Lousiana: Broadband Trial By Fire

Posted by Sam Churchill on

ROGER ROSENBLATT: I don’t know much about public policy as a study or activity. I just always assumed that it had something to do with the public…

One week after the devastating storm, the death toll in the Gulf region remains elusive. One grim estimate comes from New Orleans’ mayor, who warns that 10,000 people may have died.

“I hold her hand as tight as I could. And she told me, you can’t hold me. She said take care of the kids and the grandkids.”

– New Orleans survivor, Hardy Jackson

The city’s electricity is still out. Flooding and safety concerns kept the utility company Entergy from checking the condition of its power grid in New Orleans until Sunday. Entergy restored service to some 14,000 people in Mississippi on Sunday, but over 62,000 Mississippi residents still had no electricity on Sunday evening.

Mississippi Power has hurricane news and outage numbers. Portable Power 2005, from September 18 through Wednesday, September 21, in San Francisco, has the latest technology.

Cingular, Sprint and Verizon have current cellular restoration news. Boing Boing, e-Week, Government Technology, Government Computer News, Federal Computer Week, Washington Technology and Wired cover Fubar from the beltway gang and Billion Dollar Contract Opportunities.

Hurricane Katrina wiped out telecommunications along much of the Gulf Coast so accounting of damage and casualties has been difficult. Pumping water out may take a month or more.

Large regions remain without radio communications and many fiber backbones and telephone switches are a total loss. Restoration of service will take weeks, if not months.

Satellite communications generally provide the first telecommunications links after a disaster since they don’t rely on terrestrial infrastructure. But satellite phones are slow and costly. Large satellite uplinks, provided by television stations, telcos and the military, provide faster uplinks but suffer from latency and power requirements.

Fixed wireless backbones are another option. They can link to operational fiber hubs, some 1-50 miles away, and may provide hundreds of megabits/second relatively cheaply. Satellite backbones can’t supply that speed.

Fixed WiMax (802.16-2004), standardized last year, is currently being tested for interoperability between vendors. Not a moment too soon, it appears. Mobile WiMax gear, not even standardized yet, could be pressed into service even though it’s not really ready.

The New Orlean’s police department’s citywide 800 MHz radio system went down as power was disrupted. Transmitter sites for the police radio system “are also underwater with the rising water and [are] now disabled,” according to reports.

Here’s a rundown of some fixed (802.16-2004) and (pre-mobile) gear from a variety of vendors:

Some companies like Adaptix, Navini, Motorola and SR Telecom are entirely focused on mobile or nomadic systems and will wait for 802.16e.

Fixed Wireless Backbones, using 802.16-2004 or proprietary systems using frequencies above 10 GHz with more than one gigahertz of bandwidth, may also be drafted. They can provide wireless bridges to working fiber hubs several miles away.

Satellite communications is sometimes the only option and satellite phones like Globalstar and Iridium are an obvious choice. While satellite phones are good for voice, they can’t send data much faster than 2.4-9Kbps. For data communications, mobile terminals with flat panels or dishes are used. Television and the military use large trucks with 6 foot or larger dishes for highspeed uplinks. But smaller dishes are becoming more cost/effective and mobile, especially when using higher power, spot beam satellites.

The Plan

Each community on the West Coast of the United States, it seems to me, ought to have emergency broadband wireless. For the people.

A 2-way V-Sat terminal, with a generator and solar panels would provide communications backup. Solar panels, like Sanyo’s 200 watt panels can charge deep cycle batteries though charge controllers.

Normally, these tower might use the local Telco for backhaul (with a wireless link), and provide links to 2-3 remote wireless towers (or Wireless Kiosks), for “wireless cloud” service.

A dozen access points with built-in wireless backhaul, like those available from D-Link and NETGEAR, could provide mobile voice, data and video services for police and fire. Perhaps a budget anywhere from $50,000-$350,000 would cover the hardware and software.

Don’t wait for FEMA. Just do it.

Alvarion’s BreezeMax line is shipping WiMax-ready clients while Airspan’s EasyST client includes a WiMax backbone with built-in WiFi for local access. D-Link’s EV-DO access point and NETGEAR’s hotspot with Flarion backhaul are ready to go.

Wireless Kiosks might even make money. The communications tower might routinely feed 3-4 outdoor, advertiser-sponsored, Community Kiosks/Access Points. The Kiosks could use a removable touchscreen tablet PC and house Tsunami alert info with a netcam. A couple of old 12 volt truck batteries could run it for a week in case of emergency. Here’s how to build a solar-powered access point.

LinksysInfo.org reviews ALL the latest (free) firmware software for creating automatic, redirect “splash” pages on ordinary, $60 Linksys access points. Turning hopeless victims into smart mobs is the goal of empowerment software like JotSpot and Wiki software.

Sputnik might manage hundreds of $60 Linksys Hotspots and update new splash pages on all of them in minutes. Try that with your fancy $2000 Project 25 radios or $20,000 frequency jumper.

YOUR life, YOUR business and YOUR community are on the line.

The Public Telecommunications Facilities Program gives away lots of money. It seems as though the money is rarely spent on public telecommunications. It’s insular. Agencies talk amongst themselve and call that good. It’s not.

Here are some mobile satellite terminals that are sometimes used by consumers or small businesses:

RAINS (above) is working with first responders and various cities’ mayors, as well as with statewide groups developing strategies for such things as interoperability between radio systems.

Battery operated wireless-mesh routers (right) can instantly establish local area networks. Flarion or WiMax towers can feed mobile units or remote hotspots like Netgear’s mobile hotspots that integrate a Flarion wireless backhaul with a WiFi hotspot or D-Link’s WiFi hotspot with built-in EV-DO.

D-Link says its mobile hotspot will feature two USB 2.0 ports, one for providing wireless broadband access when used in conjunction with a USB enabled 3G mobile cell phone and another port for optional print server. It uses WPA, 802.1X and NAT for security.

If you’ve got an EV-DO account, for example, you could place the EV-DO card in the slot for your broadband backhaul. D-Link has not said what the price will be, and doesn’t expect it to be on shelves until early 2006.

Netgear has an access point with a built-in Flarion card (below) to provide built-in broadband wireless backhaul. WiFiPlanet and Unstrung have additional coverage.

Radio References has a Wiki with the Status of Public Service Radio Systems.

Sascha Meinrath says he is working with Part 15 and expects to go to the region on September 6th, using technology developed at the Champaign-Urbana Wireless Network (CUWiN). Meinrath says:

We’ve secured a base of operations and are working with Part-15 to get FEMA approval to operate in the emergency area. We’ve got people heading down starting tomorrow, so if you are interested in being part of this team, drop me an e-mail [sascha at ucimc.org].

Prometheus Radio has received dispensation to set up an emergency LPFM station in New Orleans, so we’re interested in anyone who would like to help with that.

Fire is now a growing concern. Several blazes have been left to burn themselves out because the city water supply has failed and fire-fighters have no way to reach the scene. Several gas leaks have also been reported.

DailyWireless has more on Katrina Telecommunications, MercyCorps, Tsunami Monitoring, Tsunami Warning Ideas,SolarPC, On Mt. Saint Helens, Wireless Streetlight, Solar Powered AP, More Solar WiFi, London Explosions & Wireless Fallout, 700 MHz On The Line, Public Service Moves to 800Mhz, Oregon’s 700 mile Cloud in NY Times, WiMax: On The Road with Adaptix, Global Mobile Television, RADWIN Does 4.9 GHz, Mesh Round-Up, Tropos Mobilizes, More 4.9 GHz Gear, 900 Mhz Gear, MultiMedia Interoperability, 60 GHz Radios, Gigabeam in Ireland, 10 Gig Wireless, Mobile Hotspot How To, The Future of Train Travel, Manpack Cellular Backbones, Mobile HotSpot, Mobile WiMax Chips, Nomadix + Hughes Direcway, MPEG-4: Satellite, Cable & Wireless, Satellite TV on Cell Phone?, Sprint Bundles EchoStar, Satellite WiFi, DirecWay Modem Shares Access, Sharing a satellite connection from a van, Tachyon & Datastorm Satellite News, Sharing Community Satellite Networks, Webcam Situation Report, HiSeasNet Goes Live Boulder’s Solar Powered Zone, Transit Wireless, Intelsat & Panamsat to Merge, Intelsat Spotbeam Launched, DirecTV8 Launches, Spaceway 1 Launched, Anik’s P2P Spotbeam Tested, Inmarsat Launches Spotbeam Satellite, Pacific Satellites Fail, Mobile Satellite Access, Off Shore Data Links, Spot Beam Satellite Launched, DirecTV Bites $1.6B, DirecTV Kills Two-Way Spaceway, Multiuser Satellite Access, Sharing A Satellite Van and Anik F-2 Launches.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Monday, September 5th, 2005 at 4:32 am .

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