CHOICE membership

When there are no emergency communications

A rant from Facebook:

That post is from the south coast of NSW. The bit about local ABC going off-air is interesting. It might be one-way communication, but at least it’s communication.

5 Likes

That is a precious but confused belief. Taxes for services? No, taxes for pollie pay, socialising costs for private profits, national defence, and everything else is either user pays for government for-profit or full cost recovery to the agency. Our libertarian minded governmental heritage seems to demand that; libertarians everywhere usually point to Australia as one of their aspirations in how to keep dollars in the proper pockets, although they never phrase it that way.

Australia, where business rules and government is seen as just another business that should be as profitable as possible.

5 Likes

Perhaps UHF CB repeaters would be a good solution, either permanently installed, or kept in suitable fireproof housing ready for rapid deployment after a disaster.

With a repeater, or repeaters, installed at an elevated location, very considerable communications range can be achieved.

The necessary components for a temporary repeater, or a replacement for a permanent repeater destroyed in a disaster, including the transceiver, diplexer, solar panels, regulator, antenna, cabling and hardware could be rapidly deployed as soon as safe to do so.

A great many persons already have UHF CB radios installed in their vehicles including primary producers, persons who work and travel in remote regions, people who go camping, grey nomads, etc, and hand held units are readily avaliable.

It is a communications medium which is readily available to everyone and would be a vast improvement over no communications at all.

2 Likes

Perhaps an alternative that might help groups of people close enough together to share info etc is a now available App called Firechat that is available for iOS and Android:

https://www.opengarden.com/firechat/

Or Bridgefy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridgefy)

3 Likes

When the mobile phone network first developed it was noticeable that signal was often lost and that even in the centre of major cities words disappeared momentarily during a conversation. Both of those things still happen now - we don’t often think comparatively, but the old copper landline was more reliable and clearer than even Gen 4 now. We were sold a pup. The new is more universally available, but is not as good. So also with NBN. Touted as the answer to all our prayers, the cheapening of the design under Turnbull as Minister once again produced a bastard system which produces more complaints than satisfaction. Sold a pup again. And we will spend a fortune over the next decade fixing it - and the pollies will devise some way to make us pay for their incompetence. And now of course we find that at the very time we need communications most, the whole system falls over in the affected areas. Sold a pup again, and this time one which could easily contribute to loss of life and property. Once again our leaders have chased the shiny red wagon, persuaded us that we needed it, and then when it all goes wrong they are strangely absent. We must be slow learners.

4 Likes

… if we learn at all … sadly …

2 Likes

Time to put pressure on the power that be to let us have good old copper back? I want my POTS.

3 Likes

And each new iteration is worse than the previous, for voice calls. Analog was better than 2G, which was better than 3G which is better than 4G (at least right here) but 3G is going away, too, and they will give us 5G which is going to be crap again, because again, half the country wont be able to get it, and some of us are still in 4G “black holes”. People in pursuit of faster and faster data are sacrificing the purpose of the phone… to make calls. GAHHHH!!

4 Likes

Yes SueW you have spelt it out much better and more clearly than I did. THank you!

5 Likes

Cost of connection and service should be shared amongst all users of the service. Those in high density areas should be charged an amount that subsidies the cost of connecting those in far less populated areas. One of the many benefits of Fibre is it’s low maintenance cost once installed, no oxidation of copper to worry about, low power requirements, long distances of transmission without needing boosting, resilience to weathering and extreme events all up mean a very low cost of continuing service.

Major costs of connection and service are the initial laying and install of the fibre service. If large centre users pay a bit more than the real cost of their service these larger remote install costs will be paid off over time. This long view of recovery of costs is one of the reasons to keep the nbn™ network in public hands. Tax payers meet the upfront cost now and the payments for service gradually repay the coffers for that cost. The remote user pays the same payment as a larger population centre user so no one is left in a digital backwater because they cannot afford the much higher cost of connection to their remote location.

There will be a few because of location and difficulty of access that services like Satellite or Fixed Wireless will fill at least some of their need until funding for improved connection can be allocated. This may take many years to be able to fund it but in the meantime they would have some service where none or very little existed before.

4 Likes

There’s an app called serval that was specifically developed by Flinders Uni researchers for this scenario, it uses the phone’s transmitter to call or text other phones within line of site - no cell coverage required.
Available at http://www.servalproject.org/

3 Likes

I don’t understand why Telstra doesn’t have transmitter equipped planes flying over the area if they know the power / towers are down.

3 Likes

At the moment not a proper functioning App for iOS. They are still working on getting it all implemented for iOS. On their website the last post was in Nov 2018 about the beta port to iOS.

1 Like

Not sure if drones would do the job or how high they would need to fly to avoid the smoke and heat, but that might be an option, but I would think currently not doable due to power requirements, radio interference with control of the drones, having enough antennas to support the mobile services and many other issues including safety. To fly manned aircraft for long periods of time would be earth shatteringly expensive and not one that Telstra even under their Universal Service Obligations are required to undertake. Nor would the Aircraft likely produce enough power or even be safe to operate the huge transmission requirements for Mobile Services. I would even guess at this moment they have already advertised in major papers that a long list “0XXXXXXXXX” numbers and regions are outside their CSG (Customer Service Guarantee) requirements due to the emergencies.

3 Likes

Mobile phone towers do not require large amounts of power. A single 3G site supposedly only requires several kW of DC power. We ran one such Telstra tower in NW Qld on a small 415/240V industrial grade portable diesel generator including all the ancillaries and a microwave remote link. 25KVA genset near idle mostly. Providing autostart and a back up diesel supply for a week or longer would not be an expensive challenge. I can’t comment on aircraft capabilities more specifically. It’s worth noting larger aircraft carry radar equipment with power levels many times higher than mobile phone tower cells.

Is there also a fundamental need to ensure resilience/survival of all our core communications systems at least to every recognised community centre?

Given what networking can deliver in complex wifi environments, it would seem an achievable and useful solution for achieving connectivity where nothing else exists.

4 Likes

The transmissions they use for radar are usually directional or require special Radomes for more precise tracking. If they are using perhaps a 737 or similar they would be able to provide both airtime, and power needs. Movement of the aircraft in an area would also possibly interfere with the ability of users to maintain a connection. Further to this is then the cost of fuel, salaries for pilots and other crew, the need to undertake maintenance after flight duties, and replacement aircraft would be huge costs. Using light aircraft to do this would not be feasible, and as I said perhaps drones are able to but I’m not sure what their current capabilities are.

There is an article that identifies the potential for drones but there are also control issues as well when there is interference such as huge smoke clouds:

2 Likes

Maybe balloons may be a more practical option. It still needs power and connection solutions as wireless will have significantly constrained bandwidth compared to fibre connected land towers.

2 Likes

In a fire even balloons might have issues, air currents, excessive heat if too close to the blazes, mooring requirements, the blocking of signals by smoke etc. Perhaps mobile telecom (on the ground) trailer equipment that can be plugged into a nearby fibre circuit such as these from Telstra or placed such that they piggy back one to another until they can reach a fixed tower??:

https://www.telstra.com.au/business-enterprise/solutions/professional-media/mobile-special-events

Or others such as:

http://www.icsindustries.com.au/products/communication-trailers/cell-on-wheels

3 Likes

Maybe we should all get CB radios.

3 Likes

and subsequent pages, noting this focuses on internet services rather than mobiles, that are effectively the same service today.

And a related patent

The technology exists if not the will and budgets. There are many hits worthwhile finding and reading prior to discussing the technicalities that have already been solved.

The technology exists, but not yet the will and certainly not the budgets to park resources for when bush fires rage, although they could be shared and funded internationally as natural disasters don’t seem to decimate the entire planet at once so statistically (!!??) there seems a chance.

4 Likes