Arranmore connectivity project shows wireless and mobile versatility

Karl McDermott, Three
Karl McDermott, Three

Networks must keep up with consumer demands regardless of location

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21 May 2019 | 0

Every network is unique, but the need for fast, reliable connectivity is universal. Every network brings its own challenges, but by using a common set of building blocks, it’s possible to overcome those obstacles and create a unified, complete infrastructure. That was how our business team approached one of our more challenging recent projects: the island of Arranmore, County Donegal.

We decided to treat it as one single enterprise made up of many small businesses and micro-enterprises. We provided enhanced connectivity and technology for a state-of-the-art digital hub for remote working, and we worked with local businesses, community facilities and the national school. At Three, we have a wide range of products and services, and Arranmore provided the opportunity to deploy many of them to meet the particular needs of each site.

As with any major network infrastructure project, the first step is always to understand what the customer needs, before building a bespoke solution to address them. The island was held back because a lack of reliable connectivity was preventing them from getting the most out of available technology.

As any enterprise or business can appreciate, good application performance depends on the quality of the network connection. So, we installed a microwave radio link onto the island with 100mb/s of symmetric capacity to the digital hub. In terms of application response times, the link delivers the very same experience as if the users were sitting in a large bank in a major Irish city. We also fitted out the digital hub, installing a Wi-Fi network, along with LAN switching, with a managed firewall for protection.

Other locations on the island had unreliable mobile broadband coverage, so we upgraded this to our new Business Broadband+ product, which is delivered via a fixed high-gain antenna. This is a unit that amplifies the signal considerably, and because it is connected to the outside of buildings, it increases standard mobile broadband capacity up to 10 times compared to traditional mobile broadband. This enhanced connectivity has brought great benefits to the community. Students in the national school can now take part in online learning, and avail fully of classroom apps or interactive whiteboards, because now they are no longer limited by bandwidth availability. It was a similar situation for the doctor’s surgery, which also depends increasingly on connectivity for use cases like enabling video consultations with patients. Substitute students or doctors for users in any business, and the benefits for productivity quickly become apparent.

Any network needs support, and our technical services desk in Limerick is staffed by engineers who are familiar with all of the Three ‘building blocks’ that we use in network infrastructure, and how they interact. No matter how complex the infrastructure, it means our engineers can troubleshoot any issues.

The Arranmore project shows businesses all over Ireland, especially ones with rural sites, that wireless is well suited to acting as a primary connection rather than just a backup link. Also, Three’s Business Broadband+ that was deployed on the island provides speeds far in excess of fixed-line connections available in some parts of the country.

This is a long-term partnership with Arranmore, and we are working on a number of projects involving IoT capabilities. In this respect, Arranmore is doing what growing numbers of businesses are doing in trialling new technologies: when enough bandwidth is available, then innovation becomes possible.

Karl McDermott is head of Three Connected Solutions and Three IoT

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