[LINK] Cairns power and 3G wireless networks in recent cyclones

Phillip Musumeci pmusumeci at gmail.com
Mon Feb 7 18:06:15 AEDT 2011

Related to "Re: [LINK] NextG Wireless Stays Up As NBN Fibre
Broadband Crashes (linda rouse)"

In the aftermath of both cyclone Larry and cyclone Yasi, the mains power
took roughly 2 to 3 days to be restored for a large proportion of the
population.  For those more directly affected, it took up to a month with
cyclone Larry.  In both cases, mobile networks lost operation of some base
stations after 6 to 24 hours because the batteries simply ran out.  In my
case with optus and cyclone Yasi, I had access throughout but it was
sporadic on the 2nd day after cyclone landfall as it depended on towers
further away with reliable power.

I guess a backup power design spec of say 6 hours catches almost all of the
"normal" power outages i.e. those not disaster related.  If you wanted to
harden the telecomms system so that it assisted in the coordination of
responses during and after an emergency (e.g. via 2-way comms and not just
1-way announcements as provided by radio), what would be the best approach?

- In the case of 3G networks up north, extending the battery capacity of
towers and links upstream might be a cost effective first stage.  Many if
not all home owners already own their own generators and/or know how to deal
with handset recharging using a car adaptor, but it is the base stations
that are the weakest link at present.  (in some of the worst affected areas,
I understand mobile base stations have been deployed for Tully/Cardwell
replacing destroyed towers but that just emphasises that the users can sort
out handsets even with extended loss of mains)

- In the case of a hardened NBN, if that was desired, now might be a good
time to consider what operation times without mains power will be supported
by the nodes and also what options a user has in terms of having an extended
battery life for the end point electronics.  Once the NBN is offering
backhaul with its dual redundancy network topology, the base stations will
likely be the larger risk and the up stream connections the smaller risk.

- With regard to overhead versus underground cabling for the NBN, users in
cyclone areas probably prefer underground (so long as only the fibre is


Message: 5
> Date: Mon, 07 Feb 2011 14:43:35 +1000
> From: linda rouse <linda at databasics.com.au>
> Subject: Re: [LINK] NextG Wireless Stays Up As NBN Fibre Broadband Crashes
> To: link at mailman.anu.edu.au
> Message-ID: <4D4F7877.1020808 at databasics.com.au>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed
> Hi Linkers
> I'm based in Smithfield Cairns and I have nothing but praise for ABC
> local radio who managed to stay up the entire time of what was truly a
> terrifying experience even in Cairns, which missed the worst of Yasi.
> They broadcast continually and gave out the different frequency numbers
> as they moved from studio to studio - taking calls from everywhere along
> the way. The call-in numbers also kept changing as they changed
> locations - very interesting actually as we were not sure half the
> timewhere they were broadcasting from! . We had to swap from the FM
> network to AM on Thursday midday as the storms set in.
> We lost all power on the wed night at about 10.00 but others went down
> sooner and others like Palm Cove.did not lose power at all.
> We managed to get BOM maps and check on the tracker all the way through
> until we lost phones on thruday. We were warned that G3 network was
> unstable and that phone network was running on batteries but we managed
> to stay online via laptop well into Thursday.
> All phones and power was back up late Friday though we did lose the home
> phoneline in the lightning strike on Thursday, which is still out.
> All told, an exemplary effort by ABC, Ergon and Telstra. Cant speak for
> the poor people further south.... what a nightmare. But a cat 5 cyclone
> the size of Katrina and 30,000+ people evacuated (including 3 hospitals)
> is a difficult scenario to manage. We did well to have only 1 casualty.
> cheers
> Linda


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