Fiber Optic Cabinets, Cables, Pedestals and Terminals

By Jim Pilgrim

In telecom, 5-9s is defined as the average uptime in any given 365 day period – 99.999%. (Count them, 5 – 9s) That’s 364.99635 days up and roughly 5 minutes, 15 seconds downtime in a year. This has been a standard for telecom equipment and network reliability for decades. For you data-heads out there, you probably don’t even know what I am talking about. The data world uses terms like Available bit rate (ABR) and “Best Effort”.

5-9s as the “Gold Standard” in telecom equipment reliability is going the way of the US dollar. In 1971 the US government took the dollar off the gold standard. Whereas each dollar in circulation was backed by a dollar’s worth of gold held in reserve. Now the Federal Reserve just cranks up the printing presses. A good illustration is in 1964 a “silver” quarter was worth 25 cents and that’s what a gallon of gas cost back then. Now that same amount of silver is worth about $3.00 and will buy that same gallon of gas. You won’t get much gas for one of our current quarters that aren’t made of silver. That’s inflation, a fiat currency, and the cost of leaving the gold standard.

Poor cell coverage, network congestion, and servers crashing. Maybe I’m becoming a crabby old man, but it seems to me we are moving closer to 9-5s (55.5555555%) in network reliability rather than 5-9s. Would I trade my smart phone with email and web access for a pager and a landline? No way. I’m just like everyone else that has been conditioned to settle for less than the gold standard of network reliability. Our kids hardly even notice with their texting and expect to have dropped calls.

Convenience and mobility rules. Life is full of compromises but I long for the days of quality voice, no dropped calls, and equipment that don’t crash.