Wireless connectivity on the roof of the world

relay tower cambiumI’m generally not a big fan of case studies. Usually they consist of unimaginative slices of marketing guff which are little more than glorified sales pitches for this or that technology. However, last week I came across something a little bit different – Cambium Networks technology which is being used to connect village communities 5,000 metres up in the Himalayas.

The project with Nepal Wireless has been steadily growing since 2002 when team leader for the operator, Mahabir Pun, helped build the first proof-of-concept network. Now it consists of 80 point-to-point links for backhaul and 60 point-to-multipoint base stations spread out across the world’s highest mountain range for network connectivity. Thanks to parabolic dish antennae signals can be successfully transmitted as far as 59 kilometres in all but the heaviest blizzards, at a data throughput of 10-14 Mbps and at 5.8Ghz and 2.4Ghz, the firm explained to me.

The technological and operational challenges of building networks in this kind of environment are many, not least the treacherous terrain and weather conditions. Robust, reliable base station technology which is low cost, scalable and quick to deploy is essential. Solar power panels are used to overcome the problem of power supply given the remote base tower locations.

relay tower everest

“In Nepal we often have four or five modules on a mast. We synchronise the transmission so the network remains scalable,” explained Cambium’s APAC sales and marketing boss Roy Wittert.

“When you think of wireless broadband, few people think about fixed data connectivity like this.”

The project has now been able to connect some 150 remote villages, enabling education, e-health, local e-commerce and climate monitoring. This is one of those rare occasions when technology can truly change people’s lives for the better.

Oh, and allow Western treckers to jump on Facebook more often.

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