My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Telecom Providers and Australia - The Parent Trap Down Under


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Telecom Providers and Australia - The Parent Trap Down Under

Many a green isle needs must be
In the deep wide sea of misery,
Or the mariner, worn and wan,
Never thus could voyage on.

Shelley, Lines written among the Euganean Hills

My years of working at Telecom Provider C&W (2001 to 2004), now rebranded as Telecom Provider LIME, were fraught with danger and adventure. I could write a book of it all – oh wait; My blog is already book sized! STILL, a separate book IS needed to chronicle my adventures. Of the many I can recount, it was meeting this Telecom Engineer who was assigned to Telecom C&W from Australia, an aussie Engineer named Jeff.

Jeff’s chief responsibilities was to assist with maintaining the NEC (Nippon Electric Company) NEAX61E (“E” means “enhanced”) Telecoms Switch, which was a more compact of the two (2) Telecoms Switches. I remember him, as while working with him, he spoke of Australia – and its ironic lack of advanced Telecoms infrastructure.

On our downtimes or whenever he came to the Pembroke/North Exchange to do repairs on the NEAX61E Telecoms Switch, Jeff pointed out that despite Jamaica being a Developing World country, our Telecom Infrastructure was far more advance than Australia, A Developed Country, oweing to Jamaica’s smaller size and ease of installing and maintaining Telecom Infrastructure.

The Australian OutBack, from, quote “Perth to Brisbane”, is an unforgiving wilderness of wild animals, searing heat from the Sun in the Great Desert and no way to communicate if in distress. Jamaicans, you think Tivoli Gardens is bad; try surviving in the Outback armed only with a handing knife on a walkabout.

Australia has other problems, such as the much reported flooding disaster of biblical proportions as stated in the article “Rising rivers prompt evacuations in Australia”, published Wednesday December 29 2010, by AP, Yahoo! News and confirmed in the article “Australian floods 'to last weeks'”, published Monday January 3 2010, by BBC News for which my condolences are most sincere.

However, their engineering prowess resounds in innovative companies such as OriginOil and mining company MBD Energy use of CO2 emissions from coal plants to make algae based bio-fuel as stated in the article “Australians harvest algae from coal pollution”, published Tuesday December 9 2010, by CNET News.

Throw in the windfall of a greedy People Republic of China export quotas on Rare Earth metals to Japan as stated in the article “Australian Rare Earth miner leaps on China cuts”, published Wednesday December 29 2010, by AFP, Yahoo! News. Thus Australia just got a “buss” as we Jamaicans would say in patios for the lucrative and rapidly expanding All-Electric Vehicle, Alternative Energy and Consumer Electronics sector.

Fast forward to 2011 – and the incredible interest the ENTIRE world has in the mammoth engineering task that is beset Australia in bringing Broadband Internet to its far flung inhabitants as stated in the article “Australia embarks on great Broadband adventure”, published September 27, 2009 by Amy Coopes, Physorg. This should be the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel for Australia, now with a foothold in the future struggle to equip Australians for said future: Broadband Internet.

The Government of Australia, via the National Broadband Network (NBN) is on target to connect 93% connectivity of the people of Australia. Project leader Ian Oppermann is very much aware of the global interest in the Australian project, especially as they will be transitioning to full DTT (Digital Terrestrial Television) by 2013AD.

Ian Oppermann’s words sum it up best, giving a possible clue as to his ambitious plans to bridge the Digital Divide in Australia, quote: “There are lots of parts of Australia which look a little bit like big parts of Canada, Russia, China, parts of the United States, most of Africa from the perspective of where the population is distributed and the sort of conditions that people live in, purely from a communications perspective; I think Australia really stands a chance of being of global test case. If we get it right there is really an opportunity that other countries will follow what Australia is leading with.”

Straight to the solutions, as options abound. Fiber Optic backhaul is best, requiring millions of miles of fiber optic cable to be laid and criss-cross the country, connecting the various towns and cities such as Perth and Sydney. This is a MUST, and there is no two-ways about it – a task that will take another ten (10) years, as the Australian wilderness is unforgiving.

In the short term, Wireless, is the way to go. Already the Australians have demonstrated that Wi-Fi Calling by enableing each smart phone as a Wi-Fi Hot spot is feasible. This is based on the research of Dr. Paul Gardner-Stephen of Flinders University in Australia and his much publicized Serval Project as stated in my blog article entitled “Digicel and WiMaX 4G Mobile - The Great Australian Outback ”.

Throw in the fact that the NBN is experimenting with a “Super” Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Network based on a Hybrid Network that is a mash-up of a Analog Broadcast Spectrum carrying a Digital Signal as stated in the article “Australia’s Outback could get Web via TV Antenna”, published Monday December 6, 2010 05:48 AM ET by Amy Coopes/AFP, Discovery.

Clever indeed: utilizing their largest already existing Terrestrial Network, Television and Radio, which already can be reliably received anywhere in Australia, as UHF (Ultra high Frequency) and VHF (Very High Frequency) have good range. Attenuation is at a minimum, as the air is crisp and dry and most Aussies already have a Television Aerial.

Thus the grand solution becomes clear. Australia, in order to power its Broadband ambitions of connecting 93% of its population, will be doing the heavy lifting involved in installing the much needed Fiber Optic replacements for their ageing Copper Based Networks in a ring around Australia.

Once installed, they plan to spur inland to connect everyone via the spare Analog Spectrum left over from transitioning their largest Terrestrial Network, Television and Radio, to Digital by 2013AD, using the SAME infrastructure, only with set top boxes. Thanks to the Analog nature of NTSC Broadcast Spectrum, the congestion will be experienced at the head-end in the MGW (Media Gateway) Router and not at each cell site.

Thus, their Network will be based on BOTH the spare NTSC (National Television Systems Committee) Analog Spectrum left over from DSO (Digital Switch Over) in 2013AD as well as the in-between “White” Space Frequencies, akin to the decision by FCC (Federal Communications Commission) Chairman Julius Genachowski as in my blog article entitled “Telecoms and White Spaces - A Man for All Seasons and the Big Bang Theory”. Digital Signal based on WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiplexing) such as Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) hitching a ride on an Analog Carrier, a true reversal of roles, The Parent Trap (1998) Style

This leaves the engineers less problems when it comes to Optimization, as instead of installing more Node B sites to relieve traffic, they can just increase the T1 at the head-end and the customers will receive the Hybrid Analog-Digital Transmission as per regular, with no need for adjustments on the customer end.

Even better, increasing Broadband speeds can be tailored so as to only require an over-the-air software update for the set top box, making constant replacements of the modem unnecessary. The customer merely needs to go online and sign up for the new speeds on a new contract, do an over-the air update and voila! New Speed! Their new contract they can also print out – all done online over the same Network from the comfort of their homes! Beautiful in its elegant simplicity!


Support could also be provided via Satellite Broadband as is now the case in the EU as stated in my blog article entitled “Telecom Providers and Satellite Broadband - Quantum of Solace and the Tourist” as a backup system, necessitating that Australia may soon be launching a Broadband satellite.

This is DEFINITELY one to watch in 2011AD, especially as so many countries are struggling with similar problems and similar ambitions and a possible snapshot of what is possible in Jamaica, when we decided to go DSO in 2012 as prognosticated in my blog article entitled “Broadcasting and Digital Switch Over - Back to the Future to compete with LIME TV”.
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