A Passion for Quality

I confess, I really like stuff that works. I don’t appreciate bugs and workarounds. Computers and software are particularly bad offenders. That’s why if I can’t control component quality myself (I build my own desktop computers), I’d rather trust vertically integrated products (e.g. Microsoft Surface, Google Nexus, Apple products). Vertical integration in its purest form is where the supply chain of a company is owned by that company. From a consumer perspective that means a greater focus on quality for all components of a service. In the computer world the Open System Interconnection (OSI) model describes all the components required to function optimally for services to work well. My passion for quality also happens to be why I have found my career focus on telecom (layer 1) and telecom engineering (layer 0), especially in a rural environment. If telecom does not work, not much else does.


Is LTE *the* killer wireless technology?

Great article about LTE: with respect to being THE technology for mobile broadband (smartphones and tablets). Alex Wanda posits that LTE may replace all other radio technologies. I agree it might for the near term do so from a Major Telco player perspective. However, from hard to reach rural locations where the population density does not support a major player serving the market, I disagree. In these instances, enterprise networks demand service level agreements that either an existing LTE service cannot meet or the LTE service simply does not exist. And a business that is not a telecommunications company does not consider telecommunications an asset but a utility enabling their business. So they will not want to make the considerably larger investment for LTE hardware and spectrum. For businesses with rural assets something that makes more sense is a mix of backhaul technologies (TDD wireless, FDD wireless, unlicensed & licensed, wired – copper, fiber) and a mix of last mile technologies (wired – copper, fiber & WiFi) that provide SLAs and mobile broadband to their workforce. And push-to-talk still rules the day in terms of reach and propagation characteristics that enable it to access hard to reach areas – it’s still the communications method of choice for first responders. There just isn’t a silver bullet.


Power is the most common cause of outages

Good infographic on data center downtime. What should strike you right away is the most common cause of outages is power. Also of note is that of the 7 causes, only 1 was IT equipment failure (e.g. networks, servers). This aligns to what I’ve seen with Oil & Gas field networks. The best two techniques for managing power issues is to add network redundancy and ensure qualified electrical engineers correctly design the network power sources.


Real Estate – The Emerging Market Tower Industry

The majority of effective broadband rural last mile is terrestrial wireless and that means communications towers are really important. The tower “real estate” industry is complicated – follow the link to see TowerXchange’s Value Chain illustration. What is this emerging real estate industry? Instead of people as tenants, the tenants are radios. The top 3 tower companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange collectively own, lease, manage 95,000 towers and are worth $69 Billion. One of these top 3 companies, SBA, has moved into Canada.

Value Chain:


Tower Design:


Podcast: The Last Mile

An NPR Planet Money podcast on the last mile – I’m excited because this is essentially what I do; I’m a rural last mile Telecommunications Consultant. There is definitely no easy answer to the challenge of the last mile in North America but one thing we enjoy now vs a decade ago is that technology is not the problem. This is a leadership/governance issue. Copper is over, single mode fiber is the cable that should be installed now. But what must be overcome is culture and there needs to be an incentive to do it. PS. Rural vs urban are different but I want to keep this post short 🙂


Goodbye Moore’s Law

Move over Moore, it’s Cooper’s turn to shine! Moore’s Law and CPUs have enjoyed a wild ride but the S-curve states that all good things come to an end. However, Cooper’s law (or the law of Spectral Efficiency) continues to enjoy momentum. That is, data transactions will double over the same area of radio spectrum every 30 months. If you’re in Telecom you already know this maxim: build, rebuild and build again. And it’s been going since 1895!



Internet for the O5B

The fight for the other 5 billion escalates … The other 5 billion being the folks who lack affordable internet connectivity (2nd/3rd world – this is a long term investment obviously).  Google has “project loon” which will launch balloons to deliver internet. Facebook just made an acquisition to support their investment in the Internet.org initiative. The acquisition will deliver flying drones with a 5 year continuous-flight capability. These drones fly in unregulated airspace (just climbing high enough to foil regulators) – a very low earth orbit satellite if you will. Another excellent example showing that internet is critical utility infrastructure and showing how the 1st world can provide “a leg up” to the 2nd/3rd world countries by using technology advancements.


How To Get A Country To Trust Its Banks

The challenges of implementing an ATM in cash based society cut-off from the world for over 50 years. As a telecom guy what I found interesting was how they worked around Myanmar’s horrible telecommunications cable system using ATM “cloud services”.  I especially like how you can boot leg a phone call on the street with alligator clips!


Flutter: A possible alternative for wireless sensory networks (telemetry)

Range 1km (expected to be somewhat higher in future versions), low powered (DC battery), open-source, 600 kbps, 900Mhz unlicensed band. Project status: not yet ready for professional applications (KickStarter / hobby market). Competes with ZigBee (802.15.4) & augments WiFi (802.11) to enable the “internet of things”. In an oil & gas field application, a mesh system would need to be setup. This is preferred regardless in order to increase uptime. It is open-source, so conceivably the cost of such a system would be orders of magnitude less than current commercialized systems. I would expect that service companies would modify the code and make a branded version to augment their existing product suite. Special care would need to be taken for the oil & gas industry to minimize maintenance costs (labour being a key factor for oil & gas) and to enable installation in harsh environments.