The Affects of Rain on Tele-Communications

It’s been raining again. Yesterday it was O’ahu that got
hit with torrential rain. Did I mention I live on O’ahu?

What may be of interest to tech people is the effect that
the rain has on communications. For example, for the last
three weeks, telephone service has been hit or miss. This, as
a result of the rain filling the underground pathways that
the phone lines run in. It takes days for the lines to dry
out. During that time, the phone doesn’t ring. Or at least,
it doesn’t ring as it usually does. What happens is it beeps.
Once. If you happen to be near the phone when that happens,
you can answer it and get a static filled conversation going.
If not, you’ll never know that the call came in.

Other communications are also affected. In fact, when it
comes to satellites, there is a phrase for it –

or sometimes “rain attenuation.”

SWMBO and I went to breakfast yesterday morning. The
restaurant we went to had background music and also several
TVs showing a news channel. But every once in awhile, the
music would drop out. We also noticed that when that
happened, the news channel would pixelate. That is, the
picture would turn into a series of large black blocks as the
image degraded. Eventually, as the rain really started
falling, the music and TV picture stopped and an error screen
was displayed on the TVs saying the satellite signal had been
lost. It seems that this restaurant got both its music and TV
via direct satellite dish.

From there, needing to fill up our car with gas, we went
to the service station. But when we tried to use a charge
card, we found that their approval system uses yes, you
guessed it, a direct satellite link. Said link was not
operational so we couldn’t get any gas. Sigh.

Even when we got home, some of our cable TV stations were
affected because Hawaii gets its programs via satellite,
which are then distributed via cable.

It is amazing to me that so many services rely on
satellites, with no apparent backup. Yes, you need a LOT of
bandwidth to transmit so much data. And yes, if the phone
lines are affected its possible copper data links will be.
But, does it make any sense to anyone to rely so much on
satellites as a source of transmission without any kind of
backup? What about all the miles of “dark” fiber that lay
between here and the mainland? Why not use some of that?

If that’s not economically feasible, then why not use some
of the available techniques to mitigate the affects of rain?
I mean, it’s not like it never rains here. In fact, the loss
of signal is the main reason I haven’t switched from cable TV
to satellite. Otherwise, I would be there in a flash because
satellite is cheaper and the signal is potentially sharper
(depending on how much compression the companies use during

In any case, these are just a couple of examples of how high
tech communications are affected by mother nature.



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