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World Trade Center Attack: A Need to Redefine Reliability
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The September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center has served to focus attention on the vulnerabilities of the legacy, circuit-switched telephone network. Verizon, the largest telephone company, had five central offices serving some 500,000 telephone lines south of 14th Street in Lower Manhattan. More than six million private circuits and data lines passed through switching centers in or near the WTC. AT&T and Sprint switching centers in the WTC were destroyed in the attack. Verizon lost two WTCspecific switches in the towers, and two nearby central offices were knocked out by debris, fire, and water damage. Cingular Wireless lost six and Sprint PCS lost four. Power failures interrupted service at many other wireless facilities (see Figures 7-1 and 7-2).1 Verizon further estimates 300,000 voice business lines, 3.6 million data circuits, and 10 cellular towers were destroyed or disrupted by the events of September 11th. This equates to phone and communications service interruption for 20,000 residential customers and 14,000 businesses.2 The question a subscriber inevitably has to ask is Where are the five 9s of reliability in this system What is wrong with the PSTN that one incident can deprive so many of service The American Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) can be described as having a centralized architecture. The telephone companies have not built redundancy into their networks. Almost all cities and towns across the nation rely on one hub or central office, meaning that if that hub
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Telecom Update #300, September 17, 2001. www.angustel.ca/update/up300.html. Naraine, Ryan. Verizon Says WTC Attacks May Hurt Bottom Line. Silicon Alley News. www.atnewyork.com/news/article/0,1471,8471_897461,00.html.
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Downloaded from Digital Engineering Library @ McGraw-Hill (www.digitalengineeringlibrary.com) Copyright 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies. All rights reserved. Any use is subject to the Terms of Use as given at the website.
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Figure 7-1 Class 5 switch destroyed in WTC attack
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Figure 7-2 Central offices and other switching facilities were concentrated in the WTC and 140 West Street. What if every building in Manhattan had its own media gateway on a softswitched, distributed network
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were to be destroyed, that city would lose all land-line telephone connectivity with the outside world. Even with the growth of competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs), fewer than 10 percent of those CLECs have facilities truly separate from the Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs). Between 1990 and 1999, the number of RBOC central offices grew less than 1 percent to a nationwide total of 9,968, while the total number of phone lines grew by 34 percent according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).3 The FCC s Automatic Reporting and Management Information System (ARMIS) tracks failures caused by telephony switches, which in turn generates availability figures. The FCC is not unmindful of the threat posed to the nation s voice telephony infrastructure and the FCC has announced the creation of a Homeland Security Policy Council. The Council s missions are to assist the FCC in evaluating and strengthening measures for protecting U.S. communications services, and to ensure the rapid restoration of communications services and facilities that have been disrupted as the result of threats to, or actions against, our nation s homeland security. The Council also ensures that public safety, health, and other emergency and defense personnel have effective communications available to them to assist the public as needed.4 Without a drastic change in the architecture of the PSTN, it will remain vulnerable to major outages. The chief reasons for this are not that the network elements (NEs) in the form of Class 4 or Class 5 switches are less than reliable, but rather the architecture centers on single points of failure (SPOF): the central offices and the star network architecture that comprises the PSTN. One of the myths that supports the survival of Class switches and their architecture is the notion that only a Class 4 or 5 switch has five 9s of reliability. The perception in legacy telecommunications circles is that Bell Labs somehow received divine providence for the design of a switch that would consistently deliver five 9s of reliability and no other platform could mimic this unassailable standard. Although the switches themselves might be very reliable, the architecture may contain vulnerabilities. This chapter will explore what is meant by five 9s and why engineering a network to deliver that level of reliability is only a matter of good engi-
Young, Shawn, and Dennis Berman. Trade Center Attack Shows Vulnerability of Telecom Network. Wall Street Journal, October 19, 2001.
Federal Communications Commission. Federal Communications Commission Announces Creation of Homeland Security Policy Council. Press release. November 15, 2001. www.fcc.gov.
Downloaded from Digital Engineering Library @ McGraw-Hill (www.digitalengineeringlibrary.com) Copyright 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies. All rights reserved. Any use is subject to the Terms of Use as given at the website.
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