Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Alternate Networks - Unlicensed Spectrum Relevance for Disaster Recovery
Low costs, and a heap of talent could sustained communications "at time of disaster"

Well, I listened to advice on why I wrote about the Relevance of Unlicensed Spectrum For Disaster Recovery, where I have expanded as to "why my thinking" in using excess commercial real-estate, near-free cost spectrum and COFS (components of the shelf).

A prime example to use unlicensed spectrum to back-up an enterprise or city network for any point of failure, be direct or indirect, is to first remove the stubbornness associated mindset to engender it to business models that resemble that of incumbent carriers and their vendors. Recent hurricanes Rita and Katrina have proven to experts crisis planners that no location is predictable for a direct hit and for that fact have proven and solid recovery plans. How could recovery plans be validated if the essence of recovery is to solidify a pure communications architecture that is robust, and more so "truly adaptively mobile"?

My experience in disaster recovery is both personal and professional. In my lifetime I have experienced the fallacy of solid communications network meltdowns in the cities where I lived and conducted my affairs. Thus I went through the San Fernando and San Gabriel earthquakes of the 70's, race riots in Los Angeles, lived the civil unrest (and guerrilla warfare) of Argentina's junta years (circa 1975-77), the threat of communism in Central America as well as rationed electricity to eight hours a day in Honduras and El Salvador. All in all, voice communications was not robust as presumed to be by carriers and vendors. As more professionally acclimated I became living Florida, I noticed how clumsy Florida's Agency communications was during my own personal experience with hurricane Andrew (circa 1992). The Miami-Dade county agencies and cities two-way radio systems went down throughout the storm where radio failure was the due to radio interoperability between agencies at the local, state and federal levels. This interoperability issue is currently being addressed strongly via the P25 effort for inter-agency communications.

The above references is to provide a historical scenario of how through my own experiences have come to see all types of communications, be it voice, data or video. It is my desire hope and objective that my experiences and thirst to have unique ways to confront these kind of scenarios is through my own creativity and foolish thinking; why not? This brings me back to the current storms that have totally have embarrassed the technology and services providers of those technologies in this great country, The United States of America. I'll explain this as follows.

Recently, until my recent departure from Motorola, I led a disaster recovery wireless services business using Motorola's unlicensed spectrum RF offering (not exclusive to MOT), a two-man carrying IT-Closet-in-a-Box, and field services to the financial services industry as a portfolio toolset for the industry's Business Continuity Planning (BCP) framework where we conducted tests in Houston, St. Louis and Charlotte. Additionally, Motorola's heritage in disaster recovery spans over 40 years of global DR efforts involving WWII (walkie-talkie "Combat with Vic Morrow"), voice telephony operations during the symbolic Mexico and Taiwan earthquakes as well as the Tsunami in Asia using similar technologies. The primary focus was to provide peace of mind to victims and first responders of the affected countries by setting-up ad-hoc voice services stations or communications triage's. Now back to the U.S., the human events that took place during Katrina were disheartening such as the separation of children and the elderly from their parents and loved ones ( I have seen this in third-world countries and never thought I would see it in the U.S.) Further compounding the events was the constant cry from these affected victims and rescuers for some form of communication to those love ones be it by TV announcements or by borrowing a cellular phone. It's a deep pity that in our great United States it was not the lack of technology innovation, but the lack of creativity to challenge obsolete reliance on telecom's era business models (thank you FCC!) that prevented technology deployment to such tragedies. It was only non-technology and non-vendor entities who have no ties to these models know how to run their businesses. Good examples of these entities deploying low-tech solutions without the involvement of carriers, vendors and "all governments", are companies like FedEx who provided a fix to fallen radio towers and missing two-way radio handsets; Walt-Mart with its massive supply-chain logistics orange line (a WWII cliche I learned from veterans) that requires five 9's (99.999%) to deliver supplies to the needy in the gulf coast affected areas.

So, if these enterprise entities who are not regulated by the FCC, FTC, DOC, DOT, etc. where they dictate to carriers and vendors alike how "they want" to run their business, then why should the regulating agencies, vendors and carriers dictate how to deploy DR plans? A lesson learned here, perhaps? So the emphasis is on a shareable communications framework that serves the enterprise, governments and quasi agencies (that in a moment). Enterprise customers as well as first responders need a reliable and affordable Business Continuity Planning (BCP) toolset solution that can be made operational within a 24 to 72 hour window. This BCP toolset solution should support data, voice and video services to recovery centers that may house from 100 to 2000 employees, personnel and/or its citizens and mitigate network downtime to hours versus days. Does it exist? Yes, look at the above graphics!

Thus, I believe the wireless technology industry vendors have also lacked the creativity and think-out-side of the carrier mindset to understand the inhibitions of using unlicensed spectrum to mitigate basic voice telephony services when needed most, at the time of disaster. As it usually entails, incumbent carriers are served by legacy vendors who have validated business models predating the Telecom Reform Act and will not deploy today as competitive and innovative offerings may jeopardize (cannibalize) their multi-billion infrastructure, handset and services investments. So, how could licensed carriers (FCC issuer) take the disaster response challenge to use their allotted spectrum if their wireless infrastructure is anchored (CO's) or fixed in-location (radio towers) will prevent their assets to turn to revenue producing assets at the time of disaster? This bring into the focus the use of deployable and reliable unlicensed radio technologies in the 5.2 - 5.7Ghz spectrum as well as other banded spectrum equipment currently available from Motorola, Alvarion, General Dynamics, Ceragon, Raytheon Boeing, Cisco, Navini, ADC, Adtran, as well as mobile disaster services companies such as Rentsys, Agility, ATT and Nextel who have some iteration of COWS and SOWS (satellite on wheels). These UNII band technology offerings can liberate those fixed assets by making them "mobile infrastructure" deployable anywhere, anytime, anyplace.

The point here is to imagine taking underutilized T1 and T3's (the "pipe") to backhaul them 20, 30 and 50 or more miles to set-up a mobile communications triage's that can allow victims, first responders and others involved in disasters to have basic telephony communications. Unlicensed spectrum infrastructure is much more adaptable to disaster recovery responses not only physically and cost wise manageable, but by the sheer available knowledge to deploy such systems in the U.S. that is widely available within the private sector. Furthermore, encourages the entrepreneurship in this great country to mitigate such disastrous planning for telephony BCP.

In ending, I bring up the matter of the franchise network. Why? What is the relevance? Well there are three relevant business points that matter most at the time of disaster: 1)Brick & Mortar (B&M) network, where it is one brand that can controls the distribution of "its thing", be it coffee, hamburgers, bank branches or ATM machines. These B&M are locations spots for the placements of infrastructure gear, e.g. T-Mobile Hotspots at Starbucks. These locations can be utilized to create a harmonious interoperable infrastructure network a-la-IP,and; 2) Underutilized Leased-Lines. The number of branded B&M's in the U.S. will astound you when visualization is used to interpret data (Google Earth, Microsoft's Terradata, Yahoo! Maps). The top six banks in aggregate have 25K B&M's, top six insurance companies have more than 25K general agent offices, Enterprise-Rent-A-Car/Truck has over 5K locations, Clear Channel and Viacom in aggregate have over 550K billboards edifices. What does this all mean? leased lines (telephony) and electricity (broadband of powerlines) that are underutilized and not fully maximized in ROA (return on assets). These entities could become members to a National Emergency Preparedness Network, a framework under the U.S. president's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC) that is part of the National Communications System (NCS) that can implement national security and emergency preparedness (NS/EP) communications policy (more on that end of this blog), and; 3)Peering Business Networks. I just don't get it. In my efforts in the banking industry, and as response to mitigate downtime after 9/11, I was relentless in convincing IT bankers that the unlicensed spectrum technologies are formidable innovations and should be consider to complement their overall BCP toolsets. It would be of low TCO and high ROI (more on brand management and reputation) if they would stop and think to get the technology right but get themselves to throw-out the arrogance and accompanying jealousy to allow each other's bank to peer networks when a fellow bank edifice obstructs LOS (line-of-sight) for RF to travel to its destination. Incredible that after the gaping hole at ground-zero it vividly shows Verizon's peering tentacles amputated as result of the collapse of the towers. Prior to 9/11, Verizon and its partner carries manifested to have peering arrangements for NYC. It is evident they did not. What they had was a "paper" business model agreement to carry partner's traffic on the same physical Verizon pipe. True peering and reliable peering according to Andy Bach (and I agree), VP Technology Network for the SIAC (the IT arm of the NYSE, AMEX and DTCC), peering should be physical where the pipes are truly routed and separated from a peering common pipe. In other words physical pipes that are "truly separated" from each other by benchmark distances which now brings me back to wireless peering networks. In this case I emphasize point 2 above that its the network of edifices that can truly reduce and mitigate communications by deploying unlicensed gear both in the private and public sector. Physical in wireless unlicensed networks can easily be peered as the equipment does not require miles and miles of wire, repeaters, bridges or the legacy gear associated with telco peering.

Finally, I would hope that the DHS, DOD, NSTAC, DOC and the National Governors Association together with the Mayors of its cities, hold a conference on the creation of a semi-quasi agency that predicates best practices from private industry (e.g. FedEx, Wal-Mart) and the Military, to further adopt business models that are not incumbent to legacy carriers and vendors thereby establishing a national DR Playbook that all should follow (otherwise the lawyers will get a field day!). The NSTAC and its NS/EP together with quasi-agency could establish the policy for known and unknown vulnerabilities to the communications preparedness of the U.S. when confronted by direct man-made events or indirect events like mother-nature. Furthermore, the NS/EP is further emphasized by the NSTAC's One-Stop Shop Services (OSSS) where communications services that support qualifying federal, state, and local government, industry, and non-profit organization personnel must first apply, qualify and subscribe to the following services:

Government Emergency Telecommunications Service (GETS)
Telecommunications Service Priority (TSP)
Wireless Priority Service (WPS)

Intriguing to know if the gulf state leaders and the federal government were perhaps not aware of the NSTAC, its services and resources? I don't think so in looking at the NSC News page
06 Jan 2005 - Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge Announces Completion of the National Response Plan There is no mentioning of NC's referencing its resources and help towards the gulf states tragedy. Then again, a rich country with many resources that are misaligned, mis-ued and only serves the interest of incompetent politicians for creating willingful waste (pork-spending for repeat political office occupancy) would matter most at the time of disaster.