21st Century Santa

At Real Wireless, we’re known for our world-class consultancy and expertise in all things wireless and connectivity. It was ‘snow’ surprise therefore when we were asked to deliver recommendations on how to use wireless technology to modernise a toy production facility in a challenging Arctic environment. Of course, we stepped up – when the big guy from the North Pole asks for your help, you say yes.

The brief was relatively simple, with three service elements to deliver:

  • A robust broadband connection to the rest of the world
  • Production line automation and support for remote training
  • Tracking and identification of presents in storage areas to comply with quarantine periods.

The payment schedule was equally simple – two billion happy children on the morning of 25 December 2020.

Initially, we identified and prioritised the logistical issues with connectivity due to the remote location and clusters of demand in worker villages near to the production facility. The production facilities and main Christmas operations campus required connectivity for standard mobile phones and devices across the site and resilient wireless connectivity option for automated machinery. There was also a requirement for high bandwidth network to support the needs of an augmented reality training hub for the induction of new elf workers.

With no existing local area network on site to plug into, we evaluated two options to create a backbone network across the site to connect all the buildings, fibre; or a private cellular network. Given the issues with laying fibre under the permafrost, it became clear that a private cellular network would be the best option given the conditions.

Cellular coverage in the region has historically been very poor. With highly seasonal demand and a largely rural population, Towercos have been reluctant to deploy in the area to service such a contracted period of high demand, tailing off to virtually nothing for the majority of the year. This problem is not uncommon amongst rural communities in other parts of the world and the team drew on case studies of villages taking matters into their own hands and deploying their own small cell networks in local shared access spectrum.  For example, the network deployed as part of the DCMS 5G Create MoNeh project was readily transferrable to our client’s worker villages.

The final challenge was connecting the workshop campus private network to the worker villages and on to a fibre connection point to the rest of the world. High Altitude Platforms were the preferred option here, having seen a significant rise through 2020 with trials from DT. The client also has significant experience of flying in difficult conditions, so by combining our wireless knowhow with the client’s experience of unmanned flight, a high-altitude network backhaul connection could be provided.

With implementation being handled by a small army of elf-labour, time will tell if the proposal was well conceived.

Julie Bradford’s presentation on connecting a toy production facility in the Arctic is part of Cambridge Wireless’ ‘Tech Santa’ event on 17 December, raising funds for the Ely Foodbank. Registrations are £10 + VAT, and can be accessed here.