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Bringing connectivity to the most far flung sites

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17 August 2017

Global Services

Blogs by author: Global Services, We’re a leading global business communications provider

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There are places in the world that don’t enjoy the connectivity access we do in the city. Places that don’t even get a phone signal, let alone 4G. Inevitably, it’s these places that are richest in oil, gold and other natural resources.

So how do you make sure that your employees in a mine or an off-shore platform can get their emails, log in to your network, and most importantly, stay safe?

Connecting the remotest locations

There are four kinds of challenge we see regularly.

Connecting multiple far-flung sites across countries

This is perhaps the most common of challenges we find. Whether it’s a big oil company who wanted a contact centre of 1,500 agents – so retailers worldwide can place orders. Or an oil services provider who needed 300 separate sites connected, and 23,000 mailboxes.

Connecting isolated sites out at sea

One oilfield service provider needed us to connect their deep-sea platforms and subsea infrastructure. We linked their engineering offices and construction sites across the world – so their staff could use their crucial applications, like computer-aided design.

Connecting sites in harsh environments on land

A leading trader of metals, minerals and other essential resources needed us to connect their ports, terminals and processing plants into the same network. We not only needed good enough connectivity to make transactions, but enough to make video calls.

Connecting vehicles on the move

It’s easy to forget that before you start drilling for oil, you need to send out teams to map the landscape. For one multinational oil company, we connected their exploration and support vessels – making sure they could communicate wherever they travelled.

How do you do it?

Planning. That’s always the first step. You need to know precisely what needs to be on site, and what people need to do to their jobs. In one case, we had to stream the CCTV footage on moving ships – a very different beast to getting people’s emails to them.

So every project is different. The landscape, the distance from the nearest town with sufficient connectivity, and the lines of sight between the towers – these all affect how and what you need to do.

Get some sort of connection

For a mine, for example, we might start with microwaves to get people connected while we lay down Ethernet or MPLS to the local telco (usually, the closest town). Or we can connect to the local wireless signal – if there is one. After that, we can then use the microwave connection as a redundant backup, which is essential as it’s possible the cables can get damaged.

Cables or mobile internet are always the option we prefer. They’re the more stable option long term, as microwave connections present their own challenge – line of sight. Each tower sending the signal needs to be able to see the next. And they need power. These towers can be on the tops of mountains – far away from the national grid – so we tend to use solar power to keep them running.

It’s possible to use satellites. But they’re expensive, so they’re best when there’s no other option.

Do the processing at the data centre

Whenever possible, it’s best to do the heavy lifting back at the data centre, like your network security or crunching large numbers. You can then compress and send the data back to the site. And you have complete control over what traffic takes priority.

Use a mesh network

We’ve talked about mesh networks before — our global agreement with Rajant enables our customers to bring more of their equipment and devices online to leverage the industrial Internet of Things. This leads to improved performance and competitive advantage. In a mesh network, every connected device, vehicle or piece of equipment becomes a node — and can send on the data from another. All connected items work together to quickly route traffic down the best path, ensuring reliable communications in difficult environments, as our video explains.

Ultimately, whether it’s a mine, a ship or an office in the city – it’s always possible to connect. You just need to start talking to your provider early on. And make sure they have the right relationships with the local telcos, the experience to put in the equipment in the harshest environments and the services to manage your data efficiently. And make the most of your bandwidth.

Find out more about our solutions for the Mining and Oil &Gas industries.