East Coast Earthquake 8-23-2011 - comment and a bit of a Christchurch Telco report :)

Don Gould don at bowenvale.co.nz
Thu Aug 25 06:27:39 CDT 2011

On 25/08/2011 9:58 p.m., Mark Foster wrote:
> This is a cynical approach to what happened, in my (Auckland based) 
> opinion.  In the early stages information would've been relatively 
> hard to come by, responders were very much in an all-hands-to-the-pump 
> running-on-instinct phase and the scale of the incident means that 
> regional and national emergency response needed to be spun up. As 
> resources arrived from outside the immediately affected area, 
> information began to be handled in a more structured fashion and the 
> picture became clearer.

Yes.  I understand this.  I wonder if I didn't word my thoughts very 
well? :)

I don't know much about how radio is run.

I recall thinking at the time "I wish they'd tone down the hype... this 
is VERY real".  It was my observation that the radio hype toned down 
later in the day.  I think you're right that the reason was they had 
more concrete information to talk about.  Reflecting on it later, I 
wondered if they have a disaster policy?  I wondered if they really 
understood the impact they were having on people.

Perhaps my views are cynical.  I know I turned to the radio for a sense 
of comfort that afternoon.  A feeling of being 'informed' while I 
shovelled barrow loads of silt away, that rose up under my home, was 
important to me.
> The broadcasters are human.


> The Christchurch quake is the single biggest event of our generation 
> (in NZ) and most of the broadcasters had never seen anything that big 
> or signficant. The human cost hits home.  Ithink it's cynical to think 
> of 'money shot' type approaches... whilst every journo and cameraman 
> wants good footage, you make them sound more callous than I expect 
> they were.
Sorry, that was not my intention at all.

My impression is that these people were proud to do the job as best they 
could.  To me, a 'money shot' isn't just about how much they can push 
the ratings, it's also about doing your job well to tell the story.

News guys are passionate about what they do.  But they are human, and I 
think we lost sight of that at one point in the weeks that followed as 
one of our best started to crack.

I recall earlier in the year we had another disaster down here, a mine 
exploded.  It was a media feeding frenzie.  But that's what it was, a 
frenzie, none of the media were in any danger of getting hurt.  But this 
was very different.  The media were in harms way.  Frankly their 
professional level was amazing to watch.

>> While I did loose text messaging, I never lost my telephone service 
>> or email connection.  My phone service is on VoIP.  I have a client 
>> on my mobile phone.  So my service just transferred to my mobile even 
>> though my home lost power.  When the mobile data 3G net failed, I 
>> then flicked to 2G GPRS data, then when that failed my power was back 
>> and we returned to the HFC cable.
> This isnt necessarily a success story.  All of the above has a heavy 
> dependency on mains power. You're probably lucky that you retained 
> sufficient battery endurance for the time you had no mains power.  Yet 
> another observation; the trend toward Smartphones is also a trend 
> toward devices that you're lucky to get 2 days of standby on, in 
> comparison to older, more basic handsets that might give you a week 
> between charges.

Yes.  I now have an inverter permanently in my car so we can charge phones.

> Another risk.
> I see VOIP as more risky than copper POTS due to the inability to rely 
> on the service 'just working'.  Where the exchange - a decent facility 
> with significant investment in redundant power - can backfill power 
> needs for an extended period back along the copper pair, this has got 
> to be better than the average VOIP user who probably has no redundant 
> power option at all.  The corded-phone harvest would be no good for 
> anyone who was fully on VOIP... even those end-nodes that have 
> gel-cell batteries fitted for service during a power-failure would 
> only be good for a few hours at best. How many residential properties 
> have a Generator available?
A growing number of homes have generators now as a result the the 
quake.   A number of my friends have generators now as well.

We are moving to an IP world, like it or not.  That's how I see it 
anyway.   I like POTS, it's simple and will run over just about 
anything, but it's expensive and my experience showed that it can't be 
relied on as well as my VoIP.

+64 3 348 7235 - It just rings.

My neighbour on the incumbent lost his service for 3 days when the sewer 
guys damaged the lines and the telco simply wasn't able to get service 
to him because they couldn't figure out what was wrong.

My other neighbour lost his pstn, and I suspect it was because of issues 
in the city exchange that controls all the nodes.  But what ever caused 
it, it was down for days with no way to get calls moved in a cost 
effective way.

> Wireless, especially on unlicensed spectrum, has nowhere near the SLA 
> that a typical fibre (or even copper business-grade) service can 
> provide. You have a fight for spectrum, and latency/jitter figures 
> that dont compare.
Yip... agree.

Fibre - "Sorry 6 weeks..."
Copper - "Sorry it's been 6 weeks... may be next week..."
Wireless - "After lunch tomorrow, but your phone calls might chop a bit..."

What's an 'SLA'?

What I will say is that the wireless option was a very useful tool to 
get a hurry on sorting the copper services. ;)

> It has its place though and ive no doubt that folks will be more open 
> to a service than can be uplifted and moved relatively easily, 
> especially at the moment with many businesses operating in temporary 
> premesis while their red-zone office spaces have their futures decided.
> I would also not be surprised to see many of these folks tend back to 
> fibre type services once theyre established in new permanent premesis.

If the price point is right then they might.  But I suspect  that the 
price point is going to have to be right for many.

> One wireless last-mile provider I spoke to a few weeks ago was 
> describing to me how one of their key transmission sites was the roof 
> of a red-stickered building thats now marked for demolition.  The very 
> geography that works well for large, high powered transmission (ala 
> TV) does not lend itself to shared-spectrum, nodal stuff such as 
> wireless IP. You still need adequately connected locations that you 
> can place RF kit on, with sufficiently-decent antennas to provide the 
> right mix of directionality and coverage to ensure you can use and 
> re-use your relatively limited spectrum to support the highest number 
> of customers possible.

Agreed.  It's no where near as simple as just digging a hole, pushing in 
a fibre and knowing you can deliver 300Gbit without much effort, just 
the right head ends.

>   Wireless is a mixed bag, but it is indeed better than nothing.
100% agree with that.  If you want your business back on line fast then 
wireless is the only way to do it in my view after seeing what I've seen 
in the past 6 months.

Having said that, the guys who I've been talking to locally about it, 
are using a lot of fibre to aggregate data around the city.  They're not 
using long reach wireless, they're using it to do short hops and taking 
care to manage resources carefully.


Don Gould
31 Acheson Ave
Christchurch, New Zealand
Ph: + 64 3 348 7235
Mobile: + 64 21 114 0699

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