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(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)   Cellphone users in the northeast angry about hit or miss service after the hurricane. AT&T customers notice no change   (post-gazette.com) divider line 22
    More: Fail, T-Mobile USA, major carriers, phone company  
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581 clicks; posted to Business » on 05 Nov 2012 at 9:18 AM (2 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-11-05 09:30:51 AM  
I'm usually happy to be the first in line to criticize AT&T's practice of "increasing shareholder value" versus "infrastructure investment", however, I believe they deserve a bit of slack here.

Building a fault tolerant network takes a *lot* of freaking money, especially if you're going to build it in a city like New York. And let's assume they put generators on all of their sites, use microwave backhaul for backup, have 24-36 hours of battery power to start with, etc...

What happens when the power is still out four days later and the generators have no fuel? How long of an event should the network be designed to survive? And that assumes the infrastructure hasn't been damaged or destroyed to begin with.
 
2012-11-05 09:37:57 AM  
Done in one.
 
2012-11-05 09:52:17 AM  
All true, slykens, but in downtown Manhattan at least I heard the same story from everyone. VZ worked, ATT and Tmobile didn't. Voice and data. Maybe Verizon got lucky. But they also got lucky after the 2003 blackout and after 9-11. That's a lot of luck.
 
2012-11-05 10:11:18 AM  
A hurricane just hit you retards... chances are towers are not working... idiots
 
2012-11-05 10:30:13 AM  
FTA: "I live in lower manhattan. Vz has service u do not. You are ruining lives. I had to come midtown 2 call mom. Switching."

I'm pretty sure this tweet originated from some teenager that can't function without their phone. Nevermind that a hurricane just farked up the entire area and there are still a shiatload of people without power, heat, transportation, and fuel. I'm sure AT&T has made you a TOP priority. You won't be switching because I'm sure the account is in your parents name.
 
2012-11-05 11:23:26 AM  
Laugh at those who have landlines, but this is the exact reason why cutting cords can be a bad idea. Cell Towers, etc are far more likely to be damaged in situations like this.
 
2012-11-05 11:26:23 AM  
I'm shocked, shocked I say that a wireless network is less reliable than a wired one. Especially when that wired one has had over 100 years of work to make it reliable and the wireless one is still being built.

This is why I still keep a landline phone. Here on the South side of Houston, we've had a number of hurricanes that took out power for anywhere from a few hours to 13 days (some areas took nearly 90 days to get power back after Rita and Ike). The cell phones go down in a few hours except where the towers have generators -- they go out when the fuel runs out in 36 hours. My wired phone went out once for less than a day and stayed fully operational through all the other storms.

The news items about folks in lower Manhattan lining up for the few remaining pay phones indicate the same thing is happening there.
 
2012-11-05 11:52:03 AM  

Manfred J. Hattan: All true, slykens, but in downtown Manhattan at least I heard the same story from everyone. VZ worked, ATT and Tmobile didn't. Voice and data. Maybe Verizon got lucky. But they also got lucky after the 2003 blackout and after 9-11. That's a lot of luck.


in Staten Island it was the reverse. AT&T and T-mobile were ok, Verizon was farked.
 
2012-11-05 12:02:32 PM  

Artcurus: Laugh at those who have landlines, but this is the exact reason why cutting cords can be a bad idea. Cell Towers, etc are far more likely to be damaged in situations like this.


There's a reason I kept mine.

/lost most than a few towers in PA... slightly irritating, but nowhere as bad as it would have been if I didn't have a land line
 
2012-11-05 12:28:03 PM  

jgk3: I'm shocked, shocked I say that a wireless network is less reliable than a wired one. Especially when that wired one has had over 100 years of work to make it reliable and the wireless one is still being built.

This is why I still keep a landline phone. Here on the South side of Houston, we've had a number of hurricanes that took out power for anywhere from a few hours to 13 days (some areas took nearly 90 days to get power back after Rita and Ike). The cell phones go down in a few hours except where the towers have generators -- they go out when the fuel runs out in 36 hours. My wired phone went out once for less than a day and stayed fully operational through all the other storms.

The news items about folks in lower Manhattan lining up for the few remaining pay phones indicate the same thing is happening there.


With 100 years of *cough* "reliability" also comes 100 years of infrastructure that is falling apart and will cause massive amounts of money to upgrade. And anyone who has used cable for telephone service knows how reliable that is. Wireless can be as reliable as hard wired lines. If the carriers are pushed to do it.

/got rid of my landline 14 years ago. What works time and time again when a falling tree limb or winds knock out the communication lines? My cell phone.
 
2012-11-05 12:40:12 PM  
landlines are only good if your wires don't come down. Which in a hurricane and a power outage is very likely.

Of the 3 major outages in the past year (that we have had) only this one did not take out the lines. Every other time power, cable and telephone were taken out by the storms.

I keep a landline but only for dryloop / standalone DSL service. I was able to power the router with a 12v SLA which allowed me to get online and text etc. I have a cable internet connection, a DSL connection for backup and phones are cell only.

The landline is only good in a storm if you have a traditional old school phone that doesn't require power, so no wireless phones etc, and the lines stay up.

The best option for cell phone users would be to go with a softphone like Bria or something like that. At least if you can get to a place with working wifi you would be able to make calls.

A femtocell would be nice but again you would need a working internet connection to make it work for you.
 
2012-11-05 01:11:56 PM  
AT&T service was out in Washington DC for almost a day, and they weren't hit very hard by Sandy at all.

I know this because I went to the AT&T website to check my mobile account, and there was a text
message waiting for me warning of this. Of course, I didn't see that text on my phone until after they'd
restored service the next day.....
 
2012-11-05 01:27:17 PM  

kindms: The landline is only good in a storm if you have a traditional old school phone that doesn't require power, so no wireless phones etc, and the lines stay up.


I have a wireless phone with a backup battery in the base. It keeps working, at least for a while, in a power outage.

Worst case, use a splitter and keep a cheap traditional phone 'just in case'.
 
2012-11-05 05:46:01 PM  

gingerjet: With 100 years of *cough* "reliability" also comes 100 years of infrastructure that is falling apart and will cause massive amounts of money to upgrade.


More like 120 years. Landline phones are probably the most reliable part of our infrastructure. Utility poles and the utilities they carry are constantly being replaced and upgraded. Many 99-year leases on poles ran out in the '80s, but the poles had been replaced so many times, no one knew who actually owned what parts.
 
2012-11-05 10:37:39 PM  
We were in NY for a week before the hurricane and had zero issues with connectivity, I dont know what people are biatching about at all from NY..........

DjangoStonereaver: AT&T service was out in Washington DC for almost a day, and they weren't hit very hard by Sandy at all.


Except almost all of the towers near the coast of NJ and in Manhattan were down in NY, other than that no problems at all and Im sure they didnt reroute traffic through other call centers in nearby DC either..........
 
2012-11-06 10:01:20 AM  
Funny, my ham radios didn't notice any such "outage". They never do...
 
2012-11-06 11:17:18 AM  

dittybopper: Funny, my ham radios didn't notice any such "outage". They never do...


I take it you have a generator and/or a big battery backup system, right? In addition, I'm sure Ham radio could easily expand to the amount of communication done via cell phone. You totally wouldn't end up with a bable of interference that ended up with no communication.

Cell services 'could' have the reliability of landlines. They'd just have to spend the money to have bigger battery backups, generators, and hardened structures for their equipment. 'self healing' systems where towers can adjust frequencies and power levels to expand/contract if a tower is still taken out would also help.

Only problem: Money.
 
2012-11-06 12:18:15 PM  

Firethorn: I take it you have a generator and/or a big battery backup system, right? In addition, I'm sure Ham radio could easily expand to the amount of communication done via cell phone. You totally wouldn't end up with a bable of interference that ended up with no communication.


Here is the problem: Other than some form of electricity, a ham radio doesn't need any sort of modern infrastructure in order to communicate with other ham radios. Depending on the particular type of radio, it might be limited in range to a couple miles, a few tens of miles, or hundreds or thousands of miles, but it doesn't need anything between it and another radio to communicate.

A cell phone, by *DEFINITION*, needs infrastructure. It needs cell sites close by, with power and the ability to connect to the landline communications infrastructure, or it's essentially worthless for its intended function. Might be useful for telling time, but that's it. You can't use it to communicate if the infrastructure to support it is down, and that infrastructure is more vulnerable than we like to admit.

In addition, I'm sure Ham radio could easily expand to the amount of communication done via cell phone. You totally wouldn't end up with a bable of interference that ended up with no communication.

Actually, that's a feature, not a bug. Because it's limited to licensed operators, and because there are people who actually prepare for this sort of thing ahead of time, often the only means of communication out of a disaster area, at least initially, is via amateur radio. That has been the case for a number of disasters, including the Indian Ocean Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. Even when they aren't the only working communication system, they provide a useful adjunct by taking over mundane organizational communications, like they did during the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. That's not to mention the service they provide to the NWS through SkyWarn.

It works, because it doesn't require infrastructure. It also works because it's a filter to limit and prioritize communication: You can send a health and welfare request or message via ham radio, but it will have to wait while more important traffic gets passed. That prevents it from getting gummed up like you describe.  There are even standard messages that are used as a form of "compression", to minimize the length of any one particular message.

In the end, I'll leave you with this: The crew of the Bounty, which sank during Hurricane Sandy, was saved because they could send an e-mail to the Coast Guard via a piece of ham radio software called "Winlink 2000", over ham radio frequencies.
 
2012-11-06 02:25:18 PM  
So I'm wondering if these companies have any institutional memory at all.

Post-Katrina, much of SE Louisiana cell service was in the dark, because AT&T (Bell South at the time) and other providers had their 504 and 985 nodes south of I-10, and they got flooded. Verizon customers fared much better, b/c their nodes were in Baton Rouge, well away from the flood zone. After Katrina, all the major carriers moved their facilities well to the north of the city in hardened facilities.
 
2012-11-06 03:57:27 PM  

vicejay: So I'm wondering if these companies have any institutional memory at all.

Post-Katrina, much of SE Louisiana cell service was in the dark, because AT&T (Bell South at the time) and other providers had their 504 and 985 nodes south of I-10, and they got flooded. Verizon customers fared much better, b/c their nodes were in Baton Rouge, well away from the flood zone. After Katrina, all the major carriers moved their facilities well to the north of the city in hardened facilities.


Perhaps Verizon was more worried about flooding because of the December 28th, 2000 flood of their switch in Schenectady, NY. Lessons learned, and all that.
 
2012-11-06 04:45:32 PM  
Over here in New York, on Verizon cell service, while working, is still pretty sketchy. People were telling me that they had to call me 4 or 5 times to get through, and there is always lots of breaking up.

I feel like I'm on AT&T again.
 
2012-11-07 01:02:56 PM  
Verizon FIOS and cell worked all through the storm here outside NE Philly. Even with the pole in the back yard broken in half and a tree laying on the wires, once I plugged the interface box into the generator, I had phone and internet.

Just glad I had a generator that can run the fridge and the TV.
 
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