The Dirty Little Secret of Today's Networks

Mr. Chenevert

Occasional Visitor
I was actually very impressed with cell phone coverage during Hurricane Ike here in Houston. We lost power (and cable) very early during the storm, by 9pm I believe. Cell phones remained operational the entire time... by 7am the next morning, the rain was still very strong, I used my cell phone to bring up a radar image of what was still coming our way. In the days following the storm, we lived without power for at least a week, but the cell phone remained operational the whole time. A few bars weaker due to the reduced generator power, but operational...
 

schultzter

New Around Here
The Great Ice Storm

Years ago when we had the huge ice storm here in the north east that took out everything the communications companies actually managed to work together and get their generators evenly distributed and operated regardless of who's equipment they were running!

I think the gov't would do well to say after 24 or 36 hours all bets are off and essential services rulings kick in.

And it makes sense from a business point of view too - if my neighbour still has service after 24 hrs and I don't it's not looking good come renewal time. So law or no law the communications companies should have emergency councils that can coordinate resources when things get really bad. It's basically an insurance policy and against bad PR!
 

drewcwsj

New Around Here
Power Draw

What has happened over the last twenty years is the POTS network has shifted from a very simple and low power analog system to a very complex and high power digital one. Think of the neighborhood box where your phone line ends - it probably has 24 to 144 DSL modems and gigabit fiber optic uplinks. A DSL modem is conservatively 10 watts and with VDSL2 bonded could be as much as 30. There probably isn't space or facilities for a generator, plus maintenance would be a real pain in the arse, so that means batteries. With a minimal load of 500 watts for 24 hours means a really big battery. Now try scaling that battery to 7 days. Power is the problem and will be so for the indefinite future at least until there is an order of magnitude improvement in batteries.
 

thiggins

Mr. Easy
Staff member
I would argue that a crapload of line-powered phones required a pretty good amount of juice in the old days. But only when off-hook, I suppose.

Yes, these systems require lots of power and power takes space. But it can be done at a cost. Companies just aren't motivated to spend the money and there are no consequences to their not doing so.
 

vnangia

Senior Member
Greetings from DC, Tim, about the only place that may have got whacked worse than where you are.

Some years ago, we ran into the same problem, and I built myself a fairly robust backup system. While the router, cable modem and all the switches are on UPS now, that I've tested for upto 48 hours, the problem is the back end is still pretty fragile. Cox, our internet ... service provider, installed their junction box in a flood-prone ditch and if there was more than, say, 5" of rain in 24 hours, you could kiss internet goodbye for days until it dried out. Months of complaints later without resolution, when Verizon started rolling out FiOS, we suddenly got an apologetic call, and a day or two later, the box was moved. In the meantime, we had as backups, a CDMA and a GSM phone, both of which the router could be hooked up to via USB to serve as data modems. Of course, this was a manual procedure - I never did get around to automating it - so it relied on my being home to switch it over. Otherwise, goodbye data connection. :)

It's worked out okay so far. Let's hope we never need to test it again. I'm experimenting with building a private cloud at this point of time, so that push comes to shove, I can still access the most important data regardless of what's happening at home.
 

thiggins

Mr. Easy
Staff member
Yeah, vnangia, you folks in DC did get whacked worse than we did.

Connectivity options in large metropolitan areas can make for more viable backup plans. Out here in the semi-boonies, wired broadband options are limited (just DSL) and cell tower spacing is much more sparse. So having your one closest tower go out really screws you.

The one sweet spot in my driveway almost had me setting up a table and chair
out there as an office if it weren't so frickin' cold. At one point, I was standing with my netbook and its 3G USB card, holding it sideways to grab a better signal, trying to download 3 days of backed up mail and to check to see if SNB was still up.
 

vnangia

Senior Member
The one sweet spot in my driveway almost had me setting up a table and chair
out there as an office if it weren't so frickin' cold. At one point, I was standing with my netbook and its 3G USB card, holding it sideways to grab a better signal, trying to download 3 days of backed up mail and to check to see if SNB was still up.
Have you tried a cellular "booster"? From what I gather, it's a high gain external antenna, coupled to an amplifier and then a small antenna on the inside. They run about $300 or so - might be worth it, depending on how dependable your power supply is...
 

Hildebrand

New Around Here
Thanks Tim for sharing your experience. I've been thinking about this type of situation for a long time, and you've just summed it up nicely.
It is scary at how there really is no motivation to stabilize this flaw (as you pointed out).
 

wpns

Occasional Visitor
What will you pay?

But it can be done at a cost.
Of course it can, but will you happily double your monthly cost to have a week instead of a day of backup power? And how unhappy will you be when the power's out for 10 days?

How often has the power been out for more than an hour?

Anything can be done, but it's going to cost, and that's not going to fly in a world where we want it all for the lowest possible cost.

[And backup systems need to be properly engineered, tested, and maintained. I've got a sump pump, a redundant one next to it, and a float switch that feeds a fault indication to my alarm panel if the water rises above the level of the pumps. All three float switches seized up, and we had a minor flood in yesterday's rain. Triple-redundant doesn't help! Keeping you connected to the Interweb under all circumstances is very much non-trivial! 8*]
 

tsarles

New Around Here
Ultimately, as stated, you are looking at a business decision. If your provider doesn't provide the service you want, when you want it, you will switch to one that does.

I use cricket because I'm a cheap bastard. I don't want the government to come in and force them to buy an emergency generator, because they will ultimately have to push that cost to me. If you need high availability, you will ultimately pay for it.
 

willmatt

Occasional Visitor
Emergency Power Issues

:) In the old days all Phone Company Customers were connected to the central office via copper wire directly to the switch in the central office and the common battery. The central office had emergency generators with a run time dependent on the fuel supply, usually a week without a refill. When the Bell System began deploying Subscriber Line Carrier Systems they used Commercial Power and Battery Back Up at the remote cabinets. Depending on the age of the batteries the SLC systems could remain up from 12 to 24 Hours.

Some Synchronous Optical Network System have repeaters that are powered by Commercial Power and have 12 to 24 Hours of battery backup. If a Cellular tower is connected via fiber through a optical repeater with battery backup, the tower will drop out as soon as the fiber repeater batteries fail even though the tower has back up generators. There was a Hurricane in South Florida several years ago that was so severe that many Bell South central offices almost ran out of fuel for their emergency generators. Commercial Electric Power was out in many areas for up to 30 Days. Our power came back up in 4.5 days. One of our neighbors had a whole house generator that almost ran out of fuel because the propane supplier did not have an emergency generator, to operate the pump, that transferred propane from the storage tank to the delivery trucks.
 

spooony

Occasional Visitor
ha mobile networks fake internet
 

stevech

Part of the Furniture
I hope it's become better than this now.. But some years ago, a long power failure caused the cable TV company to send trucks all over the area with small "camping-type" AC generators. They went to manholes here and there to inject power.

I might also add: AT&T's damned curbside VRADS for U-Verse... They're at a density of many per sq. mile. Each consumes thousands of watts. Just walking by one, I can feel the heat blowing out. They have a big heat-exchanger with big fans. I'll bet in the snowy areas in the winter, the squirrels and buffalo huddle 'round them. I think it's an obscene waste of power, given how low the take-rate is for U-verse which itself is a silly technology in this era of hundreds of megabits to the home via coax and fiber.
 

spooony

Occasional Visitor
Using mobile broadband you waste more data in roundtrip packets than anything else.
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
A booster might be an option for next time... Thanks,
unofficially - please don't not use a booster on cellular - you might get thru, but it will jam every other subscriber on the site... it can impact essential calls...

the operators hate them as they draw the RF channel planning way out of skew..
 

Shamtes

Occasional Visitor
What was the secret? Yes, I got it, your phone was still functional even after a week without power and survived a hurricane. But what is the secret here? And how come it's dirty??!
 

Lt. Col. Obvious

Occasional Visitor
There seems a sad lack of another sort. I miss forums and actual discussion sometimes.

I'm... lamenting?... the passing of time and change over time? Oh God, I'm old. When did this happen?!
 

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