Monday, September 05, 2005

Telecommunications for Desaster Relief in New Orleans using Meshed Networks 

Yesterday I received an e-mail from Ron Sege (Tropos Networks) during a discussion on useful telecommunication desaster relief (TDR) activities in New Orleans (and later), stating:
... For example, Intel, MCI, Skytel and Tropos are in the process of deploying 300 mesh Wi-Fi cells, point to multipoint backhaul and laptops in NO, Biloxi and other critical cities. For consumer use as well as emergency services such as video surveillance. 300 mesh cells will cover 30 sq miles and should be up early next week. Using Skype is a good idea, too.

Cox Communications is considering same. These networks can interoperate.
See also the related press release from Intel:
Intel is also working with its partners, including Tropos Networks, MCI and SkyTel to bring wireless Internet connectivity to New Orleans relief efforts. Intel has initially donated 50 Tropos 802.11 Wi-Fi mesh transmitters for locations in the New Orleans Airport and around downtown New Orleans. These access points will be used to offer free Wi-Fi service to Federal Emergency Management Agency workers, local government and citizens.
and the press release from MCI:
[MCI] deployed three of its Emergency Mobile Communications Facilities to the New Orleans, LA and Biloxi, Miss. areas for use in conjunction with Emergency Operations Centers in those locations. These self-contained mobile facilities, also called the MCI Big Blue Fleet, provide free Internet, telephone, wireless hotspot and fax capabilities to the public via satellite links. In addition to the Big Blue Fleet, MCI is preparing to dispatch five communications trailers to the hurricane impacted area for use by government agencies that are providing emergency services to the communities in the hurricane stricken area.
It should be noted in this context that ITU-T SG2 discussed related issues for desaster relief in February 2005 triggered by requirements from the United Nations. The outcome was as follows (from the Progress Report from Q1/2):

D6 (Chairman SG2) proposed that SG2 consider the assignment of a shared E.164 Country Code and a shared E.212 Mobile Country Code to the UN. These resources are to be used only for the provision of communications in UN associated projects and territories under UN administration and are covered by the general guidelines and principle of use as already laid out in the relevant ITU-T recommendations. After discussion it was agreed to consider only the aspects relating to TDR.

D26 (UK) provided some consideration of shared E.164 country code for the UN and provided links to SG3 contributions that may be of use and also mentioned that TD 30 (below), a liaison statement from SG3, is also relevant.

TD30 (Liaison from SG3) supports the concept of disaster relief relating to the charging and accounting aspects of proposed UN E.164 shared country codes and requests SG2 to keep SG3 advised to all developments in this area

During the discussion of the three aforementioned contributions, the participants agreed in principle to the allocation but it was agreed that additional contributions are required to further develop the criteria for assignment prior to that assignment being made. The participants seek various views on the criteria and also suggest that the Country Code 889 be considered for TDR. The Rapporteur called for Member States, Sector Members, the appropriate UN bodies or other relevant organizations to provide contributions on TDR to the next meeting in order to provide opinions and views on this matter from all interested parties.

It seems to me that the deployment of TDR with meshed networks as set up in New Orleans and using Internet based addressing is a much faster and pragmatic way to achieve the required goals. On the other hand it is still not too late to combine the activities, e.g. by routing calls from the PSTN to ENUM enabled gateways similar to +87810 and +43780 and map them to the Internet addresses. The next SG2 Plenary is in December 2005.

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