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Digital Solutions are changing networks

Tuesday 26 February 2019 -  The Australian Financial Review

L-R: Gerald Molenkamp and Robert Green of CommTel Network Solutions.

If your business phone line goes down, it’s not the

end of the world. But if it’s a communication

system to land a plane, control a train, or guide

and assist emergency services personnel, then

network failure is not an option.

 

With a major power transmission network, a

safety monitoring system failure for a fraction of

a second can result in catastrophic burnout. If the

communication system used to automate a huge

mining site fails, it can cost millions of dollars for

every hour the conveyor belts are not running.

 

These sorts of communication systems are

called mission and business critical networks.

They don’t necessarily have to be fast, they don’t

always have to transmit huge amounts of

information – although that is rapidly changing –

what they need to be is reliable. They need to

work. Always. For the 10 to 20-year life of the

network and as the service expands and evolves.

 

To achieve this, critical networks have to be

carefully planned, engineered and constructed so

that if there is an issue, the network immediately

corrects itself to ensure continuity. Each solution

requires different capabilities and responses.

It’s a highly technical and specialised area used

extensively in the mining, oil and gas, transport

and utilities sectors, as well as for public safety

and emergency services.

 

It’s also booming at the moment as industries

and services automate and embrace digital

technology. As they become more technically

complex, so do the critical communication

networks required to monitor and control them.

 

For Robert Green, chief executive of

communication network solutions provider

CommTel Network Solutions, it’s exciting times.

 

For more than 20 years CommTel has been a

leading provider of mission and business critical

networks in Australia and overseas. He says for 15

of those years, the technology they were

successfully implementing remained pretty much

unchanged. But in the past five, it’s become a

whole new digital ball game – and there is

potential for huge benefits.

There is so much going on in our industry right

now,” Green says. “We’re seeing an avalanche of

activity as these new digital solutions achieve

proof of concept and are gradually being adapted

for industry.”

 

CommTel is playing an integral role bringing

new digital solutions to market, ensuring they are

industry-ready and creating new solutions by

acting as an intermediary between major

equipment vendors and sectors such as the power

industry.

 

So what will this digital transformation

eventually mean? An example Green gives is in

the emergency services area, which is set to be

transformed over the next five to 10 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Emergency services fundamentally use radios

to interact and report, so the mission critical

network we need to provide today has to deliver

high availability for radio signals. Moving forward

with digital transformation, the fire fighters of the

future will have cameras in their helmets, and

things like telemetrics on their body, so the

control centre will be able to see what is going on,

will know their location exactly, and will be able to

monitor their heartbeat and the temperatures

they are experiencing.

 

“To transmit all that data in the field, all that

high-speed digital information, is an order of

magnitude more complex than just radio.”

 

The infrastructure for these new critical

networks is already being implemented.

CommTel is today supplying advanced IP-based

systems, shelters, towers and related

infrastructure as an integrated solution for large

projects for utilities, mining, oil and gas, and

public safety.

The power industry is another in the process of

major change.

 

“It used to be that there was a power station

hundreds of kilometres or so away from a city,

and the priority was fundamentally to protect the

transmission line back to the city,” Green says.

 

“Today we have multiple power generation

sources –many generators, solar arrays, wind

generation, household solar – and you need to be

able to monitor and control the grid to manage

the flow of power. You need intelligence in the

grid, and the requirements for that are far more

complex than 10 years ago.”

 

Most of the industries undergoing

transformation have existing critical networks

that need to be migrated without interruption,

and those undertaking the move are finding the

new digital technology can have considerably

higher operating expenditure if deployed without

a suitable centralised network operations and

management system.

 

This is where CommTel comes into its own,

says Green.

 

“We’re unique in the market as we have solid

credentials in the current legacy technology and

really sound engineering capability in the new.

Our network management platform gives you the

ability to manage legacy and new technologies at

the same time, and, as an independent partner,

we work with our customers to design, source

and build the critical systems needed. We are

really strong in this space.

 

"‘The next time you turn on the electric light

switch, cook a meal with gas, take the train, land

safely in an aeroplane or contact emergency

services, it is quite possible that a CommTel

designed, engineered and supported mission

critical communications network is enabling that

service.’’

 

 

“We’re seeing an avalanche of activity as these new digital solutions are being adapted for industry.”

Robert Green

Digital Solutions are changing networks Download Article 2.2mb
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