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Like this article? We recommend Collocations and Carrier Hotels

Collocations and Carrier Hotels

Collocations, or "carrier hotels," are exactly what the name implies. Generally, they're well-hardened facilities; almost without exception, they allow carriers to connect with one another under both day-to-day and emergency operations. In a disaster, they can become indispensable. A typical collocation can house one or more of the following kinds of technologies:

  • Cable and fiber optic connections to the incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC), such as AT&T, Qwest, or Verizon
  • Connections to all major long-distance companies
  • Connections to competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs)
  • Connections to wireless providers
  • Connections to wireless Internet service providers (WISPs)
  • Connections to Voice over IP (VoIP) carriers
  • Connections to satellite communication providers

Being in a collocation facility offers a big advantage to a potential service provider, an emergency communications system, or even a day-to-day communications system. For example, if connections to the ILEC go down, the connections could be purveyed quickly from a CLEC or long-distance provider. If everything on the ground goes bad, as happened during Katrina, satellite and VoIP might still survive. Such capabilities are particularly effective when combined with other technologies, such as the Internet Protocol (IP). You may recall from part 1 of this series that IP dates back to a time when U.S. war planners envisioned scenarios in which every AT&T primary central office would be destroyed in a nuclear attack. Therefore, the Internet Protocol was designed so that packets of information could bypass these lost hubs and get through using only the facilities that survived in outlying areas. This technology is equally useful today when major communications hubs are affected by major disasters, or even terrorism. Even better, the technology allows voice to be carried, hence the term Voice over IP. After all, spoken language is really data, just as computer languages are data. The same bitstream is used to carry voice or data, regardless of speed.

When you sum it all up, it's possible to maintain the U.S. military's desired "4Ci" (command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence) on both data and voice bases by cobbling together surviving transport communication facilities and then employing IP. There's no better place to do this than in a collocation facility. Interestingly, this is precisely how the military planners of the past envisioned that IP would be used, except that now voice can be carried over IP as well. Today, civilian organizations demand a military level of disaster recovery.

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