Icy conditions challenge telco upgrade

Upgrading systems in a 'normal' environment is challenging enough, but when the system is located across the Australian Antarctic research stations, thorough research and careful planning is vital.

Design and implementation of an upgrade to the telecommunications infrastructure at the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE) research stations at Casey, Davis, Mawson - which are isolated for about six months of the year - and at Macquarie Island, were difficult due to the inaccessibility of the stations during the planning stages.

Ian Bruce, senior technical officer (telecommunications) at the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), said: "Whereas for a project in Australia the designer or project manager would conduct a site survey, this is impossible in Antarctica.

"The main issue was that of the drawings. It is essential that detailed and correct 'as installed' drawings are produced."

However, Bruce said new technical recruits had to rely on existing drawings and information from the technicians in Antarctica to get the job done. The AAD recruits eight technical officers (two per station) each year who spend one year at a station.

"We explain . . . what the job entailed and how they should approach it, keeping in mind that in many cases they haven't been to Antarctica or seen our stations before. If something is forgotten or lost, we can't just go down the street and buy a replacement."

The stations' telecommunications infrastructure was recently upgraded to highband patch panels and associated structured unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cabling system, replacing a thin-wire Ethernet and Cat 3 serial data network.

Using Krone products, which have been in use since the 1980s, Bruce said the move to a structured UTP cabling environment provides more flexibility, greater reliability and easier fault finding.

"We upgraded our data and internal telephone networks and these cables terminate on Krone highway modular patch panels. We use standard RJ45 to RJ45 patch cords to patch the outlets into the data switches and hubs, and use Krone's LSA to RJ45 patch cords to interface the outlets into the inter-building telephone network."

Cable and patch cord management is achieved using Krone highway patch cord minders with jumper rings attached front and rear, Bruce said.

The installations form part of the LAN and telephone network at each ANARE station, which connect into the communications satellite service known as Anaresat.

Bruce said the satellite service links each station to the AAD head office at Kingston in Tasmania. It carries five telephone lines which connect each station into the public switched telephone network, four telephone lines which connect each station to the AAD, and a WAN which connects into the Internet at Kingston.

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