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AT&T reveals how Cows and Colts helped its network withstand Hurricane Sandy

14 Dec 2012
AT&T's sandy disaster recover trucks COLTs

NEW JERSEY: Hurricane Sandy devastated part of the east coast of the US this year, having already ripped through the Caribbean and mid-Atlantic.

The world watched as New York City felt Sandy's power during the 13-day super storm that began at the end of October. It was responsible for more than 100 deaths, crippled transit, destroyed entire communities, caused billions of dollars' worth of infrastructure damage and cut power to over eight million homes.

It's an impressive achievement, then, that during that time one of the country's main network carriers, AT&T, managed to keep its networks up and running. It's even more remarkable because the firm's Global Network Operations Centre (GNOC) - which is responsible for monitoring the network and keeping it up - is located in the middle of the Hurricane's path in New Jersey.

AT&T's sandy disaster recovery damage to its telephone lines

To find out how the firm rode out the storm, V3 spoke with AT&T's director of Network Disaster Recovery, Robert Desiato, when we were taken on an exclusive tour of the firm's GNOC in New Jersey.

Desiato discussed the lengths the firm went to during Hurricane Sandy and how these precautions are part of a multi-year strategy that has taken years of development and experience of similar natural disasters. Under pinning it all is a goal to ensure that during these times, customers don't run into network problems and aren't left without telephony.

As Desiato explained, the key is AT&T's GNOC mission statement: "To provide a seamless customer application service quality by preventing, detecting, correcting failures in the network before they impact the service and customer."

AT&T's director of Network Disaster Recovery Robert Desiato working on Sandy

AT&T had a five-day warning that the hurricane was going to hit the east coast. So it had time to put a specific storm plan in place, with steps taken so the mobile network recovery team could get close to the affected area.

"We can track pretty close to where the hurricane is going to hit," Desiato said. "[But] when a disaster like the Sandy storm hits, it's my job to run towards it and into the disaster zone."

Desiato said his job involves the role of looking out for any changes to the GNOC's BAU status, which stands for "Business As Usual". In an event such as Sandy, the GNOC will pull up a management control bridge (MCB) ordering the dispatch of disaster recovery kit.

Disaster recovery consists of the deployment of cellular communications on wheels (Cows) and cells on light trucks (Colts) for expanded capacity and to help to restore communications for victims in a specific area during the disaster.

"We designed the trailers so that the stuff in the central office is exactly the same equipment you have on the trailers that we pull around. We can pull these trailers anywhere. Put them in a parking lot and that parking lot becomes our central office," Desiato said.

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Lee Bell

Lee joined as a reporter on The INQUIRER in April 2012.

Prior to working at The INQUIRER, Lee was sponsored by the NCTJ to do a multimedia journalism course in London. After completing placements at local magazines and newspapers in both print and online he wrote for an online gaming news website, and it was here where his love for technology grew.

Lee's main coverage areas include processors, internet security, PCs, laptops and tablet news and reviews.

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