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FCC Requires Backup Power For 210K Cell Towers 248

Posted by kdawson
from the generating-controversy dept.
1sockchuck alerts us to an article in Data Center Knowledge that explores ramifications from the FCC's decision a couple of months back to require backup power for cell sites and other parts of the telecom infrastructure. The new rule was prompted by wireless outages during Hurricane Katrina. There are more than 210,000 cell towers in the US, as well as 20,000 telecom central offices that will also need generators or batteries. Municipalities are bracing for disputes as carriers try to add generators or batteries to cell sites on rooftops or water towers. The rules will further boost demand in the market for generators, where there are already lengthy delivery backlogs for some models.
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FCC Requires Backup Power For 210K Cell Towers

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  • by dgatwood (11270) on Monday December 10, 2007 @10:39PM (#21651287) Journal

    Yikes!

    • by Smordnys s'regrepsA (1160895) on Monday December 10, 2007 @10:44PM (#21651309) Journal
      I know a guy, he can get you all the batteries you want, alike the brade of your choice, at 1/5 the price! [slashdot.org]
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10, 2007 @10:50PM (#21651349)
      Cellphones weren't considered vital infrastructure before. And even now it is hard to argue that they can be since you can't always guarantee a usable signal in all locations (which makes it less useful to emergency responders) and since cellphone networks can easily be overwhelmed in emergencies where everybody gets on the phone at once, like during the 9/11 attacks.

      At the same time, when cellphones are usable, they can be very helpful. If many of the cell towers didn't fail during Katrina, it would have been much easier to help many of the victims and coordinate the rescue in a more efficient manner.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Forge (2456)
        I find this whole discusion hilarius.

        Here in Jamaica one celphone company spnt a year advertising it's performance during huricane Ivan. What's worse is that the other major competitor had everything. Batterys, Generators etc... The mistake thy made was in the size fuel tanks at each site. They figured a couple days suply would be enogh.

        With the number of Cellsites they have , this ment a small army roaming the country with botles of gasoline to keap the network at least partialy running.

        And here are you y
        • by arivanov (12034)
          They are panicking over the wrong thing anyway.

          Who cares if the cell site has power or not if one of the "huts" on the backhaul to the network has run out of juice.
    • by liquidpele (663430) on Monday December 10, 2007 @10:52PM (#21651375) Journal
      I would think that it would be important to require a type of "emergency mode", where if the power goes down and the battery/generator gets down to 50%, it will only accept calls to 911 and/or other emergency numbers. That is of course assuming that not connecting other calls would save power...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TooMuchToDo (882796)
        Most critical unmanned infrastructure uses natural gas generators onsite, not stored diesel, so they're not going to run out unless the natural gas infrastructure is damaged as well (which is a definite possibility in cases such as Katrina).
        • by Cecil (37810)
          Not most. Diesel is the fuel of choice for emergency power, always, end of story, full stop. Natural gas is nice because it doesn't run out, but for truly critical infrastructure you will find a diesel generator. Diesel, with a big tank, and a robust emergency delivery contract. Even if the contract fails you can take matters into your own hands and try to get some diesel there yourself. If the natural gas lines go down, you're completely out of options. You don't even have time to truck in a diesel generat
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by monsted (6709)
            The only problem with diesel is that it goes bad after a while. We provide emergency power with three V12 diesel engines (providing roughly 300 kW at full capacity), but only keep about four days worth of diesel in the tank so we don't have to replace as much when it degrades. We do have special agreements with the gas companies, being a vital infrastructure site, though.

            IANAS (scientist), but i believe it is microbial growth in the fuel that ruins it.
    • ALL cell towers operate usually on two different power sources, plus a generator as a backup.

      Needing a law to require something so obvious as a backup power source is sad, but true ...
  • At last (Score:5, Funny)

    by weorthe (666189) on Monday December 10, 2007 @10:44PM (#21651313)
    Millions of people will be able to call each other to ask "is your power out too?"
    • That is the most insightful comment I've seen today. It's like the users who call you and ask if the mail server is down as if I wouldn't notice something like the most critical service in the company stopping...
      • Re:At last (Score:5, Funny)

        by Kent Recal (714863) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @12:43AM (#21652025)
        I usually just say "Yes, and the phone system is down, too. We're working on it, can you get back to me later?".
        Usually they just say ok and hang up, without even noticing...
        • I have a PP phone now that my company does not sponsor my phone. My boss insisted I give him my phone number for emergencies, upon which I explained to him I was on a metered line and that I have no "free" minutes. Each one costs $0.33. Since I'm often in a lab with only one desk phone (which is usually busy install more phones anyone?) my boss IMs me. One day IM was down. Thanks to a call timer, when he called me to ask if my IM was down as well I submitted an expense report for 66 cents.

          And I wonder
      • Re:At last (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jamesh (87723) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @04:32AM (#21653147)
        Not quite as silly as you might think. In rural locations, it is quite possible that the power failure is very local (eg a possum climbed up the pole the night before and cooked a fuse (and itself)), and the power company won't know about it unless you tell them. Phoning up a neighbor is a reasonable thing to do in that case.

        This used to happen all the time at my mums place. The outage would affect her and the weekend house across the road (who would most likely be away). The neighbor up the hill would be a good indicator to it being a possum induced fuse failure or something more widespread.

        Ditto for a failure in your fusebox. If everyone else has power and you don't, there isn't much use calling the power company... I know most people reading this would have a tripped breaker fixed in a few seconds, but maybe your grandmother wouldn't know how to, and in fact she might still have fuse wire instead of a resettable breaker.

        Even for the mail server case, a user in a remote branch who hasn't received any email all morning would probably ask if the server was down before bothering you with their specific issue. Of course a good helpdesk would put up a recorded message in that case eg 'We are currently experiencing problems with our email server, we expect the problem to be fixed in xxx minutes'.
  • by ninjapiratemonkey (968710) on Monday December 10, 2007 @10:45PM (#21651319)
    The backup generators will probably not be very effective in preventing outages during natural disasters. Consider New Orleans: how many of generators can work while submerged underwater? Or California, where should an earthquake knock out the original power to a tower, it is just as likely to knock out the generator.
    • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Monday December 10, 2007 @10:53PM (#21651379)
      A generator is far less likely to get knocked out that power lines. Consider how many points of failure there are in grid-provided power.

      24 hours is sufficent to cover for brief, minor outages. It is not enough to cover for anything close to a natural disaster where many sites lose power and there are not enough resources to fix them all in 24 hours.

      Here in New Zealand, all our telecom has 24 hour battery backup but it is sized "just right". Last year we lost power for approx 40 hours due to a severe snow storm. The phones lasted for appeox 25 hours.

    • by techno-vampire (666512) on Monday December 10, 2007 @11:00PM (#21651409) Homepage
      Or California, where should an earthquake knock out the original power to a tower, it is just as likely to knock out the generator.


      Not so. That all depends on where the damage is. If it's at, or fairly near the tower, quite possibly. If the power's out because a power line was dropped by the temblor, there's a good chance that the cell tower and any generator are just fine. I remember after the Northridge Quake there were major power outages, but the equipment worked just fine as soon as the power was back. As far as floods go, there's no reason not to install them in waterproof rooms to make sure they're OK even if that room's under water.

      • um...
        Exhaust and intake?
        can't exactly run them up the same tower can you? Engines don't work so well sucking on their own exhaust fumes, whiteness my merc diesel and the brain-dead California EPA putting an EGR valve on it.
        • Exhaust and intake?


          Simply a matter of proper design so that they're far enough apart that the intake isn't sucking in the exhaust. Of course, there's always the possibility that the flood water will be deep enough to submerge them, but as long as they're above the surface the generators could keep working. (Yes, refueling them might also be a problem. Nothing's perfect.)

      • by dgatwood (11270)

        Plus, cell towers are usually built on hillsides (where available) for signal propagation reasons, so they tend to be A. above the water line in all but the most extreme floods, and B. built on bedrock, and thus less susceptible to quake damage.

        Your biggest problems are likely to be lack of working generators, lack of enough fuel to keep them running, failure of batteries to function correctly due to improper testing, and in some climates, failure of generators to start due to low temperatures (causing bo

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by flyingfsck (986395)
      Well duh, how many US cities are built under sea level?

      New Orleans should be used as a land fill, till it is sufficiently raised to be viable again.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mcrbids (148650)
      The backup generators will probably not be very effective in preventing outages during natural disasters. Consider New Orleans: how many of generators can work while submerged underwater? Or California, where should an earthquake knock out the original power to a tower, it is just as likely to knock out the generator.

      Consider... Backup power good for just 72 hours, (batteries, etc) and connections by directional microwave. (common) Most disasters are short-lived events. It only takes one cell tower to provi
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      Or more likely knock out (over) the tower.
    • by bogjobber (880402)

      Presumably the tower would be located on high land or on top of buildings, putting it and the generators at lower risk of rising floodwaters. And during earthquakes, large amounts of buildings don't usually collapse. A few older buildings and structures collapse and large numbers of buildings receive light to moderate damage. Power failures are caused mostly by ruptured transmission lines, not by knocking out the actual power source.

      • Power failures are caused mostly by ruptured transmission lines, not by knocking out the actual power source.

        Not anymore. After an earthquake the down power lines cause fires and secondary hazzards. As a safety upgrade many power plants are designed to shutdown in an earthquake, not to protect the generation plant, but to protect the city.

        "When the earthquake struck, Intermountain's two 800-million-watt stations at the Delta plant automatically shut down, cutting off 50 percent of the power for the cities
    • by SL Baur (19540)

      Or California, where should an earthquake knock out the original power to a tower, it is just as likely to knock out the generator.

      No earthquake ever had as much effect to the power grid as that forest fire several states away did in the mid 1990s which knocked out the power grid to most of the Western United States. The Big Bear/Landers quake lit off those cannister thingies on power poles around me like fireworks, but power was restored faster than in that later fire.

      Oh and *my* servers stayed up because we had generators when the fire took out Silicon Valley and everyone else. My first +1 year Linux server uptime was split before

  • Solar (Score:5, Interesting)

    by proudfoot (1096177) on Monday December 10, 2007 @10:47PM (#21651327)
    Maybe self powering solar paneled towers might be better. You'd be helping the environment as well as providing backup. And the height of these towers are perfect for a wind turbine + battery installation as well.
    Even if it's not perfectly reliable, such a tower could be connected to the grid, and in the event of emergency, it'll be at the very least, intermittent,which is enough for some traffic to flow out for a very long time. With a battery/generator, you'd only have power, while reliable, for a limited amount of time.
    • by Tisha_AH (600987) <Tisha.Hayes@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @12:03AM (#21651775) Journal
      To provide solar power to a cell site would require several hundred square feet of space to mount the panels. Sizing a solar power system for infrastructure requires planning for when the amount of sun is at the minimum (approx 2 hours during wintertime at northern latitudes). A aolar system must put a full charge on the battery system to account for charging losses, battery inefficiency, and the continual demand of the load. To match up to a solar power system you need a very significant battery string (when I do system calculations I assume that the system can go for three days without sun). Mounting a wind turbine on a cell tower is problematic too. An antenna structure has a loading (ANSI 222 (f or g)) that has to account for ice, maximum wind and the surface area of the tower, feedline, antennas, etc... A wind turbine adds ALOT of loading to a structure. I suspect that 90% of the cell towers out there right now could not pass the structural analysis under ANSI.
      • by afidel (530433)
        How many KVA does a typical cellsite(single provider) need? I'm wondering what sized generators are going to be harder to get. We recently had an almost 90 day wait for our 100KVA set, but I assume that's much larger than a cellsite needs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dahamma (304068)
      Right, I'm sure all those churches, schools, etc that agreed (with compensation, of course) to put a cleverly inconspicuous cell tower in their steeples and flag poles are going to love 1000 sq feet of solar panels, or a giant wind turbine in the middle of town.

      Though as the article mentions, it's not like they are going to allow a big generator and battery, either...
  • by ip_freely_2000 (577249) on Monday December 10, 2007 @10:47PM (#21651329)
    During the east coast power failure a couple of years back, cell phones were useless because the towers were dead. Landlines worked just fine. I've always felt that the cell companies weren't doing enough to build out their infrastructure to support big events. They'd just have enough in place to provide average service.

    Ma Bell and the landline service has been built out for generations and it shows.
    • by XO (250276)
      Verizon and Sprint had generators operating many of their cell sites into the 3rd day. Unfortunatly, after the 3rd day, gasoline supplies began to run out, and the gas stations were pretty much all closed, unless you could bring it in from the nearest places outside the blackout zone, which to where I was was about 90 miles.
    • Ma Bell and the landline service has been built out for generations and it shows.

      Ma Bell works when no one else does because it's a requirement by law. Cellular networks are not deemed monopolies like Ma Bell, and therefore are unencumbered by the reliability expectations incumbent local exchange carriers are required to provide.

      I don't believe cellular providers should have the cost burden thrust upon them because people demand to be able to use their phones after huge disasters occur. If you want that level of service, be prepared for the cost of cellular service to rise, as the

  • Municipalities are bracing for disputes as carriers try to add generators or batteries to cell sites on rooftops or water towers.


    I find it hard to believe that this is going to be an issue. The batteries don't have to be up on the roof, or on top of the water tower to be effective. Yes, the closer the better, but I doubt there will be more than a handful of places where there's no other place for them.

  • All CDMA systems have power backup facilities built into their equipment. ALL of them have battery power to some degree, and have interfaces for generators to be connected to them as well.
  • Disaster response? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brownsteve (673529) on Monday December 10, 2007 @10:49PM (#21651343) Homepage
    I am a ham radio operator and concern myself with disaster preparedness. With POTS (plain old telephone system) everyone is guaranteed their own connection, complete with line backup power so you can use the phone even if the power's out. Sometimes the switches overload and "all circuits are busy" but in most situations it's worked pretty well for the last century.

    I worry about the trend to move to cell phones. We rely on both our cell phone's battery and the cell tower to stay powered. We also rely on available frequencies to use the tower. In Katrina and recently the San Diego fires, everyone immediately got on their cell phones and jammed all of the towers. Is there enough redundancy, power, and capacity to handle the next disaster? I don't think we should wait for the next hurricane to prove if cell towers can handle an emergency.
    • Hammy, your mind is in the right place. The current paradigm is for flash and dash on the cheap. Business continuity is an orphan project at companies. We need to roll back to 1960 and plan for outages! For just the reasons you describe.

      When I worked for ARCO Oil and Gas in the 1980's, they counted on the power being out. So they spent 13 million 1980 dollars to run a duplicate high power line from another grid to back up their data center. So their data center was served by two separate power grids. Also A
    • by guruevi (827432)
      Well technically it should be simpler and more effective to run a "small" single-site tower (esp. in an emergency) than to run a grid that covers the same area that has random lines running under and above ground that could randomly be cut, over- or abused, short circuited, damaged and that needs extensive operations to be totally replaced. That the cell phone companies cheaped out on their customers while landlines have been installed, regulated and supported historically by local and federal governments (
      • by ceoyoyo (59147)
        The problem is that the cell tower is a central point of failure. A disaster hits and the cell tower goes out... oops, everyone in the area loses service. Forget about a power outage, the disaster is likely to take out the tower itself.

        POTS? It's like the Internet. Yeah, your line might get cut, but then you run next door and use your neighbor's.
    • by smchris (464899)
      Count me in as old and crusty too.

      Seems like something promoted by the generator manufacturers' association. 210,000? I guess that's why they're the FCC and I'm not. Big thinking.

      So, they'll sit in their boxes at each cell company's disaster-fortified warehouse until needed? Or it will provide jobs for people to change the oil and gas and test (and guard?) them periodically on or off site? I'm assuming the former. So it's sort of like the big Pharma handouts we give them to stock warehouses of drugs t
    • by compro01 (777531)
      oh yes. the backup systems on the POTS around here is quite stunning. the batteries alone (a few racks of 48V ones about the size of beer kegs) will run the system for about 8 hours and they have a pair of nice big diesel generators for after that (one is more than enough to run everything (including the offices!), but redundancy is good in emergency systems), with about 2 weeks worth of fuel, with electrical and manual pumps to the gravity-feed day tanks. redundancy in spades.

      significantly less backup f
    • by Nethead (1563)
      Almost all of Verizon's cell (ok, PCS) sites have backup power. That's why they advertise "most reliable network." But, like you, I have my own back-up power for my station for when it gets really nasty.

      73, de w7com
    • I don't think we should wait for the next hurricane to prove if cell towers can handle an emergency.


      We don't have too. Try making several calls while stuck on the freeway during rush-hour traffic. All surrounding towers get jammed up calling family and the office. But with at least three attempts, you'll get through and obtain a connection.

      I can only imagine the impact of a major natural event.
    • I'm also a ham radio operator involved in emergency comms.

      Here in Europe the adoption of cell phones has by now caused POTS to be being reduced in some areas. People are cancelling their POTS subscriptions because every family member has a cell phone.

      People don't realize how vulnerable the cell phone network is. Towers here have very small UPS's, usually enough for a few minute outages, and the connectors for external generators are there just for the image. Nobody seriesly thinks that we could hook up gene
  • by Zymergy (803632) * on Monday December 10, 2007 @10:50PM (#21651353)
    I am currently in a power outage with NO Cellular Service (of any type)! This actually *sucks* and is inexcusable (considering what I pay!)
    Those Damn Ice Storms here in the Central US (today and yesterday). (Generators/UPS are so so nice!)
    Had Cell Service (with AT&T/Cingular) for about 3 hours following the outage (currently the largest single outage in my state's history)... but apparently the cell-site UPS batteries drained and the tower site did not have a generator...
    I am going to ask for a prorated refund for my service plan (and they will legally HAVE TO give me that discount for my contracted service being out).
    If EVERYONE called up their service providers and asked specifically for their prorated discount for service being out (on that given day)... I bet they would invest in UPS/Generator combos at the cell tower sites... -Z
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Ksevio (865461)
      You're in a power outage posting to slashdot? Do you have a backup satalite link and generator just in case you lose internet for a few hours?
      • Hey, a geek has to have his priorities!
      • by Zymergy (803632) *
        For the record, cell service just came back up... well, actually it didn't ...it now says 'network busy'. Probably a puny mobile cell site trailer... have to go look for it in the morning.
        Speaking of which, I have been looking around but I still don't see that Aussie-accented-guy standing in any ponds or holes around here touting the new 'AT&T Wireless Broadband Network'...

        Sure, what else to do after an Ice storm (after getting your power working).. but Post on /.
        I have remarkably reliable Cable
        • by afidel (530433)
          I have a Matrix 5000 with 4 batteries about the size of a large truck battery that came out of our old DR site when we upgraded the UPS there. I'm planning to have it wired in by an electrician to run my blower, sump and fridge during such emergencies. It's always either an ice storm (thus the blower for heat) or a hell of a thunderstorm (thus the sump) that takes out power around here for any length of time. I figure that it will power 2 of the 3 for a day or so as long as I don't open the fridge during th
          • by Zymergy (803632) *
            A business colleague I once worked with was *given* a brand new Matrix 5000 by APC for writing an actually true Kudos real-life-APC's-UPS-saved-my-IT-ass letter to APC following another major Ice Storm back in '01. (I think those matrix 5000 batteries may actually be heavier than car batteries.) I am looking forward to the UPS industry offering LiON or LiPO batteries (at least to those of us who actually have to install/move the darn things...) Of course we all remember this: http://www.lightreading.com/doc [lightreading.com]
      • "You're in a power outage posting to slashdot? Do you have a backup satalite link and generator just in case you lose internet for a few hours?"

        Cripes. Does this really need to even be asked? He could simply be at a friend's house or at the library or something. Maybe he took his laptop to Starbucks and logged on there. Maybe he has a generator.

        Use your brain, yeesh.
        • Maybe he has a generator.

          Many people have a generator that they never consider using. It's called a car. Unlike a standby generator, it is most likely have been recently serviced, has a working battery, fresh fuel and oil, and tested in the last week. Dig out your pocket inverter, and extension cord and laptop. Fire up the car once in a while to recharge the battery.

          I wanted more power than a lighter socket inverter will provide so I installed a trunk mount inverter.

          I have a Prius. It takes care of shu
      • by Vegeta99 (219501)
        Maybe he lives in the woods. When I lived with my parents, we had a 10KW generator on a concrete slab out back. If we didn't have it, there's no water and no heat - doesn't matter that usually the cable and phone still works. Once it kicks on, it restarts the cable modem, so even though it's black all around for miles, we're still connected.

        Pretty convenient, it'd be nice to have it here, where when some asshole hits one of the curbside transformers and the power goes out for 6 hours we don't have internet!
    • Hey, I feel for you. Back in `93 (I think, don't quote me), we had an ice storm hit our area pretty hard. Some people were without power for over 2 weeks. And the cell phones were useless after the first couple of hours when the batteries at the towers went dead. Only the police, fire and utilities had any radio communications at the time because they had planned their systems for just this type of emergency.

      Oh, some cell sites had generators, but the cell co.'s had assumed they could just grab a gas can at
  • Thief Opportunity (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JavaManJim (946878) on Monday December 10, 2007 @10:50PM (#21651355)
    EASY PICKINGS? In Texas and the nearby states like OK, KS, NM, etc, there are zillions of cell towers in the middle of nowhere. What an opportunity for thieves if these all had little generators nearby. I hope a better paradigm that what I describe is used.

    NEW CASH COW? Its bad enough in Dallas where miles lights were out along the divided highways in the Summer of 2006 because thieves pulled out the connecting. This was bad in the summer of 2006 and its better now since openings have been welded shut. I can see generators being the new cash cow for thieves.

    Thanks
    Jim
    • by doon (23278)
      Don't laugh. I've worked for a rural telco, and when the power went out, we had enough batteries to run for a bunch of hours (8+) at our remotes. So we had some time before we had to go and put the generators on (they where not automatic, unlike the CO). We had a couple of cases where someone would actually steal the gen off the side of the remote. It had happened enough time, that as part of our y2k plan, we actually had armed members of the line crew set to stand guard at some of the more remote, remot
  • ambient power (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mattr (78516)
    They should require some kind of ambient power generation also to be included. Solar cells are well understood perhaps but IIRC they do not have long lifetimes. So either some special long-lifetime solar cell, or something that uses environmental (humidity, electrostatic charge, temperature, gas, wind, etc.) gradients. It only has to be able to provide a very short window of time, perhaps only 30 min. per day, in which it can operate without any input from the power grid. If such a thing exists/can be devel
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by inKubus (199753)
      So you're saying for a worst case situation, where the batteries die, the generators are out of fuel, everything is down--and this solar panel or whatever sits there all day gathering sun and then at a predetermined time it runs the tower for 30 minutes so people can text their parents or whatever. Not bad idea, it would be extremely cheap to implement, and in the worst case scenario, it would continue to allow some communications. Coupled with fuel cell or hand-crank power for the cell phones themselves
      • by Nethead (1563)
        Or you could just look up your local hams and ask one of them to pass a message on for you. We still do that, ya know. Or better, geek, get your ham license.
        • That still have licenses? I remember when they dropped the morse code requirement and though "What is the world coming to!?"
  • As an Australian who recently cam through a major cyclone (Larry), I too am surprised to learn that Americans were installing mobile phone sites _without_ backup power. If anyone is complaining about the cost to retrofit, then go complain to the person who installed the site without it in the first place!! (Oh, that was you too? Poor little idiot.)
    There was major problems with the telephone systems. The landline systems had 24 hour battery backups, but beyond that, they had to rely on workers delivering gen
  • Having gone through pager/cellular outages in the almost-all-California almost-all-day power outage a few years back as well as through rolling blackouts I applaud this effort. It's even more important as more and more people go wireless only. But it's gonna hoit...

    There are already plenty of hand-wringers who try to block any cell site due to "harmful radiation". Now that same group is going to be heading to city hall to complain about noisy/polluting/etc. generators and stacks of batteries full of lead an
    • If gensets are installed at remote cellular sites, the testing can all be done remotely (genset startup, short runtime for monitoring, and then shutdown). Fuel level can also be monitored remotely (via TCP/IP even if you want, with a slim web server). Plenty of unmanned data centers do this sort of remote monitoring/testing already.
  • My job requires me to spring into action when disaster strikes. On my way to an unfamiliar site, I was completely lost due to a closed road. Power was off so long the battery backup at the cell tower failed. Luckily, I was able to get there after a whole lot of driving in circles.

    We're putting too many eggs in one basket. That's one of the reasons why I'm an amateur radio operator [emergency-radio.org] (ham). If I had my license during the aforementioned problem, I could have easily gotten the other engineer on the airwaves
  • by T_O_M (149414)
    ..." saying it will cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars to implement the new rules"

    Aww,,, Sniff, sniff. I co-manage 5 remote 2-way radio sites and, due to increased power needs, we have to upgrade the backup generator at one of our sites. Our primary electrical contractor quoted $38,000 for a COMPLETE installation: 35KW generator, transfer switch and installation.
    And that's for ONE generator. The cellular folks will be buying them by the trainload and should be able to weasel a signific

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      Would you like the translation from marketspeak? Here:

      "This is going to be really, really hard and expensive, but we're going to be doing all this clever stuff to make sure it costs MUCH less than it really should. That's why your service fees are only going up by 30%."
  • or were forced to pick one standard like in the rest of the world, you wouldn't need 5+ masts in one place, each with it's own backup, all to support all the different proprietary standards.

    Where's that invisible hand of the free market that is supposed to magically make our disjointed, antiquated mobile system more efficient than the rest of the world's?

    Mod me down for being a commie bastard.
  • In Europe, well in Italy at least, they already have this as mandatory!
    This is why all that -48VDC thing in telco.
  • Katrina (Score:5, Informative)

    by tsotha (720379) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @05:36AM (#21653381)

    Regarding hurricane Katrina:

    I work for a large cell carrier. We had backup power to every single cell in the area. In fact, after the hurricane we were doing pretty well, though some of the towers were taken out by debris. Only a couple were actually submerged. We lost a few trunk lines, but for the most part the system was working.

    The problem was we didn't have any way to get gas to the generators. The roads were impassible, and based on news reports we were reluctant to send crews in to the sites we could reach for security reasons. So after a couple days the cell sites started going offline one at a time as the generators ran out of power.

    As far as I know every one of our sites, in the entire country, already has a couple days worth of backup power.

  • by F34nor (321515) * on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @08:05AM (#21654293)
    Electromechanical Batteries or EMB or Flywheel Batteries by their old name. These have the highest power density of any energy storage system. They are so reliable they can be buried or sent into space. They can hole huge amounts of power. They can be recharged very quickly. They do not burst into fire. They are not hazardous.

    Specific Power EMB (5-10 kW/kg) Lead Acid (0.1-0.5 kW/kg)
    Energy Recovery EMB (90%-95%) Lead Acid (60%-70%)
    Specific Energy EMB (100 Wh/kg) Lead Acid (30-35 Wh/kg)
    Service Lifetime EMB (>10 years) Lead Acid (3-5 years)
    Self Discharge Time EMB (Weeks to months) Lead Acid (variable)
    Hazardous Chemicals EMB (none) Lead Acid (Lead, Sulfur, & Acid)
    "A new look at an Old Idea the Electromechanical Battery" Science and Technology Review April 1996 by
    Dangerous EMB (possibly in massive physical impact) Lead Acid (High fire danger)

    Caterpillar and Beacon power already sell off the shelf UPS based on EMB for anything up to a whole grid substation. These are the answer to balancing the output of solar and wind power as well, far better than ice batteries or lead acid. These are the answer to solving our reliability problems with the national power grid (if each substation could self power for even a few 1/10s of a second you can reroute the grid. In fact these are even a possible answer to batteries for cars thanks to new fiber based flywheels instead of steel. There is literally no sound reason to use Lead acid to backup a data center, a telephone switch, or a cell tower anymore.

    The FCC should demand that the power backup meets a certain level of reliability and power density within a top percentile of the most cost effective solution so that people don't use old outdated technology just because it is a system that they are accustomed to.

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