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Communications Switch

Switch technician Robert Walley shows off Verizon Wireless’ new switch for first responders.

Switch technician Robert Walley shows off Verizon Wireless’ new switch for first responders.

Photos by Cary Norton

A spotless labyrinth of cables and rows of housed circuitry, Verizon Wireless’ new Alabama switching center supports the company’s new 4G LTE network, which is essentially complete and provides coverage to 99 percent of the state’s population. Company officials say they are 12 to 18 months ahead of competitors on the 4G LTE front, which makes wireless calling, texting and Internet surfing easier and faster.

Since 2010, Verizon Wireless has invested more than $361 million in its Alabama network, and a significant portion of that was directed toward its 4G LTE infrastructure. Working in sync with more than 1,000 cell sites, the Verizon Wireless switching center supported more than 89 billion voice and data transmissions in Alabama during the first six months of 2013 — our math calculates that at a mind-numbing 5,644 transactions in process every second and 20.3 million each hour.

At a recent gathering with members of the Alabama First Responders Commission, Verizon Wireless representatives reinforced their commitment to emergency preparedness and fast response for natural disasters, law enforcement, health care and school systems. A reliable network for disaster situations begins with preparedness at the Alabama switching center, according to company officials.

For example, redundancy is built into the facility in case of equipment failure.  In the event of fire, special equipment would draw oxygen out of the air, suppressing the blaze without the use of water or chemicals, both of which could damage equipment.

Moreover, Verizon keeps the switching center location private.

And, if regular power were lost, the center would switch to generators — two active, two for backup
— that are fed by two 10,000-gallon diesel fuel tanks. The generators are protected by a 4-hour firewall and can operate as long as fuel is available. As a last resort, power could be supplied by a long-life battery plant, which is protected by a 2-hour firewall. Thus far, knock on wood, the company has not been forced to use battery backup.

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