helped fast-track these improvements and shaped portions of the group’s strategic plan, “Hanscom Roadmap to 2024.”

“Cellular connection has been an ongoing challenge here for a long time,” said Col. Taona Enriquez, installation commander, during an all call last month. “We are better connected at Hanscom Air Force Base now with more positive change to come because of the teamwork and partnerships that have led to recent and planned fixes to long-standing cellular issues across our installation.” 

Enriquez and others briefed ABG employees on the progress of the plan’s third line of effort, “Strengthen Installation Services,” stating that a cellular transmitter placed on a steam plant smokestack was functional and improving cellular service for local Verizon users.

During the same all call, Maj. Sean Villano, line of effort champion, said network enhancements from AT&T and T-Mobile were also in the works.

Eric Lefebvre, deputy director of the Communication and Information Division (SC), said improving cellular service is an ongoing project for his team; especially following the power outage.

“That was an extreme ‘wow’ moment for us all, when on top of handling the immediate emergency, the severe lack of communications service was undeniable,” said Lefebvre. “It prompted us in the group to focus on accelerating a plan to address the issue.”

Lefebvre said direct results of better cellular coverage for base personnel include safety, improved connectivity options for morale, welfare, and recreation, as well as a benefit for mission requirements.

“Whether a team is geographically separated or not, we can’t have the mission come to a halt because connection is dropping here,” he said.

In addition to cellular service, group agencies are working to complete building site surveys to establish a network infrastructure of reliable Wi-Fi, Lefebvre said.

According to Lefebvre, the Verizon cell site was also recently approved for an upgrade from 4G LTE to 5G.

The improvements won’t stop there. Now that the installation is catching up on connectivity services, leaders from the 66th Civil Engineering Division, SC, and mission partners throughout the installation’s acquisition community, are simultaneously modernizing other services.

Other improvements include bolstering energy resiliency and efficiency through innovative pilot programs, partnerships, and prioritizing energy-related projects on the installation.

Following last year’s power outage, base leadership and CE personnel have been working to replace Hanscom AFB’s aged electrical substation with a modern substation with improved redundancy that is ready for a microgrid control system.

“We are seeing the improvements and are appreciative of the 66th Air Base Group and our industry partners’ work on increasing the access and reliability of all communications,” said Maj. Gen. Anthony Genatempo, program executive officer for Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks. “Col. Enriquez’s leadership has tackled a series of long-standing issues and is putting our installation on a better path of connectivity for the people who live, work and play here.”

Hanscom AFB officials said some improvements to cellular service are a direct result of Air Force collaboration with industry, close coordination with local town officials, and the installation's partnership with Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey. 

The governor learned of the installation’s cellular service challenges during a meeting with Enriquez and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Commander Lt. Gen. Shaun Q. Morris, earlier this year. Base officials are exploring other opportunities to collaborate with state and local officials on future energy resilience efforts as well.

For additional information about LOE 3 and Strengthening Installation Services, watch the official video on the Hanscom AFB website.