Post-Disaster Cellular Provider Recovery: Part 2

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COWs, COLTs, GOATs

A Barnyard for Business Continuity Strategies

As we mentioned in Part 1 of this two-part series, a May 8th article in the Los Angeles Times (L.A. becomes first U.S. city to enact quake safety standards for new cellphone towers) reported that LA had just approved new seismic standards for newly built cellphone towers.

At Cradlepoint we support all efforts that lead to better business continuity. Here are some of the things cell providers are doing to maintain their subscribers’ business continuity in the event of a disaster.

Cell providers actually face two problems in the wake of a disaster: physical destruction, including loss of towers and of power, and a surge in cellphone traffic that can overload a network.

CTIA-The Wireless Association® notes that service providers have in place a number of solutions to maintain continuity in the event of a disaster. These solutions include:

  • COWs (Cell on Wheels): Mobile cell sites with antenna and equipment to provide wireless coverage or boost capacity. Typically, COWs have their own batteries and/or generators so that they don’t have to rely on a local electrical supply.

  • COLTs (Cell on Light Trucks): Mobile cell sites, attached to a truck or other large vehicle, with antenna and equipment to extend wireless coverage or boost capacity. Like COWs, COLTS normally have their own power sources.

  • GOATs (Generator on a Trailer): Mobile electrical generators, often attached to trailers or trucks, deployed to provide electrical power.

  • Geo-redundant disaster recovery centers that monitor cell traffic and reroute and load-balance cell traffic when the number of cell calls into and out of an area surges. In general, cellular providers encourage residents in a disaster area to use text messaging rather than voicemail to reduce the load on the network.

  • Backup supplies of parts, portable generators, and repair personnel.

Read more for an overview of CTIA efforts to minimize physical damage to networks, implement redundancy efforts, and handle system overloading.

How “Hard” is Hardwired?

Companies that rely on hardwired connectivity face some very big challenges in the event of an emergency. There is the overarching problem of lack of power in an emergency and the issue of last-mile diversity and redundancy. Hardwired companies are advised to create this diversity by utilizing redundant connections from multiple service providers. These same companies might be surprised to learn that these multiple providers may, in fact, be sharing the same transmission lines. Internet service providers (ISPs) and competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) often operate using leased network infrastructure from the same incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC). The best strategy for business continuity is WAN Diversity. WAN Diversity is the convergence of wired and wireless solutions. Wireless solutions generally aren't subject to the same physical damage as wired lines. Plus, in the event of a disaster like hurricane Sandy, the cellular carriers call in their barnyards to restore cellular connectivity.

That's a great reason to add a barnyard to your business continuity planning.