Femtocells restore mobile service after natural disasters:
The earthquake that hit New Zealand in February caused immense damage. More than 180 lives were lost and an estimated $12 Billion will be claimed from insurers. The response seems to have been well organized and highly effective. Local businesses and residents pulled together in that time of crisis in a real community effort.
Vodafone New Zealand described how they dealt with the crisis, adapting and improvising as necessary.
The traditional approach takes longer
With cellsites destroyed and out of action, the challenge of restoring service can be difficult. Even where new cellsite equipment is available, it is large and bulky. With mains power services also cut off, the typical power consumption of a standard outdoor site would require onsite diesel generators.
Lightweight and portable enables rapid installation
The small and lightweight form factor of today's femtocells means they can be easily and quickly deployed. A simple pole with antenna can be erected to increase range. Power can be supplied through solar panels, with a battery charging through the day and maintaining service overnight.
In some cases, Vodafone had to adapt femtocells in stock that were intended for business use for outdoor sites. This was possible because the internal femtocell hardware is much the same. Alternatively, the growing range of femtocells designed specifically for use outdoors, either in rural or metro-femto applications would be ideal for this purpose.
Factors that allowed rapid response
Existing femtocell network operators have the advantage that they already have in place the core components of a femtocell system – the femtocell gateway and central management system are both live on their network. Processes for provisioning and enabling new femtocells are already in place. No new core network equipment or processes are required to enable service – femtocells can simply be turned on.
Since the same femtocell gateway can be used to support all types and sizes of femtocells, whether residential, enterprise or outdoor, no significant changes or new equipment needs to be installed.
Additional femtocell units could be connected through any available internet connection and self-configured.
I expect some further manual configuration or optimization might have been done, for example to improve handover between cells. But just providing basic telecommunications service again would be a major bonus for all involved.