My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Telecom Providers and Alternative Energy - Stormy Weather and the MTV Generation

Monday, October 4, 2010

Telecom Providers and Alternative Energy - Stormy Weather and the MTV Generation

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall
And the day is dark and dreary.

Longfellow, The Rainy Day

It rained. But I am alive, thanks to Audia Granston’s Unknown God, most likely in the mythical Heaven observing Sabbath in his Seventh Day Adventist Church in the sky on this bleak Saturday October 2nd 2010. My thoughts tumble, belief in suspended animation as, I, awakened, like Sigourney Weaver from hyper sleep from my pod as in the Apple aesthetic movie Aliens 2 (1986) to a wet, damp Milk River, Clarendon.

What a way to start the month, only two (2) more thirty (30) day shopping periods to Christmas of 2010 or the Month of Apple in the Year of the Tablet as 2010 is now being called in certain circles. Both roads leading into the community of Milk River, Clarendon, Jamaica which I shall call the Shire, to steal some thunder from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) Trilogy, were blocked, specifically the road from Parnassus, near York Town and Toll Gate, when the Tropical Depression decided to change its mind, as we are all free to do, despite what Management is wont to have workers think, and become a Tropical Storm Nicole.

She [Nicole] dumped so much rain on us poor little former slaves on this former British Colonial Outpost in the Caribbean in what the United States of America reclassified as Latin America that JPS Co., our SOLE Power Utility Company, and the NWC (National Water Commission) our SOLE Potable Water Utility Company (hint to the People’s Republic of China for their Next purchases!!), had their provision of service to the customers of Milk River, Clarendon, unceremoniously cut off for a hellish three (3) day period from Tuesday September 28th 2010 AD to Thursday September 30th 2010 AD.

 I say “hellish”, as although I did not grow up with Television or Cable TV in the 80’s, (luxury I will NEVER spend money on as I am a Radio listener!!), I just cannot live without BOTH Electricity and Water for prolonged periods. Thankfully it was only three (3) days this time, returning with much aplomb and celebration by the townsfolk of Milk River, Clarendon, at which time the water receded, like the Flood of the Bible.

Next time I will get a boat, as even the Milk River Bath (we are on Google Maps as a tourist attraction!!) was completely inundated with water overflowing what to me is no longer the Milk River but the Tigris, what with the amount of silt that the river dumped on the roadway – and Crocodiles too, out for a bit of frolic and a crunchy tourist or two.

Deja vu courtesy of Beyonce! My mind fleetingly recalls early April 2010, the month that had Senator Dr. Horace Chang, Minister of Water and Housing, looked like he had lost his prized pet (puppy perhaps?), dumfounded as what to do next in light of the severely contracted Budgetary allocation to his Ministerial Portfolio.

Even then with intentions to “raid de barn” to borrow JA$477 million from the NHT (National Housing Trust) to finance Senator Dr. Horace Chang, Minister of Water and Housing’s Drought Mitigation Program as per the article “Water plan a no-go – NHT funding denied for drought relief”, published Thursday April 1st 2010, Arthur Hall, Senior Staff Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner and as chronicles in my blog article entitled “Water Security Policy and Water Sector Liberalization Needed to Avoid Drought”.

This was much to the disbelief of the then Senator Daryl Vaz, Minister of Information, who chastised him about the indicent. Ironically the NHT boss, NHT Chairman Howard Mitchell, was later relieved of his position after Government of Jamaica auditors revealed that he was putting his hands in the till.

This time around, though, it is not a drought, but an amazing downpour that has now managed to show the people at Telecom Provider Digicel and Telecom Provider LIME why I STILL have a LIME mobile phone, specifically my trusty Weather proof Nokia 1208. Ready for this one?

It going to be rather long and boring, so please disengage your brain from Park to Drive, as John Public explains the link between the inclement Weather and the pooh-pooh performance of our local Telecom Providers during the three (3) day special effect spectacular that was Tropical Storm Nicole. But first, allow me to ramble a bit………

Reports are still coming in of a confirmed island wide death toll of eleven (11) people as of the time of putting pen to paper (‘cause I am old fashioned like that!!) and the Rescue Party from the USAID is on its way to rescue our procrastinating posteriors, as again our Government seeks to play politics with “Road Repair Money from China”, the People’s Republic of China US$400 million dollar loan which had been bandied around as the JDIP (Jamaica Development Infrastructure Program) as stated in the article “JDIP will boost economy - Golding”, published Monday, September 13, 2010 BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large, South/Central Bureau, The Jamaica Observer.

It should really be called the JLP Campaign Fund Money, though, as they intend to fix only roads in front of the residences of JLP supporters. This rain throws their intended plans into disarray, as that money is now best needed to REPAIR damaged and impassible roadways and PERMANENTLY fix problems accumulated over the years in our outdated Road, Bridge and Traffic Lighting Infrastructure as opposed to selective fixing of some roads, only fair as ALL taxpayers will have to pitch in via the Gas Tax to pay back for the intended island wide infrastructural upgrade. Thought to ponder!

At least Senator Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, in his guile, is pairing his five (5) year Infrastructural Upgrade as stated in the article as stated in the article “Barack Obama announces $50bn infrastructure plan”, published 6 September 2010 18:15 GMT , BBC World News with long Term Jobs in the Automobile Sector in the form of All-Electric Vehicles and Bio-fuel Research stated in the article “'Green' gas and Diesel get boost in Biofuel grants”, published December 4, 2009 12:33 PM PST by Martin LaMonica, CNET News.

This is to separate both the American Motoring Public and the US Military from its dependence – and financing – of Terrorism via the purchase of Middle East Oil as stated in the article “U.S. Navy buys 20,000 gallons of algae fuel”, published September 15, 2010 10:36 AM PDT by Candace Lombardi, CNET News.

This is not even mentioning his promised revival and extension of Bush-era Tax Cuts as stated in the article “Obama to introduce another business tax cut”, published Saturday August 7 2010 By Ed Henry, CNN Senior White House Correspondent, CNN News in his bid to control Congress by appeasing House Minority Leader John Boehner, (R-Ohio), who only recently played the demure coy cool cat and voiced tacit support for the Obama Administrations Long Term plans on CBS “Face the Nation” in late September 2010.

Both these are a benefit to the American People and should be a leaf out of their PlayBook that the Jamaicans can follow, a crib on RIM CEO Mike Lazardis dapper and professional business presentation of the RIM PlayBook.

I must now concede and bestow my blessing as Godfather of the Apple Tablet as being a bonafide contender based on news of no contract commitment, possible low entry price in the Spring of 2011 of between US$299 to US$399 and free tethering to existing Blackberry’s that act as a Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) hotspot.

This despite no news as it relates to the battery life on full 1080p playback or Video Calling, also in Full HD as per the RIM CEO Mike Lazardis presentation. Journalists at CNET News, Harpies so petty and cruel!!

And herein lays the connection to the aforementioned Telecom Providers CLARO and Digicel and their lackluster performance during the mini Hurricane name Nicole. Both these Telecom Providers CLARO and Digicel use Microwave Radios supplied by Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson to Power their Backhaul or Microwave Radio Network.

Unfortunately, due to their haste in construction in 2008 and 2000 respectively, they both miscalculated (deliberately?) their respective RSL (Received Signal Level) between each Microwave Radio Links or “hops” CLARO RF (Radio Frequency) are in the habit of colloquially referring to them.

Indeed, I hint at “deliberately” as the RSL is a “spec” as the American are wont to say, that is determined via mathematical calculations (pen and paper anyone?) and as such factors in conditions of Weather, Terrain, Terrestrial Noise in the same frequency, Distance and other factors that affect the signal strength in a Microwave Radio Links Path and is signed off on for application in the field by Management. John Public, being a member of the Order of the Sheep, can only bleet that it’s baa-aaaad baa-aaaad judgment.

If the RSL is too low, it will result in a need for Error correction to reduce errors, as the Coding Schema for the Digital Transmission between the Microwave Radio Links, due to their linear predictive nature, can be easily corrected without knowing what was originally sent, a Management sanctioned decision (repeated for clarity!!) that is usually done to conserve on Power Usage as Power accounts for nearly 60% to 75% of the Telecom Providers overall expenditure and in fact is the main reason why it takes a typical Telecom Provider upwards of eight (8) years on breaking into a new market to become profitable.

This Power Consumption Factor is not taken into account when the RSL is calculated by Engineers when they build their networks. Thus recalculation for lower Power Levels and higher Block Coding Schemas to perform Error Correction at the receive end of a Microwave Radio Links is, as I said, a Management sanctioned decision (note the third repetition!!).

Thus the Engineers recommend more Power but the Management recommend lower Power and increased reliance on Block Coding, the main reason why Block Coding Schemas were invented (devised theoretically by Shannon) to allow for low Power Error free transmission and in fact heralded the beginning of the Second Generation, oft called 2G, of Mobile Telecommunications.

Telecom Providers were moving away from the old Analog AMPS and its brick like phones towards the small form factor UE (User Equipment) i.e. Phones, modems, etc., lower power and thus lower SAR (Specific Absorptive Ratio) TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) and GSM (Global Systems Mobile) frequency reuse based Networks and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access).

The “White Noise” Power Level based Modulation Schemas of WCDMA and CDMA, which by the way is superior to that of GSM, in terms of spectral efficiency, number of Towers required to give adequate coverage and handset Call Quality, their Achilles Heel STILL being Power Usage.

So now that the Telecom Providers CLARO and Digicel opted to use lower Power Block Coding Schemas to correct the errors and lower the BER (Bit Error Rate) one should think the efficiency problems are solved, right? Not so fast Sherlock! Albeit lowering Power Consumption, the Error Level increases at lower Power Levels.

It gets worse due to the High Level of Linearity of the QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) Schema inherent in 4G Data Networks, ADSL (Asynchronous Subscriber Line) and DOCSIS 2.0, which despite all their fancy speak, are all implementations of QAM in one way or another, just proprietary so that the inventors of each Data Transmission Protocols can make money from licensing their protocols to Equipment Vendors. Noise Level is only reduced when Power Levels are increased.

Thus Telecom Providers are stuck in a Catch 22 situation. Lower Power Levels for Microwave Radio Links using Block Coding Schemas still have high Noise Levels but operate more efficiently, from a Cost Point of View, reducing the overall Power Bill for a Telecom Provider and thus make their operations profitable, if only after eight (8) years.

But the future 6G Networks, sure to come by 2016 AD, most likely based on higher Levels of QAM, unavoidably require not only more stable Power Sources but also higher Power Levels, rendering current Block Coding Schemas obsolete and too slow, as even faster processors in the Node B and MSC (Mobile Switching Center) Equipment to process the ever increasing complexity of Block codes will require more Power, making the oft dodged issue of using Alternative Energy to lower the cost of Power used to Power Cell Sites appealing!

Thus they would achieve increased profitability in a shorter space of time via a proposal which I first suggested back in 2003 while still a Network Maintenance Technician at C&W, (now LIME!) since 2008, a candidate for a second look – and this time more seriously so, as Power Amplifiers for QAM need to be linear and low Noise in order to Power QAM based equipment. Inescapable Power Paradox, as Network Maintenance Technicians used to call this problem. But what of the Rains?

The rains helped to prove this, as by falling over the three (3) day period, the increased Attenuation of the signal of the Microwave Radio Links, which are susceptible to the vagaries of the Weather, thus resulting in customers hearing an audible annoying hiss sound over their phones while in conversations, as the RSL between the UE (User Equipment) i.e. mobile phones, modems, etc and the Cell Tower Antennas is fixed by the manufacturer and only increases automatically in CDMA Networks

This means its audible annoying hiss is from the multiple Microwave Radio Links back to the MSC, as all calls follow a Call Path back to the MSC. Wireless Broadband Modems, whether they are WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d) or 3G, which all use WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access), will experience increased BER (Bit Error Rates) due to Signal Attenuation by the inclement weather and its affect on lowering the RSL on Microwave Radio Links.

Thus is results in lower speeds, as the modems cannot accomplish Block Coding fast enough to not result in a lag in speed, hence the lackluster performance of the WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d) and 3G Modems during the three (3) day All-Island Flood, up there but not quite on the same Biblical proportions as Noah’s Flood, with the increased Latency being another sure sign of the rains effect on Data Speeds due to increasing Errors Correction by Block Coding Schemas.

People ignore it though, as they are lulled into acceptance via the advertising proffered by the Telecom Providers CLARO and Digicel, and more specifically in the case of Telecom Provider Digicel, via the usage of Noise Cancellation Algorithms at the MSC, as the Noise is in a specific band of the audible hearing range, a short term solution Telecom Provider CLARO could apply.

Still, both Telecom Providers CLARO and Digicel cannot avoid Alternative Energy, the 800 Pound Gorilla in the Room, as the instability in the Energy Markets and the coming of Peak Oil by 2015 AD means that Electricity Prices locally here in Jamaica, until we decouple our Economy from Oil and adopt a LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) Based Electron Economy as opined in the article by Dr. Ulf Bossel in his published paper entitled “Why a Hydrogen Economy doesn't make sense”, published December 11 2006, will forever be upwards trending. Clever indeed, Telecom Provider Digicel.

Telecom Provider LIME is not susceptible to this, as most of their Links are Copper Based T1’s and Fiber Optic cables which are not susceptible to the vagaries of the Weather, but rather is to the natural built-in Signal Attenuation characteristics inherent in the Transmission Path, Materials used to make these Transmission Path and the losses due to the Usage of the Electromagnetic Spectrum utilized in Fiber Optics and Electrons in Copper Cables.

Which explains why their networks for Montego Bay is so severely overpriced as stated in the article “LIME to build US$40m 3G Network for Montego Bay”, published Sunday June 27, 2010, by Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer, The Sunday Gleaner as it mostly involves the usage of Fiber Optic Links. Telecom Provider LIME is truly, a Man for All Seasons, able to operate in All Weather – they just need to improve their lackluster Marketing. Perhaps emphasize this strength in a cleverer manner in a better marketing push? Just a thought……….

Granted, Engineers in Jamaica, who are only concerned with getting the Network up and running and not reducing cost while in the Construction Phase, a wasteful engineering habit that John Public wishes could be eliminated from their thought process, need nonetheless to be certified and registered as per the article “Engineers urged to get registered”, published Wednesday September 22 2010, The Jamaica Observer, a boon to Telecom Providers via way of lower insurance premiums to ensure Engineering Staff stay on the job.

This is why John Public, a former Telecom Technician, still calls himself such, as registration and membership with the JIE (Jamaica Institute of Engineers) as well as the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) is a must to be a full fledged Electronics/Electrical Engineer.

I am not an Engineer despite my Degree from Electronics and Chemistry from the University of the West Indies (2005 to 2009) and my Diploma in Electronics and Telecommunications from the University of Technology (1997 to 2000). But one day, I shall be………as soon as I get around to paying over my overdue FOA (Fiber Optic Association) and IEEE membership dues!! A training School for Telecom Engineers would only be icing on the cake and revenge for many a complaining Technician, still upset over C&W decision back in 2002 during the Post Deregulation Redundancy Years to shut down the Training School on South Camp Road.

As a footnote, Telecom Provider LIME slow build-out is in keeping with the old adage of “Good comes to those who wait” as their LIME TV as stated in the article “LIME TV on the Horizon”, published Sunday, September 19, 2010 by ALICIA ROACHE Sunday Finance reporter, The Jamaica Observer and Mobile TV as stated in the article “LIME goes Mobile TV”, published Saturday August 28th by Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer, The Jamaica Gleaner Platforms are a promising development and being Wireless a Sure-fire hit by Christmas of 2010.

This would explain the unease in the Triple Play Provider FLOW camp in doing surveys in the Clarendon Sector as associates of mine have reported to me thus and FLOW’s recent speed bump to 20 MBps, acknowledging that LIME TV is a BIG Deal.

With a rumoured All Inclusive thirty (30) Day subscription price of JA$2500 for a Channel Package, Internet and possible Video Calling Package, possibly in a Google TV set top box to take on overpriced Triple Play Provider FLOW with a “TV Anywhere” concept served up by DC Digital as stated in the article “LIME pumps US$100 million into DVB system”, published Sunday, August 29, 2010 By Alicia Roache Sunday Finance reporter, The Jamaica Observer certain to easily trounce Triple Play Provider FLOW on the basis of pricing alone in the ensuing Triple Play Wars.

This, by the way, is promised us by Chairman Chris Dehring - or at least his alter ego, DJ Chris – by Christmas 2010, which would explain the Green Synergy-esque reference as stated in the article “LIME goes Mobile TV”, published Saturday August 28th by Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer, The Jamaica Gleaner: “We are the revolution. Some people say they have 4G, we say we have more G”. Where is DigiTV from Telecom Provider Digicel?

But that is biomass for my reactor to make Bio Fuel, Alternative Energy for another article. Till then, I will be curled up, listening to my radio and catching up on my long woe-begotten reading, the World of the literary greats beckoning me again. Au revoir.


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