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Cell system failures in CA fires

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12dbsinad

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I'm often puzzled by the proclamations from some "industry professionals" who insist that FirstNet and similar LTE networks are going to make LMR irrelevant within the decade. Nonsense.
Yeah, I don't get it either. I personally think some "industry professionals" are actually just IT gurus who "manage" systems and therefore are self proclaimed radio techs who have never been thrown to the wolves at ground zero like some of us..
 

zerg901

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What is a TIS transmitter?
Traffic Information Service or System iirc

oops - maybe a moderator can delete this superfluous post - hey superfluity is a word also
 

zerg901

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Just a thought. Fire mutual aid these days is somewhat based on using groups of five fire engines to travel long distances by road (east coast and west coast). With an accompanying command SUV. Police and EMS mutual aid also involves groups of vehicles with command vehicles. Perhaps these mutual aid task forces could be fitted with a stingray or COW (or whatever you would like to call them). Or maybe there needs to be task forces of mobile generator trucks. (In addition to hardening of the cellular system).

Bottom line - there needs to be a threat assessment followed by a remediation plan. "See problem - fix problem".
 

mmckenna

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Cell carriers will often respond with generators or a COW or two if needed, but they usually stay out until it's considered safe enough for them to go in. Fire agencies don't want them in the way, primarily.

Cell phone service is considered low priority and only happens when the incident gets to the point that service restoration starts to happen. My brother in law works for a company that (among other things) provides a lot of wireless internet access in some remote areas. They won't go into a site until fire says it's OK, and that's usually after the fire has passed through the area.


Cell carriers need to plan better and have larger battery plants for this sort of stuff. But ultimately they are not concerned about keeping consumer cell service up if there is much risk to their employees.
 

MTS2000des

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It won't be that cut and dry. What you're going to see is a lot of integration between LMR and LTE, as MSI is already rolling out with Critical Connect and the APX NEXT.
at $13K a sub and $300 a year for "RadioCentral" these toys aren't gonna fly off the shelves.
You're over complicating things. First and foremost, nobody is going to restore any system to full capacity and capability in a few days.
You have comprehension issues. The tornado we supported this year in south Georgia was a complete comm failure of their LMR and commercial wireless as well as First Net. A storm took down the equipment. Putting that one site back up involved the same effort it did to rebuild the one ATC owned macro cell. First Net was contacted and got a SATCOLT on the ground and online within 4 hours for the IC to have comms. It was several days before the single site repeater could be dealt with for a variety of reasons. The state EMA deployed RapidComm trailers for on scene LMR. This took a full 24 hours as the resources and an additional COM-T had to mobilize. Having working LTE and Internet helped tremendously coordinate a response and the First Net team did a great job responding. Is this the case everywhere? Don't know but they did come through when we called.
Your radios should number 1 have a zone of nationwide interop channels. Analog, simplex, and repeated no matter what band you are using.
I guess you once again missed the part this was our agency assisting another agency in a rural part of the state. A city with 900 residents. One of the poorest in the state. They had been surviving on a single VHF analog repeater for fire, law and public works for the past six months prior to the tornado as they suffered a lightning strike and didn't have funds to pay some radio shop 75 miles away to repair their equipment. Go tell them to buy $13,000 ripoff priced APX NEXT toys when they can barely afford used HT1250's off Ebay.

Our cache radios are APX8000s and what we brought to the scene are programmed with NIFOG channels on V/U/7/8 exactly as published in the NIFOG. None of this is usable for great distances unless one brings in infrastructure which is what the RapidComm trailers are for, but just like LTE, they only cover a finite distance based on where you can physically place them.
Cell carriers will often respond with generators or a COW or two if needed, but they usually stay out until it's considered safe enough for them to go in. Fire agencies don't want them in the way, primarily.
COW's require backhaul and days to implement unless you just happen to have fiber or 4 T1's ready to use at your incident site. SatCOLTs are the way to go and can be deployed in about an hour once they're on scene and hot. This is what FirstNET has strategically placed per their contract with the FirstNet Authority and while other carriers claim the same response level, they aren't contractually obligated to a Federal authority to be held to that response.
Cell carriers need to plan better and have larger battery plants for this sort of stuff. But ultimately they are not concerned about keeping consumer cell service up if there is much risk to their employees.
That was kind of the idea for why the FirstNet Authority was formed and a 40 billion dollar contract went out to build a system that:
1-serves public safety and government exclusively
2-gives priority access
3-has priority response to that network being compromised

Too bad Verizon, T-Mobile/Sprint and whoever else didn't bother to bid. In the meantime, it is what is out there and will continue to evolve and improve.
 

12dbsinad

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You have comprehension issues. The tornado we supported this year in south Georgia was a complete comm failure of their LMR and commercial wireless as well as First Net. A storm took down the equipment. Putting that one site back up involved the same effort it did to rebuild the one ATC owned macro cell. First Net was contacted and got a SATCOLT on the ground and online within 4 hours for the IC to have comms. It was several days before the single site repeater could be dealt with for a variety of reasons. The state EMA deployed RapidComm trailers for on scene LMR. This took a full 24 hours as the resources and an additional COM-T had to mobilize. Having working LTE and Internet helped tremendously coordinate a response and the First Net team did a great job responding. Is this the case everywhere? Don't know but they did come through when we called.
I appreciate the insult.

Everything you just stated is exactly backwards of what really happens in my neck of the woods and I've been in this gig for almost 45 years. I've worked countless disaster areas and one thing I can tell you is it did NOT take several days to deploy a simple VHF repeater. You certainly downplay simple LMR to the point I find it hard to believe such simple steps could be ignored.

I guess you once again missed the part this was our agency assisting another agency in a rural part of the state. A city with 900 residents. One of the poorest in the state. They had been surviving on a single VHF analog repeater for fire, law and public works for the past six months prior to the tornado as they suffered a lightning strike and didn't have funds to pay some radio shop 75 miles away to repair their equipment. Go tell them to buy $13,000 ripoff priced APX NEXT toys when they can barely afford used HT1250's off Ebay.

Our cache radios are APX8000s and what we brought to the scene are programmed with NIFOG channels on V/U/7/8 exactly as published in the NIFOG. None of this is usable for great distances unless one brings in infrastructure which is what the RapidComm trailers are for, but just like LTE, they only cover a finite distance based on where you can physically place them.
What does this have to do with having interop channels programmed in? And what does them being poor, buying 13K APX radios have to do with it? You can program these channels in a Baofeng! This area is that poor yet they are using FirstNet and they deployed equipment in 4 hours? I would hope your RapidComm trailer would cover much greater distance than a LTE rapid deploy, at least I would hope so.
 

mikewazowski

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all most of them have is a big Hubbell connector on the side of the equipment cabinet so a mobile generator can be plugged in if they happen to shake one loose to haul in.
We use camlocks which are a little easier to deploy. Every site without a generator has a connection point.

Cell carriers will often respond with generators or a COW or two if needed, but they usually stay out until it's considered safe enough for them to go in. Fire agencies don't want them in the way, primarily.
Safety is key. Typically generators will be positioned outside of the danger area until fire says it's ok or they escort us in. Most departments realize that having cell services active is a plus. Everyone from the Chief or PIO updating the news media to displaced civilians trying to arrange accommodations will probably be using a cell. During a major wildfire last year, we had an escort into the affected area.

COW's require backhaul and days to implement unless you just happen to have fiber or 4 T1's ready to use at your incident site
T1's? You're living in the dark ages.

Once an area is safe, I can have a COW on-site in a few hours depending on drive time. Deploy a m/w link to the closest site and we're on the air with 3G and 4G services offering about 500mbps service. We actually have sets of rapid deploy m/w's set aside just for disasters.
 

MTS2000des

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T1's? You're living in the dark ages.

Once an area is safe, I can have a COW on-site in a few hours depending on drive time. Deploy a m/w link to the closest site and we're on the air with 3G and 4G services offering about 500mbps service. We actually have sets of rapid deploy m/w's set aside just for disasters.
Most of this state is rural. Fiber? Sure, let me know when there's fiber running to places in the Okefenokee swamp. In much of this state, you'd be hard pressed to get a 3MB DSL connection from the local telco. And that ain't gonna happen in "a few hours". Microwave links? Sure, that's great in wide open spaces but when you have these things called mountains, it takes time to plot a path. Meanwhile, those SATCOLTs are what we know we can get online as fast as the truck can roll into the staging area.
 

MTS2000des

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I appreciate the insult.
all you do is insult others, yet you can't take it. Interesting.
Everything you just stated is exactly backwards of what really happens in my neck of the woods and I've been in this gig for almost 45 years. I've worked countless disaster areas and one thing I can tell you is it did NOT take several days to deploy a simple VHF repeater. You certainly downplay simple LMR to the point I find it hard to believe such simple steps could be ignored.
We're made quite a bit of progress in 45 years. By your logic, we should all be using rotary telephones and relying solely on number 1 crossbars because that's what's always worked and it's too expensive to go VoiP, it's unreliable, etc. I haven't downplayed "simple" LMR, I just aren't clinging to it and subscribing to the notion that, in the future, it may not be as relevant as you may want it to be.
Every disaster, incident and scene is unique. You're asserting that it can't take days to deploy a functional repeater in an area of a large area of challenging terrain when one doesn't have them lying around, can't get access to a high site, but hey- you know it all because you're some old guy who is closed minded and everyone else is just some "IT guy" who doesn't know anything because he/she isn't all excited about tuning up a Motrac. Next you'll tell me how ham radio will "save the day".
What does this have to do with having interop channels programmed in?
I guess you missed the part that there wide area communications were knocked out by the loss of the repeater. Interop channels are primarily simplex, and short range repeaters on RapidComm trailers would not get them what they needed to assist in recovery: which is to coordinate communications with others outside the IC. This is where your hated LTE and the ability to stand up LTE where needed is a resource.
And what does them being poor, buying 13K APX radios have to do with it?
again, you aren't comprehending because you're too busy getting emotional, this was directed at another user who suggested technology like the APX NEXT and SmartConnect would be the solution. It's nice, but not everyone can afford $13K radios, SaaS subscriptions, or has an Astro 25 core for SmartConnect to exist. So that solution wouldn't be viable for most of the state I live and work in.
This area is that poor yet they are using FirstNet and they deployed equipment in 4 hours? I would hope your RapidComm trailer would cover much greater distance than a LTE rapid deploy, at least I would hope so.
No, you once again aren't paying attention. The local AHJ made the resource request to the state EMA. That's generally how it works, I'd guess a guy with as much experience as you proclaim would know this...
Local disaster declared, state declares disaster, state sends resources from another entity through an EMAC request as local EMA doesn't have resource(s) needed on hand. The RapidComm trailer is a state asset. It has V/U/7 tac repeaters on board, but due to terrain, it is what it is. First Net is what our state chose versus opting out and going the way of building our own (good choice). Most of those responding had AT&T commercial or First Net so it isn't like they ran out and bought SonimXP8s. State also sent sat phones and FirstNet devices as part of resource, along with Kenwood VHF portables and Harris Unity portables.

Verizon had a SATCOLT the next day. Sprint and T-Mobile took weeks to get their stuff back online. As this is a rural area, they had two macro sites on two 180 foot SSTs that were destroyed. All the carriers co-lo'ed so they all took a hit. Point is FirstNet responded quickly to get service up at the IC within 4 hours which is excellent, Verizon was back up at the IC and brought in an additional COLT for the downtown area in 24-36 hours. That is also excellent.

Cellcos are stepping up. They have much more to go but in this ONE disaster, their quick response helped greatly.
 

mikewazowski

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Most of this state is rural. Fiber? Sure, let me know when there's fiber running to places in the Okefenokee swamp. In much of this state, you'd be hard pressed to get a 3MB DSL connection from the local telco. And that ain't gonna happen in "a few hours". Microwave links? Sure, that's great in wide open spaces but when you have these things called mountains, it takes time to plot a path. Meanwhile, those SATCOLTs are what we know we can get online as fast as the truck can roll into the staging area.
Fiber? I never said anything about fiber. You keep bringing up fiber. Fiber requires bucket trucks, splicers, cable reels. It's a long tedious process and I think we both agree it's out of the question unless you happen to have undamaged fiber running extremely close.

Didn't say anything about DSL either.

Here's your original statement:

"COW's require backhaul and days to implement unless you just happen to have fiber or 4 T1's ready to use at your incident site"

I can have a COW UP and running in hours without fiber, T1's, DSL or whatever other wireline technology you want to suggest.

Mountainous area? Yup, could be a challenge but chances are there's already a usable path through them or around them or a fiber fed site that we can do a m/w shot to.

No available transmission? Then yes, we'll do a sat shot. It's not ideal due to latency but it will work.
 

MTS2000des

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Fiber? I never said anything about fiber. You keep bringing up fiber. Fiber requires bucket trucks, splicers, cable reels. It's a long tedious process and I think we both agree it's out of the question unless you happen to have undamaged fiber running extremely close.

Didn't say anything about DSL either.

Here's your original statement:

"COW's require backhaul and days to implement unless you just happen to have fiber or 4 T1's ready to use at your incident site"

I can have a COW UP and running in hours without fiber, T1's, DSL or whatever other wireline technology you want to suggest.
In 20 years, I've never seen any of the US carriers get a COW up for a disaster/incident (read=not planned event) in "a few hours" in rural areas. In 2015, I worked this little festival, turned into a disaster, which had around 100,000 people show up. T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint had COW's which ran off fiber that had been ordered and took MONTHS to get to the site because of it's rural location. Even then it wasn't perfect due to the nature of the event and the number of devices on the networks. This is why First Net as an isolated network for public safety is essential and an exclusive RAN devoid of consumers clogging up the last mile with Facebook postings and video streaming was implemented with band 14.

Maybe where you are, your carriers work that fast. Here, that doesn't happen. This is why the FN Authority was formed to address response needs. It isn't perfect but it's better than nothing and I think it will get better in time. Response is only going to be as good as the carrier has resources strategically staged and able to respond. YMMV.
 

zerg901

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lots of talk about recovery after the disaster

What about keeping the cellphones running during the disaster? gonna need expanded coverage from remaining sites - or hardened sites - or contingency capacity on demand - or reserve sites - or something. How about a stingray in every cop car. First cop car heads to scene to figure out exactly where the emergency is happening - 2nd cop car heads to high site over the scene and activates stingray. Now we have restored ability transmit wireless alerts to public; and to receive 911 calls from public - as the disaster unfolds - or in the first 10 minutes after.
 

mmckenna

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Some good ideas, but there's some issues with it. Expecting public safety to support commercial cell carriers creates some issues. Which carrier do they support? Who pays for the equipment? See discussion above about backhaul. etc…..

lots of talk about recovery after the disaster

What about keeping the cellphones running during the disaster? gonna need expanded coverage from remaining sites
Sector antennas used by many cell carriers have the ability to be remotely adjusted. "Electric Downtilt" is used to adjust the coverage of the cell site. Cell carriers could, theoretically, adjust adjacent site antenna to help restore some coverage, but there's only so much they can do.
-In mountainous areas, like where the Camp fire happened, there may not be adjacent cells sites in view to do this.
-Due to tower height, power limitations, etc. they would only be able to squeeze so much out of adjacent sites.
-It would require someone understanding what was going on, what the individual site coverages are, and adapting on the fly.
Issues with that is cellular carriers have designed their systems for consumer convenience, not public safety.

- or hardened sites - or contingency capacity on demand - or reserve sites - or something.
Well, that would all certainly be nice to have. But...
-Hardening a radio site is very expensive and really needs to be done as part of the initial construction. There's a lot of limitations put on cell sites and where they are located.
-"Contingency capacity on demand" alert broadcasts don't take much bandwidth, so not really needed. Issue is the cell site has to be running and connected back into the network.
-"Reserve Sites"? Back many many years ago I was told by a cell site engineer that an average cellular site runs about $500,000 to build out. That's a lot of money to just have spare ones sitting around. Of course prices have come down, but that's a lot of investment that would only be beneficial if and when there was a disaster. The ways cell carriers like to deal with this is with the Cell On Wheels (COW) approach. A cell site mounted on a truck that can be brought in as needed.


How about a stingray in every cop car. First cop car heads to scene to figure out exactly where the emergency is happening - 2nd cop car heads to high site over the scene and activates stingray. Now we have restored ability transmit wireless alerts to public; and to receive 911 calls from public - as the disaster unfolds - or in the first 10 minutes after.
Cops are not radio guys. They have too many other things to be doing.
A better approach is to let the OES people handle it the way they are set up to.

Putting all your eggs into the cellular basket isn't a good solution. The existing cellular networks are too fragile to really be relied on in an emergency.
The issue isn't necessarily that cell carriers are doing a poor job. The issue is that the average consumer puts way too much trust in their cell phones and the cell carriers. The assumption that the cellular network will always be there and always be working is not based on any good analysis. It's an idea perpetuated by cell phone sales people. Consumers want to believe it, so they do. If you read through this thread, you'll see a lot of experienced people telling you it's not a good idea. Not a good idea at all.

Before cell phones the world got along pretty well. Public safety had ways of notifying the public. Issue is that many agencies have gone the same route as consumers, assuming that cellular carriers will solve all the issues for free. We need to get off that thinking.
 

12dbsinad

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Every disaster, incident and scene is unique. You're asserting that it can't take days to deploy a functional repeater in an area of a large area of challenging terrain when one doesn't have them lying around, can't get access to a high site, but hey- you know it all because you're some old guy who is closed minded and everyone else is just some "IT guy" who doesn't know anything because he/she isn't all excited about tuning up a Motrac. Next you'll tell me how ham radio will "save the day".
Wow, you're certainly a mouth breather. No need to try and grow a brain here and act like you're a professional radio tech that knows how to get a system back online in a timely manner. While you sit in your office flashing radios all day and staring at your computer screen looking for unauthorized radios, it takes "us old timers" to actually make things work. You still need to have brains about RF and other fundamentals. This world is lacking that and the newer generation is giving us you, IT geeks who can't even tune a duplexer.




again, you aren't comprehending because you're too busy getting emotional, this was directed at another user who suggested technology like the APX NEXT and SmartConnect would be the solution. It's nice, but not everyone can afford $13K radios, SaaS subscriptions, or has an Astro 25 core for SmartConnect to exist. So that solution wouldn't be viable for most of the state I live and work in.
No, you said it again to me about 13K APX radios. You go of on some tangent that nobody cares about nor is it relevant. Anyway, go snuggle your FirstNet handset tonight, I've wasted enough time with a self proclaimed radio tech who knows it all..
 

MTS2000des

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Wow, you're certainly a mouth breather. No need to try and grow a brain here and act like you're a professional radio tech that knows how to get a system back online in a timely manner. While you sit in your office flashing radios all day and staring at your computer screen looking for unauthorized radios, it takes "us old timers" to actually make things work. You still need to have brains about RF and other fundamentals. This world is lacking that and the newer generation is giving us you, IT geeks who can't even tune a duplexer.
More name calling from the one who gets butt hurt when they're weakness is exposed. There you have it folks. This is why we don't move forward, and attitudes from the high and mighty who don't want to consider that things might be going a direction they can't handle because they DON'T KNOW. Rather than develop those skill sets, this what they degenerate to. This is why the "I do only RF crowd" fail interviews. Miserably. And they know, their future is limited as their lifespan. Maybe if they'd take a course or two or three on LTE rather than posting negative crap on forums, they would get that skill set and remain relevant to the future. There are those that adapt, learn and grow. Those that insist on living in the past get left there when everyone else moves on.
You still need to have brains about RF and other fundamentals. This world is lacking that and the newer generation is giving us you, IT geeks who can't even tune a duplexer.
by the same logic, as most modern LMR systems (especially trunking) are 90 percent IP, you need ALL the appropriate skill sets to manage the network. You can have the best tuned combiner/duplexers/multi-couplers but if the network is unusable because some "mouth breather" doesn't know how to fleet map, properly provision and configure a console, map talk groups to an IP logging recorder, configure a HD CCGW to bring in other resources, that "finely tuned" radio system will the functional equivalent to a lawnmower with no blades.

BTW, you don't need to be an AH to be good at something. and anytime you want to set me loose with a tracking gen and set of cans, I'll prove you wrong. Bad breath can really make someone take their car to another mechanic, even if the guy is an old pro. Time for a swig or two of Listerine 12db.
 

MTS2000des

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Before cell phones the world got along pretty well. Public safety had ways of notifying the public. Issue is that many agencies have gone the same route as consumers, assuming that cellular carriers will solve all the issues for free. We need to get off that thinking.
Finally someone with an on-topic response versus personal attacks. About time.
The challenge is the thinking that one or the other is the answer. In the situation in California, all infrastructure burns equally. How does an agency prepare for such an end of the world scenario? No sites, cellular, LMR, ham, broadcast, whatever can realistically be expected to be hardened to the level they would need to be.

Sure, LMR provides great, easy to deploy on scene (local) comms, but getting the word out and being able to coordinate response outside the scene is just as important. Not all states (like mine) have good statewide LMR, and those that don't are looking at:
A-do we spend 200-300-500million on an LMR system that only does voice (and limited data, if that) which will take a decade to build if started today?
B-do we wait for FN/LTE/5G?
C-do we continue to "let the locals sort it out"
 

MtnBiker2005

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^^ And now people see why most all the good people leaving RadioReference.
Month after month... people attacking people or people talking about encryption saying the same stuff in each ‘xx agency going encryption thread’...
how many post the same stuff in each encryption thread...

It gets old seeing the same thing from those members.
 
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