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4G/3G/WiFi

US Govt. Wants Tougher Networks Post-Sandy

The US government says that, in the future, cellular networks should function in the wake of a disaster -- regardless of the state of the power grid -- after Hurricane Sandy ripped through parts of the Northeast last October.

The recommendation is part of a wide-ranging report put together by a task-force assembled by the Obama administration after the major storm. The team says that coastal communities should expect more big storms in the future, thanks to climate change and rising seas, and that everything from housing stock to broadband networks should be built with that in mind.

Specifically, the report calls for networks to be hardened so that they don't fall down so soon after being hit by a power outage. After Sandy, safety experts noted that many commercial cell sites only had a few hours of battery back-up and went off-air soon after the storm even if they weren't damaged by the storm.

The report has this to say about cellular resilience:

DOE [Department of Energy] and the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA, part of DOC), should work with FCC to promote a programmatic approach to ensure that cellular towers (antennas), data centers, and other critical communications infrastructure are able to function regardless of the status of the electrical grid. In addition, encouraging stored power (i.e., batteries) for consumer level broadband equipment, through funding or other means, will improve impacted individuals' ability to seek information, help with recovery needs, communicate with family members, and even work from home when transportation or business facilities are significantly compromised.

The report also calls for "Federal and State cooperation to improve electric grid policies and standards." This would include implementing smart grids and micro grids for smarter power distribution in the event of an emergency.

The 69 recommendations in the report, however, are non-binding. The cellular power suggestion calls for a "pragmatic" approach but doesn't give any guideline on timelines.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) did call for a mandated eight-hour battery backup on commercial cell sites. Some carriers -- Verizon Wireless , for instance -- claim to have implemented that on their sites. Others, however, said that the requirement was too costly and fought it to extinction in court.

Related posts:

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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DanJones 8/29/2013 | 12:56:47 AM
Re: Sandy So 10 days on, anyone seen or heard of any further suggestions or contributions from operators? Or is everyone still digesting the report?
DanJones 8/22/2013 | 11:33:19 AM
Re: Sandy The 80s version of "KEEP CALM AND..."
TeleWRTRLiz 8/22/2013 | 9:01:18 AM
Re: Sandy I had that shirt.
mendyk 8/21/2013 | 7:26:51 PM
Re: Sandy Frankie says "RELAX" -- but you're probably talking about a different Frankie.
DanJones 8/21/2013 | 5:33:23 PM
Re: Who Survived hurricane Sandy ? It's ok, the robot cheetahs will take down the robot zebras.
GarrettChoi 8/21/2013 | 5:29:07 PM
Re: Who Survived hurricane Sandy ? Listen, and understand. Those robot zebras are out there. They can't be bargained with. They can't be reasoned with. They don't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop, ever, until we are dead.
TeleWRTRLiz 8/21/2013 | 5:14:53 PM
Re: Sandy Maybe the US Govn't should hire Frankie for forecasting (from the slightly creepy Frankie weather forecasts on YouTube? His mantra is Be Prepared!!! (With pizza and pop, of course).

Seriously though, at TM Forum we have members thinking along these lines, volunteering their time and working on projects (called Catalysts) that come up with solutions for network resilence. The one project called "Resilient Cloud Catalyst – Maintaining Service in the Face of Developing Threats" included CA Technologies, ESRI, Layer 7, Thales and Telstra.

They demonstrated how to maintain critical system resources by monitoring risks like Sandy and proactively managing the physical resources of a cloud environment that supports mission critical services. What's cool is that in typical threat scenarios, the network is capable of reacting only once it has become impaired and service is disrupted, but in this project, they used GIS technology to detect and identify a developing threat, and modeled its potential impact ahead of time. The notice provides time to identify critical services that could be disrupted and securely relocate those critical services to safe network resources. The COTS for this project is in use already.

Seems like using GIS to monitor, detect and then move resources would be a good idea. That and listening to Frankie.
DanJones 8/21/2013 | 11:42:36 AM
Re: Who Survived hurricane Sandy ? As they used to say: That's some catch, that catch 22.
Duh! 8/21/2013 | 11:17:59 AM
Re: Who Survived hurricane Sandy ? First, burying power lines is not a panacea.  After Sandy, a lot of work was needed to restore flooded substations and distribution gear.  Underground is more resistant to outages, but takes much longer to restore.  Underground vs aerial needs to be an engineerng trade-off, not a knee jerk.


A larger concern is the increasing mutual dependence of electric utilities and wireless networks.  It's obvious that cell sites of all sizes depend on commerical power;  the degree to which backup storage or generation is added is a function of economics and regulation.  What is less obvious is the degree to which power distribution is likely to become dependent on commercial M2M wireless.  Forward thinking electric utilities have come to accept that the distribution grid is brittle, and will become more so unless they make major changes. Open loop control and call centers as first line of outage management are becoming serious problems.  So they need to deploy sensors and actuators more widely in the distribution grid, with measurements from the former informing control centers as to how to direct the latter, as well as directing truck rolls.  Sensors and actuators  need a lot of new, low rate communications capability.   While there are other solutions (such as 900 MHz licensed and unlicensed radios) commercial 3G/4G M2M wireless is probably the most economically feasible.  Obviously, this scenario creates a deadly embrace in a storm:  the wireless network is dependent on the electric grid for continued operation, and the electric grid is dependent on the wireless network for outage detection, switching and restoral. 

Interesting problem. 
DanJones 8/21/2013 | 10:44:40 AM
Re: Who Survived hurricane Sandy ? Hey, there's that can-do American spirit!!!

 

Seriously, I hear DARPA is working on robot zebras though.
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