Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Various happenings

One should not blog for the sake of blogging, and nothing much has happened for the past week, until a few days ago.
Latvia was hit by a very powerful storm, a hurricane by American standards, or perhaps a Baltic typhoon on January 9- 10. It knocked out much of both mobile phone networks, which is no surprise, since what was actually knocked out was the electricity grid. The base stations on reserve power then faithfully worked on until the batteries ran out. Few actual base stations were blown down in the wind – these and the towers they are mounted on are pretty robust. There is one rumor that Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT) lost a station when the roof it was standing on blew away. Now if this was a roofing industry blog, I could have a lot to say about all the new shiny tin or ceramic shingle roofs that were "relocated" by the storms to places like neighboring fields, nearby trees, on top of someone's car, etc.
Both LMT and Tele2 had restored service in Latvia's approximately 26 regional center cities and towns using portable generators. As the electricity (most of it cut by millions of fallen trees) is restored, so too do the mobiles come back to life. Lattelekom's fixed network lost service to less than 5 % of its customers at the height of the storm, reserve power was available to most of its switches affected by the failure of Latvenergo's power.
There is now all kinds of talk about how municipalities should buy backup generators (they cost upwards of USD 20 000 apiece) for the next "worst storm in 40 years". So 40 years from now, they can dust off the museum piece and wonder what it was for, since the whole town may be running on a smart network of household fuel cells connected by buried cables.
The Latvian authorities should. however, consider buying a number of satellite phones, perhaps a few to each regional center, should there be another failure of the mobile networks for whatever reason. Even if the fixed network stays up and running, the portable satellite phones are useful for moving around and reporting on the situation on the ground in case of an emergency. Satellite communications worked from places wiped off the face of the earth by the tsunami, they should suffice if the world gets cut off from Moss Village (Sūnuciems to my Latvian readers) by a falling pine tree.

The Indians don't show up
Two representatives of third mobile licence contender Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL) who were scheduled to visit Latvia January 9 -15 cancelled at the last minute. Unforeseeable and unavoidable circumstances were cited. No new dates have been set. The deadline for pre-application for the auction of the third UMTS/GSM licence, with a starting price of LVL 1.3 million is February 25.
No one is attaching any special significance to the cancellation, this blogger was unable to get in touch with the person at TCIL said to be in charge of the Latvia project. Probably, the reasons must be taken at face value – something in in India or perhaps a flight cancellation in anticipation of the hurricane.

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