Satellite Communications opening up remote Australia

In 1860, the first international news service, Reuters, opened its doors in Australia and capitalised on the country’s lack of connectivity; charging the average weekly wage per word for a message from London. Today it’s free to Skype news to friends, family and colleagues anywhere in the world, as long as you have an internet connection.

Although expensive, even in the 1860’s vital communication lines were available to ensure people were contactable. Today, due to advances in transportation and communications technology Australia is a much smaller place, making it easier to connect and stay in touch.

Connecting via terrestrial communication networks is not a problem where there are people. This generally means that there is very good coverage all along Australia’s coastal region. However, large portions of the country’s remote inland remain disconnected, posing a problem for businesses and organisations operating in the energy and resources industries.

Remote mining and natural gas sites rely on satellite communication networks to connect their operations to phone and internet services and ensure work can carry on as usual. While connectivity at the desk in the site office is generally available, issues escalate when working in the field. Any time workers leave their desk they are cut off from the tools they have available to them, primarily their phone and internet access. This means for the time they are away they are out of reach, while their inbox continues to fill. When working in the field mobile satellite connectivity is required not only for safety purposes, but to also increase the efficiency of daily tasks.

The efficiency increased with mobile satellite connectivity is particularly important for geologists working in prospecting. One of the main problems facing geologists working in the field is the need to fly out rock samples for detailed analysis in a laboratory, which may be on the other side of the world. Once the lab analysis is completed, which can take several days, the findings, usually in the form of a data file, must be sent back to the test site. If the team in the field has no way of receiving data communications, the file must travel by air and road, typically adding another week before the geologists in the field can study them. Now, with an IsatHub, geologists and others working in the field can take their office with them and receive emails even in Australia’s most remote locations.

The IsatHub is a compact, lightweight and easy to use Wi-Fi generating “hotspot” which allows the user to connect to 10 devices (smart phone, tablet, laptop etc.) almost anywhere in the world for calls, texts and data. This means that remote workers can send and receive emails of monitoring results and samples to and from the office or lab, rather than waiting until they are back at their desk. Or they could take a photo of an issue in the field and email it to the safety advisor for review, rather than having him also come out to inspect the problem. At the same time, they could call colleagues with regular safety updates or even take a conference call while being driven back to site.

With mobile satellite devices like the IsatHub, remote workforces can leverage existing equipment to stay in touch with the office, and can also fine tune the way they work when outfield, contributing to increased efficiency and decreased costs.

For instance, if a geologist working in the field receives an emailed lab analysis indicating a drilling site is a poor prospect, a decision can be made at the time, and the operation can be quickly move to another location, without wasting several more days at the site.

The added connectivity the IsatHub can give to remote field workers enables them to access all the information required to make informed decisions when they would otherwise be out of reach. This increases efficiency and productivity in their day-to-day activities, which in turn contributes to improved operational performance.

*Richard Coston is the MD of Applied Satellite Technology Australia.

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