Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Broadband at the Time of Disaster

At Motorola we were doing IT Closet in a Box (the "box"), which in essence is a mobile and portable communications data center that can provide data and voice services to thousands of people after a declared disaster. Back then, we used the Motorola Information Security Systems and Products Division that had deep experience in portable communications with the military and first responders. Unfortunately, back in the middle of 2001, Motorola was experiencing cash flow issues which was ill advised by investment bankers to divest that division where it was sold in August 2001 to  General Dynamics. For many Motorola employees it did not make sense to sell this division as it was high margin business, innovative secure communications (the red phones at the White House), and cool remote guidance technologies (deep space communications).  Going back to the box, this division had incredible amount of expertise in building portable and mobile communications that were being dropped into the battlefield by our military to supply the ground troops with communications equipment. This "box" was a self-contained data center (to safely be descriptive), had a router/switch, hubs, patch panel, PRI/BRI boards, and those cool Motorola radio antennas, Canopy.  Since this box was designed for military deployments and had proved itself reliable portable communications, it was decided to demonstrate the box to the financial services providers so that they can include the box as a tool for their business continuity planning efforts after a disaster. Furthermore, we demonstrated how Motorola can leverage DSL provisioned telephone booths to point the radio antennas to specific sites that needed broadband for data and voice services into the box receiving antenna. Theses antennas could be point-to-point similar to microwave antennas or point-to-multipoint. The thought here was that traditional ILEC/LEC, with the thousands of public telephone booths could provisioned the booths as micro Broadband Transmission Points-of-Presence (BTPPs) to be used at "the time of disaster". These BTPPs would provide a temporary wireless transmission network to the affected businesses and communities with portable communications for all people who are in need of data and voice services.

In reading the various news reports coming out of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, thousands of people were affected by the storm that has taken down their primary communication services. The isolation for the lack of communications is taking its toll on people specifically in the hard hit areas of Lower Manhattan,  Hoboken, Breezy Point, and other areas. Many of these people are going to the Starbucks or Paneras or Peets or other places in the hope of finding broadband connectivity or hotspots to help them to reduce the isolation so that they can have some sense of continuity.  Unfortunately, upon arriving they find these places closed or just don't have WiFi service as result of Hurricane Sandy.

Now here comes the perplexing thought as to why. Companies like Motorola, Harris, Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM, Boeing, SunGard,  Lockheed, or the other rapid communications companies, should shine here by putting in motion their box to the affected areas. But nope, they are not pursuing the IT Closet in a Box approach. As a matter of fact, Motorola has a network of about 6000 or so independent radio service shops scattered through out the USA that could of been deployed to assist first responders and the telcos to facilitate the communications to the affected communities by assisting the roll out of these boxes and provisioned them with the BTPPs.

A missed opportunity to shine and show the world that American corporations can demonstrate its' wireless leadership with wireless broadband infrastructure at the time of disaster. And that raises another point to ponder on. Today, there are no American coroporation that have a leadership position in wireless infrastructre like Motorola and Lucent had during their early years as market makers.

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