Quakes called signal of danger to cell networks

Rugged cell sites in Haiti fared better than those in New Zealand, a carrier executive says

Mobile networks were damaged more by the Feb. 25 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, than by the 2010 quake that devastated Haiti, according to the chairman of a company that owns carriers in both countries.

The infrastructure in New Zealand was hit more heavily because it relied on shared towers and commercial power, Trilogy International Partners Chairman John Stanton said during a keynote panel discussion at the CTIA Wireless trade show in Orlando on Thursday. By contrast, the limited electrical grid and the vulnerability of cell towers forced operators there to set up strong backup and security systems at each site, he said.

The way mobile infrastructure is deployed in the U.S. and many other developed countries, with cell sites designed to be unobtrusive and shared among carriers, could make it vulnerable to widespread disasters like the recent earthquake in Japan, Stanton said.

In the Jan. 12, 2010, quake in Haiti, Trilogy-owned carrier ComCEL lost only 26 cell sites out of more than 300, Stanton said. (Trilogy's estimate of cell sites out of service a few weeks after the quake was higher.) A key reason for the network's resilience was that each cell site had its own battery and generator and a long-lasting supply of fuel.

"There's essentially no commercial power in Haiti," Stanton said. Each cell site also has security guards because the fuel is so valuable it invites theft, he added.

In Christchurch, the government required mobile operators to collocate their antennas on shared towers for environmental reasons. Where those towers went down, service from all the carriers was lost, and at other locations, service went out quickly if the electrical grid had failed, Stanton said. As a result, service from all three carriers went out for about five days following the quake, he said.

In the U.S., carriers rely on portable generators distributed around the country and count on being able to deploy those to the scene of a disaster where cell sites have failed, Stanton said.

"The wireless systems are not, in general, serviced by more than a couple of hours of battery backup and not serviced by generators," Stanton said. "The premise in the U.S. is essentially that a disaster will be isolated."

In addition to heading Trilogy partners, Stanton is chairman and acting CEO of U.S. WiMax operator Clearwire. He did not discuss that company during Thursday's keynote discussion, which also included Twitter co-founder Biz Stone and Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags telecommunicationJohn StantonctiamobileTrilogy International Partners

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?