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Re: East Coast Earthquake 8-23-2011 - comment and a bit of a Christchurch Telco report :)
From: Don Gould <don () bowenvale co nz>
Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2011 23:27:39 +1200

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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