251st Avenue tower outage Wednesday

Due to a recent real-estate transfer of the residence at which our 251st Avenue tower is located, we have been instructed to remove our tower.

We have already secured a commitment from a neighbor and long-time subscriber to assume the duties of neighborhood tower host, so we will be moving the tower to its new location during the day tomorrow (Wednesday). This will result in an outage of two to three hours for those subscribers and satellite towers served by 251st Avenue Tower, as the physical tower itself must be disconnected, detached, uprooted, transported, re-erected, cabled for power in its new location, and have its inter-tower feed links properly realigned.

After the relocation, we’ll be re-aiming the roof units of our closest-in subscribers first, then the farther-out subscribers as necessary. Our furthest-out subscribers in the vicinity of Circle City will likely require no re-aiming at all, though all signal levels will be compared before and after the relocation.

We apologize for this service interruption, and wish to assure you that we will be performing the relocation expeditiously, in order to resume service as promptly as possible.

A Red Queen Marathon

After two nights of record windstorms, today (Sunday) was devoted to an impromptu “tower tour,” driving around our service area and checking for visual confirmation of proper aim on the majority of our towers.

The Easy Street input feed dish had been blown clockwise about 70°. (The Easy Street neighborhood itself was pretty slammed, with roads strewn with wash silt and downed trees; our host’s flagpole was actually bent in half by the winds!) Without a roof man, given that the dish was far above my reach, I attempted a rough re-aim job by “pokin’ a stick at it” (our 16′ telescoping pole) from a ladder, with surprisingly satisfactory results.

The output feed from the NOC to 251st Avenue had also been blown off kilter, and was re-aimed in the same manner. The mast has gone a bit wobbly over time, which will be addressed when we can schedule Dave, our roof man, to fine tune and lock in all of today’s crude readjustments.

One thing these storms made quite apparent is a need for more UPS power capability than we currently enjoy. Although the NOC, Constellation Tower, and our Wickenburg gateway are hardened by indoor UPS systems that provide them about 90 minutes of emergency power, most of our towers have no UPS. During the last two nights of power outages in central Morristown and Castle Hot Springs, all our Morristown tower subscribers were taken offline immediately because no power was available to our windmill tower—even though the NOC continued operating (and serving 251st Avenue, which suffered no extended power outage either night).

As funding allows, we plan to begin introducing indoor UPS systems at host-based towers, which is technically simple—weatherproof UPS units for the standalone towers (Morristown, Mockingbird, and Rio Vista) are expected to be more problematic, but a search for suitable equipment is on our immediate agenda.

In addition, it’s clear that the sheer amount of equipment installed at the NOC and the gateway locations deserves beefier UPS units that can provide more than 90 minutes of outage protection, since when these locations go dark, many or all towers lose service.

There’s nothing like weather problems to trigger a Red Queen Marathon: a situation where you must run as fast as you can just to stay in the same place. We’re going to be running one of our own over the next few months, to better prepare ourselves for future monsoon devilry.

(And the weatherman says there is 45% chance of a third record windstorm tonight.)  😭

 

Tower Maintenance: 251st Ave.

We will be increasing the capacity of 251st Avenue tower this Tuesday, December 12, between 9 AM and 2 PM. Users served by this tower, as well as by Dixileta and Circle City towers, may experience brief (<10 minute) outage periods as equipment is detached and replaced. Users served by Castle Hot Springs tower may experience mild slowdowns as data is shunted through that tower to serve 251st Avenue during times when the primary link units to 251st Avenue are being replaced.

Skip-In Ranch: Unscheduled outages

Our Skip-In Ranch tower host is having major residential renovation performed. This has led to a half dozen or so outages to Skip-In Ranch tower subscribers over the past several weeks, as workmen turn off circuit breakers, work on the roof in the vicinity of our mast, or remove and replace our indoor equipment for framing, drywall, and painting work. (Subscribers of our Morristown towers may experience micro-outages when any existing sessions through the Skip-In Ranch long link reroute through the Mockingbird long link.)

We’ve successfully educated the foreman about what breakers and components interrupt our service, to the point where at least the workmen no longer disable us indefinitely. Although we still don’t get advance notification of these outages, they do take pains to keep them as brief as possible. We’re all hoping that this renovation progresses quickly and completes soon.

Construction-related congestion

As you know if you have been keeping up with this blog, we have a new fiber circuit on order from CenturyLink that will double the bandwidth at our Wickenburg gateway to the Internet. While we’re awaiting that installation, we have been planning ahead to ensure that we will be able to distribute this new bandwidth evenly across our entire network without artificial bottlenecks.

Late this week, in preparation, we replaced several of the radios driving our long links between Morristown and Wickenburg with new and faster units. The new radio links are now operating at multiples of the speed of the old, and well over the speeds necessary to distribute the new bandwidth clear to Circle City.

However, despite the speed of the new radio links themselves, the effect on our overall speed on the Morristown side of our network seems to have been negative. We’re extremely concerned (and puzzled) by this result. Although we’ve been able to make a number of tuning changes to evade the worst of these performance issues, we haven’t yet identified an underlying cause.

We’re continuing to work this problem over the weekend, with consulting help as available, as long as necessary to ensure that this temporary disruption is solved expeditiously. We apologize for a less than seamless enhancement experience, and look forward to being able to deliver our upcoming bandwidth increase to you as efficiently as possible.

Robust or Bust!

Last Friday, we completed the upgrade of Castle Hot Springs tower, activating the redundant transmission link between that tower and 251st Avenue. All subscribers on our network are now immune to the failure of any single transmission link.

In conjunction with grounding improvements at Mockingbird Tower, which has eliminated our “every three months” radio replacement problem there, and the recent power supply upgrade and firewall review at our Wickenburg gateway, our network is now exhibiting higher reliability than ever before.

Thank you for continuing to allow us to be your broadband services provider.

 

Upgrades and Hardening Progress

Today, we finished upgrading our 251st Avenue neighborhood tower. Along with a brand-new ground-mounted extensible mast, we replaced the aging Engenius and Tranzeo radio equipment from 2008 with new MikroTiks, both at the tower itself and at all our subscriber sites. The new equipment runs in the 5MHz band using the NV2 protocol, eliminating interference with household WiFi routers while providing a much stronger and clearer signal to subscribers.

We also added and aimed the 251st Avenue end of our planned Castle Hot Springs-to-251st Avenue inter-tower link, to harden the network against single link dropouts.

In the process of erecting this tower, we learned a few valuable things about powering certain of the new MikroTik models—a topic we’ll be discussing in our next blog entry for the benefit of industry colleagues (subscribers can ignore that posting).

Coincidentally, while we were up on the roof in the 103° sun at 251st Avenue, our Morristown router decided to go catatonic, throwing our east side subscribers offline for most of an hour. Once subscribers called in to notify us there was a problem, we phoned back to the site to have a non-technician power-cycle the router, and the network came back. Thanks to those subscribers who are prompt to let us know something is amiss, since we’re not always able to be online to notice it for ourselves.