Antarctica

"Allows researchers to stay connected even if satellite backhaul is unavailable, which is critical for safety." — Harvind Samra, Range Networks

This case study highlights how Range Networks equipment is being used to extend a private network and increase safety in the most remote and challenging conditions. By installing Range Networks equipment in several Antarctic research stations, a government agency has achieved cellular communications at one of the most remote outposts on Earth.


Problem

At this remote Antarctic location, the cellular network must interface with an existing PBX network across three labs in Antarctica, one on Macquarie Island and a research vessel. Extreme conditions make equipment failure more likely and third party repair nearly impossible; the system must be configured and maintained using local resources. Additionally, for safety and operational reasons this polar research facility cannot be dependent on satellite back- haul for local communications.

Site one, an island research base near the Antarctic Circle.
Image: (cc) Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA

Solution

The network provides researchers with a private network that replaces a VHF paging system and is managed entirely by existing personnel.

Leveraging Range Networks open source software (OpenBTS) and 5150 Base Station a unified private network was created connecting 400 mobile and 800 desktop phones. Because Range Networks equipment allows local switching, researchers can communicate locally even if satellite backhaul is unavailable.

Range Networks system operates as a self-contained network, replacing the need for traditional core network infrastructure and associated costs for equipment, power and maintenance. Due to its simplicity and robustness, the network is being expanded to several sites.

Now deployed on one island research station, four additional Range Networks 5150 Base Stations will provide the research team with cell phone coverage across their entire operational area of 150 km2. New sites include three Antarctic bases and a research vessel with roughly 110 crewmembers and additional personnel aboard.

The network connects multiple sites through an existing VoIP service allowing global calls over satellite backhaul when coverage is available.

Technology
  • Range Networks 5150 Base Station
  • 900MHz 10W System
  • 2 x ARFCN
  • Power Consumption: <60W
  • 900MHz Omnidirectional Antenna, Up to 5km of Range
Services
  • Local and Global Calls (OpenBTS voice, satellite backhaul permits global calls)
  • Local and Global SMS (OpenBTS SMS, satellite backhaul permits global SMS)
  • Subscriber Management