Thursday was our last full day in Niue. Our equipment was turned off the afternoon before because, as best I could tell, a public disinformation campaign from IUSN's operators had lead their subscribers to blame us for widespread WISP outages. I had had my fill of the whole mess and took comfort in the fact that I would be on the next flight out.
That morning, Frank came to guesthouse and ask what my plans were. I said Jessica and I would probably go snorkeling again at Limu and maybe have a picnic, but didn't have any technical work planned. Since everyone was blaming us for IUSN's outages, I would not turn on the equipment unless someone specifically asked me to do so. Frank's response was clear: We were acting with cabinet authorization, at the request of the acting Premier, to test a mobile phone system. There was no higher authority in the country. I should do whatever I thought was reasonable to advance that testing.
I went to the Telecom office and spoke with the Director. We were turning on the GSM system again, but would not announce it yet. We wanted to determine if we were really the cause of the outages. The process would take about an hour.
Sitting at the guesthouse in North Alofi, Harvind started a ping to gatech.edu, a server in Atlanta. 800 ms, no packet loss. I turned on the NS5 at telecom. 800 ms, no packet loss. Harvind turned on the NS5 at the guesthouse. 800 ms, no packet loss.
I drove up to Sekena and called Harvind from the AMPS phone. Still 800 ms, no packet loss. I turned on the NS5 at the tower site. Harvind could get the web interface on the access point. Our whole backhaul network was running. Altanta was still 800 ms, no packet loss. I booted the the BTS and turned on the power amp. Still 800 ms, no packet loss. We waiting another ten minutes. No change.
I drove down to the internet cafe in Alofi, IUSN's retail outlet. I asked, "Now that the mobile stuff is shut down, is everything working again?"
"Yes, just fine."
I asked to be sure, "Is it working right now?" They looked over at a screen and said it was.
We left the system on all day. The Telecom Director called around to people who had been complaining of service outages. There were no problems. We had discovered how to prevent our equipment from interfering with IUSN: Just don't tell them it's on. By the end of the day, we were sitting on the porch in Alofi, making cheap GSM calls overseas and using the internet at the same time. Later that day, the Director sent out an e-mail explaining that we had determined that the GSM system was not causing internet outages. Thanks to IUSN's misinformation campaign, we probably lost a full day of testing and some die-hards out there are still blaming us for everything bad that happens to their internet service.
(Next door to the IUSN/RockET internet cafe, there is a combination bakery and pool hall run by a Kenyan man who lost his passport (in red). The bread he makes is very good for breakfast toast, but molds over fast in the tropical climate. He was enthusiastic about the GSM project and I hope he eventually gets good use of it. This photo has little to do with the blog post, other than proximity, but I'm tossing it in here anyway just to help give a sense of the place.)