Keep Wireless Resiliency Framework Flexible, Carriers Tell FCC

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Carriers tell the FCC, the Wireless Resiliency Cooperative Framework facilitated industry efforts to maintain networks and restore service after recent hurricanes. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said he would look into how the agreement is working after initially being disappointed with the pace of network restoration efforts in Florida following Hurricane Michael.

The framework is an industry-led, voluntary initiative, in which carriers cooperate to restore networks during and after emergencies. Responses to the inquiry from the Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau were due to docket 11-60 Monday. Though portions were redacted, Inside Towers was able to glean the main points of the carriers’ responses.

Addressing network restoration speed directly, T-Mobile says in many cases, network outages were due to the limited availability of commercial power and/or failures in third-party backhaul networks, rather than the failure of the wireless networks. T-Mobile says the framework has been “extremely successful” because of its flexibility that allows carriers to dynamically allocate resources. T-Mobile believes a similar arrangement among backhaul providers would improve wireless network resiliency as well. 

Verizon, too, cites backhaul fiber cuts in Florida that, “extended the duration of outages by several days.” The carrier said Hurricane Michael showed that “other stakeholders’ restoration efforts can overwhelm even highly redundant fiber,” citing, “numerous and repeated cuts made to our fiber network even after we restored it.”

AT&T says in the more than two years in which the framework has been in place, it’s been “thoroughly tested due to an exceptional number of devastating natural disasters during that period.” AT&T agrees framework flexibility is necessary because “natural disasters and emergencies can impact wireless networks and services in vastly different ways.” It says the framework has been a success and the Commission should continue to support it.

In its efforts to support First Responders, the carrier highlights its National Disaster Recovery (NDR) program. As an example, AT&T cited “unprecedented” challenges its NDR team overcame during a five-month deployment in Puerto Rico during and after Hurricane Maria.  AT&T personnel worked to restore and sustain communications networks, “coupled with the logistical challenges of moving personnel, equipment, and support resources (such as food, water, medical supplies, fuel, and security) to islands with destroyed transportation and electrical infrastructure,” it said.

Sprint notes roaming on partner wireless networks during disasters does not typically require a proactive change or system selection to allow wireless traffic to traverse either network and should, in most cases, be automatic for most wireless subscribers. “There were no instances we are aware of in which Sprint or another carrier declined a request for mutual aid or roaming during this event,” the carrier noted, referring to Hurricane Michael.  Comments? Email us.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

November 29, 2018               

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