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back to article Quarter of Eastern cell towers BLOWN down BY SANDY - FCC

Around a quarter of mobile phone towers in the ten East-coast states hit by Hurricane Sandy have been damaged or destroyed, the Federal Communications Commission has said. The FCC is anticipating continued communication problems as other towers are running on backup power. "This was and still is a devastating storm with a …

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Devil

UK site with international readership

I take it "Eastern" refers to some part of the USA, nothing to do with Eastern UK.

/end of nitpickery

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Re: UK site with international readership

Using "Sandy" in the headline should be sufficient for competent tech readers to localize the "Eastern" reference.

And, if you were going to engage in nitpickery, it would be the NORTH Eastern region of the United States. Eastern region basically refers to everything west of the Mississippi, which is much larger (geographically) than the large area which has been affected.

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Re: UK site with international readership

Sandy, Bedfordshire is in the South East of England.

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Paris Hilton

Re: Sandy, Bedfordshire

I'm quite certain that is someone meant Sandy, Bedfordshire blows, it would have a whole different context.

Paris, cause she knows when it blows.

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fnj

Re: UK site with international readership

Oops. That would be EAST of the Mississippi.

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Re: Oops.

Yeah, never pays to be pedantic.

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Looks like a business case for iridium.

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Anonymous Coward

Here in DCland and the parts of PA where my friends live

cell service seems decent. Received messages from friend in Harrisburg (PA capital, about 2/3 of the way to the half way point of the commonwealth) and one in Hatfield (northeast PA and getting closer to the track of the eye). I expect NYC service is horrible at the moment (including all of its suburbs which even reach into NJ).

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Alien

Still no Zombies?

I am so disappoint.

The only good side is that the Keynesian Delusionalists à la Krugman will now be held up to their words: After this, the economy should rebound swiftly, right? No I don't believe so either. The broken window fallacy applies. But I'm sure we will soon hear moans that Sandy didn't destroy ENOUGH for a sustainable rebound.

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Big Brother

Re: Still no Zombies?

And you claim there are no zombies?

Come on, just LOOK at all the world's politicians!!!

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Re: Still no Zombies?

There were loads out last night. Killed about 15 of them myself. Dunno why they were all carrying sweets.

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Flame

If they didn't have all their electricity cables above ground...

... there wouldn't be such bad power outtages. Seriously, visiting the US from europe, sometimes its like visiting a 3rd world country with power cables slung everywhere. Ever heard of putting them in underground ducting?? Hello??

As for the phone masts - surely they've been built to withstand stronger winds than this strorm managed? 85-100 mph is not a big deal for hurricanes.

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Mushroom

Re: If they didn't have all their electricity cables above ground...

I agree. They should envy the lack of high voltage cables in the UK, making us invulnerable to hurricanes. That's why nobody remembers the 1987 one, because the lights stayed on.

NOT.

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WTF?

Re: If they didn't have all their electricity cables above ground...

"I agree. They should envy the lack of high voltage cables in the UK, making us invulnerable to hurricanes. That's why nobody remembers the 1987 one, because the lights stayed on."

"NOT."

Err, I don't know where you were but they stayed on in London which I think is fair to say would be the equivalent of new york in this scenario.

Anyway, I was talking about the local low and mid voltage cabling within towns and cities. And FYI they are starting to bury some of the 250kv national cables now.

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Mushroom

Re: If they didn't have all their electricity cables above ground...

Bollocks they did. 1987 the power went of in almost all of the South East. I was living in Woolwich by the river and looked out into total and utter darkness the like of which I had never seen.

Fair point about LV cables though.

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Re: If they didn't have all their electricity cables above ground...

I agree too. Always amazes me to see all those local distribution cables strung up on poles for miles, and so labour intensive to repair after damage. At least in the UK our local distribution is mostly underground, though of course the incoming 33kv to a town/village may well be on overheads. But, its a lot quick to repair one set of 33kv overheads in an open field and light up a few thousands homes than it is to have to repair poles on street after street of residential properties all lined with trees and branches.

I also suspect the 25% figures means sites out of action - either due to loss of power or loss of backhaul. Remember most mobile backhaul is on microwave link, which needs a pointing accuracy of less than 1 degree and line of site to work. A fallen tree can block the path, or twist the antenna enough to take the path down. Where you have one major node acting as a concentrator it can easily knock out comms over a larger area, even though many of the locals sites are still capable of working - as T-mobile learnt in the Peterborough area a few years back.

This is another solid reminder of why the emergency services MUST have their own comms networks, under their direct control and not rely on public infrastructure.

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Monkey wiring

It doens't just look 3rd world, it is. have you seen some of the splicing techniques used?

Then there are the traffic lights, swinging from wires as well. Contraption, not construction.

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FAIL

Re: If they didn't have all their electricity cables above ground...

Guess you missed the Con Edison briefing the other day.

A good chunk of NYC cabling is underground. It's flooded out too and will take 3 to 4 days to restore. First the conduit has to be drained of saltwater. Then it has to be flushed to remove whatever saline solution remains. Then it needs to be dried and finally it can be activated again.

Mast aren't likely to be the problem. Trees falling into the masts, or possibly electrical lines falling into the masts are. Oh, and the fact that if they avoided those problems, the masts are likely attached to the grid. Which is not functioning at the moment.

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Re: If they didn't have all their electricity cables above ground...

You folks in the UK may not have it, but over here in the colonies (New England, specifically), we have this stuff called 'bedrock". I invite you to try burying cables (or anything else) in it.

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WTF?

Re: If they didn't have all their electricity cables above ground...

Did on Reigate Hill ... of all places given how many hundreds of trees were felled 1/2 mile away. No power failure all night or the next day.

But anyway...

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Re: If they didn't have all their electricity cables above ground...

"You folks in the UK may not have it, but over here in the colonies (New England, specifically), we have this stuff called 'bedrock". I invite you to try burying cables (or anything else) in it."

Unless you're driving around directly on the bedrock there should be at least a foot of material underneath your roads in which a cable could be buried. How on earth do you imagine your drainage system works? If all else fails you could artificially raise the height of the land, gravel is cheap.

This hurricane has been blown (hyuk hyuk) well out of proportion. I saw an appeal the other day for donations to the Red Cross to help those affected by the storm. I had to do a double take, did New York suddenly stop being the financial capital of the richest country on the planet?

Also, because I couldn't resist...

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Re: If they didn't have all their electricity cables above ground...

"Bollocks they did. 1987 the power went of in almost all of the South East. I was living in Woolwich by the river and looked out into total and utter darkness the like of which I had never seen."

Well I was living in north london at the time and we had no power interruptions whatsoever. *shrug*

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FAIL

Re: If they didn't have all their electricity cables above ground...

"You folks in the UK may not have it, but over here in the colonies (New England, specifically), we have this stuff called 'bedrock". I invite you to try burying cables (or anything else) in it."

What you mean like the NYC subway? How did they manage that but can't manage a few power cables?

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Re: If they didn't have all their electricity cables above ground...

A lot of the cables are above ground, and when working with 20KV lines, it actually is a bit more complex than just burying conduit and pulling cables through them, but the problem is the electric companies are in business to make money and above ground is vastly cheaper AND does not require additional utility right-of-ways on private property, etc. (Also, the distances involved are, uh, a bit larger than those encountered in the UK...)

Much of the problem with the cell sites being out of service is power being interrupted, often by flooding of electrical distribution points, etc., but even more of a problem, I suspect, is the equipment cabinets at ground level being flooded with salt water. The towers themselves are pretty much undamaged, but much of the equipment at ground level has been damaged.

(Best info is just the somewhat small carrier I'm on, the third largest in the US, had around 4000 towers out of service right now.)

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Terminator

Re: If they didn't have all their electricity cables above ground...

Bedrock is where the Flintstones live.

And being buried in rock - it's so easy anyones saviour can do it.

This is all on American TV too.

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Devil

Re: If they didn't have all their electricity cables above ground...

"Did New York suddenly stop being the financial capital of the richest country on the planet?"

Ummm look up how the Federal Reserve invents money out of thin air, loans it, and then the lenders reloan it.... then they lend the credit that does not exist, to the US govt, in return for Govt Bonds....

And they let people borrow money that does not exist to buy their homes, and when they default on the loans of money that does not exist, the banks seize the real material value of the homes and other property....

Etc., etc., etc...

The USA is actually the most in debt for imaginary money country in the universe.

It's insolvent, the spiral of creating wealth from loans of imaginary money, has reached stagnation point....

And the USA national debt to the US federal reserve (private bank) owned by the Rothschild bank, is trillions upon trillions.

Look up the Federal Reserve, Fractional Lending and Rothschild Bank....

Nothing but a HUGE global scam.

So the USA is actually the UN - wealthiest country in the world.

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WTF?

Misunderstanding?

25% cell towers *blown down*???

That doesn't sound right. Those towers are built to survive. What the FCC actually said isn't clear, but other news sites are reporting the 25% number, with the terms "down, knocked out, damaged". It seems more likely that what the FCC meant to say, was that 25% of the cell sites are inoperative.

If you've seen one of those towers up close, they're built to stay standing through worse than Sandy.

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Here's what CNET says

"Genachowski said that as of 10 a.m. ET today, 25 percent of the nation's wireless companies' cell sites were not operational..."

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-57542642-94/fcc-on-sandy-cell-service-likely-to-get-worse-before-it-gets-better/

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Facepalm

"so that mobile networks could stay open for priority calls"

So....basically the "Nationwide Wireless Priority Service" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nationwide_Wireless_Priority_Service

Or you know GSM basics that require emergency services numbers be given priority by a base station dropping non-999/911/112/etc calls as required?

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Lost power probably...

Which means people will think they've been demolished since they arent working...

Which begs the question - if these things are so important (and they are to our modern society) why arent they fitted with some sort of built in auxiliary power (barrel solar arrays or built in generator)? It wouldnt cost that much to put a retractable wind generator on the top of the towers (with a storage bin for the genny if the winds get silly).

That way your system is more resilient, more able to cope in emergency situations and its less likely that your voters will be using semaphore to contact the emergency services after having both legs crushed by a Chevy at flank speed.

Simples...

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Re: Lost power probably...

"...why arent they fitted with some sort of built in auxiliary power (barrel solar arrays or built in generator)?"

The one down the road from me has three (or four?) providers on it. Each one has a generator and an associated large underground propane tank. Of course, that tank only lasts a certain number of hours...and refueling it when there are downed trees across the road is...problematic. Wind generators, solar panels, etc don't produce enough steady power to run the site, and would require large batter banks.

All of which is why I still have a land line :-)

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Mushroom

Re: Lost power probably...

Yeah, let me know how putting a glorified pinwheel on top of a tall, slender mast designed to hold antennas works out for you. Because not only are you looking at a top-heavy situation; you're also looking at providing wind resistance at the top of a slender structure (NOT a good idea that a lot of trees can attest to), introducing radio noise from the generator itself (NOT a good idea if you're on top of a mast which is holding antennas), and buckling the structure that's holding it up (because a cell tower mast is designed to hold antennas, not a spinning fan blade attached to a generator and a swivel).

Oh, and in the context of this article, having "a storage bin for the genny if the winds get silly" will be useless, because in a hurricane...the winds are ALWAYS silly. That's one of the main reasons it's a hurricane.

Your other ideas (solar arrays/built in generator) are also poo-poo. There's a LOT of electronic equipment powering the antennas on a cell mast, so you'll need a lot of power. Somehow, I don't think solar arrays during a hurricane will provide the power the mast needs to stay online for very long, if at all. Having a built-in generator is a bit redundant, as in the post 9/11 world in the US, cell towers are required to have a certain amount of time to be online after the grid power goes out. So each tower/station has its own batteries and inverters (provides a few hours of power), backed up by a generator with about 18 or so hours of fuel to run off of.

So basically, it's not so "simples".

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OMG How can they update their twitter page status LOL

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HELLO! HELLO! I'M IN THE DRAIN...

NT

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Burying the power lines.

well I guess the answer comes down to money and the will to do it. Dunno about the UK but the LADWP is (what they tell us) broke.

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Burying the lines is expensive

Radelix

The cost of underground is usually about seven times that of overhead .

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Re: Burying the lines is expensive

Is that just installation or does it factor in long term maintenance?

Overhead cables are under constant variable stresses (even without hurricanes). Underground stuff needs almost no maintenance - If someone digs your cable up, they pay for it, not you. For example, in my street they had to upgrade the mains a year or two ago, only they didn't replace it, just ran another one in a new trench and jointed the two in a couple of places. The guys said the old one was installed in the 1970s, but that they still had live cable around that was lead sheathed, waxed paper and tar impregnated!

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Anonymous Coward

Nukevil is right, a full cell site can't be powered by solar or wind power yet. I have seen microwave repeaters powered by solar but without an actual cell transmitter.

Most of the site will be down because of generators running out of fuel or or more likely microwave dishes out of alignment or a line of sight obstructions.

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Holmes

Besides wind and solar power......

basically involve exterior equipment that are essentially big-ass wind sail areas. If you used that to power cell towers the El Reg article about the next hurricane would be "50% of cell towers knocked out by hurricane" with a subtitle of "Mean green flying machine-ry".

I've just registered that with the copyright office, btw.....

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"This was and still is a devastating storm with a serious impact on our nation's communications infrastructure,"

Facebook was down !

Didn't some bright spark politico suggest using FB for national warnings ?

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So, let me get this streight...

They want us to use text messages INSTEAD of voice because it takes up less bandwidth. This I understand. Now please tell me why voice calls are cheaper that text messages.

Different profit centers, I assume.

For the record, the voice part of a call takes about 64k bits per second (probably compressed by 1/2 but I'm not sure) in each direction for the call. Typical messages (tweet length) are 140 characters (double for overhead), making it around 4000 or so bits, which in my calculations is less than a tenth of a second of a voice call.

Begs the question: Why?

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Anonymous Coward

one word: ham radio

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Anonymous Coward

Seven words:

Dimwit.

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