Communications

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Current World Examples

Thirty years ago communications between offshore facilities and onshore locations was limited to a two-way radio and daily reports. Back then, oilfield workers stationed offshore were virtually cut off from the rest of the world. Additionally, the amount of staff required on each rig and facility offshore was great because all the information to make decisions was gathered at these remote locations.

Offshore communications have come a long way since then. Now, real-time communications networks not only allow for wi-fi connectivity and personal cell phone use, but also real-time transfer of offshore data to onshore offices. Allowing for remote unmanned and totally subsea developments, the way the offshore industry works has been transformed by improved communications systems.


Telecommunications Technologies

There are a number of communications technologies that can work together in a system or singly to solve offshore communications challenges. Communications solutions are chosen because of the distance data must travel, the remoteness of the installation, and the amount of data that must be transmitted, as well as the availability of the technology. Different communications technologies include satellite, microwave, fiber optics, and cellular services.

The most widely chosen solution for offshore communications, satellite communications requires a VSAT, or very small aperture terminal, at the offshore site; a broadband satellite connection in space; and a teleport onshore. Available anywhere in the world, satellite services are used many times for vessels that may be on the move, or extremely remote locations. The only drawbacks to satellite services are a slight delay in data transmittal and finite bandwidth.

Using microwave telecommunications technology, data is transported via wavelengths that measure less than one meter in length. Microwave communications solutions offer more bandwidth for data, but at shorter distances. Many times, microwave telecommunications are chosen for locations that are within close proximity to each other, such as a cluster of facilities on a field.

Although limited because cables must be run from point to point, fiber is an optimal communications solution for clustered facilities or offshore locations that are in high-traffic areas, such as the North Sea or US Gulf of Mexico. Also, fiber cables are used to transmit data between subsea trees, manifolds, jumpers, sleds and controls via umbilicals.

Even cellular services can be accessible at some locations offshore. Specifically, the US Gulf of Mexico has cellular towers installed offshore that allow cellular communications from rigs and platforms near the coast to onshore locations, allowing offshore workers to communicate through their own private cell phones.


Integrated Solutions

Sometimes, a telecommunications solution for an offshore development might require satellite communications to a main facility and microwave or fiber between wells or facilities within the development. In other words, a unique combination of telecommunications technologies is integrated into each offshore situation, which allows everything from real-time transfer of data from subsea wells to office-like environments at offshore facilities.

Because real-time transmittal of data is available now in offshore environments, not as many workers are required for rigs and developments located offshore. Advances in telecommunications technologies have made immediate decisions to be made from shore. Now, offshore developments are trending toward unmanned and completely subsea installations.

Furthermore, improvements in offshore communication technologies have improved work-life balance environments for those workers who are required to work at these remote locations. Now, offshore staff is able to use wi-fi, talk to family and friends on the phone and watch television during their off time.

Internal

Wireless phone system - GSM/Bluetooth/WIFI accesspoints feeding into a PBX such as Asterisk.

Paging system - "Smart system" where everyone wears a transponder so the communications system knows where to page/ring you?

Fire/Life Safety systems - Detection and Warning

Entertainment - Internal Fiberoptic network to move large quantities of data - movies, etc? Cable TV analog

External

Satellite Communications Satcomms could cover phone, internet and TV. Our current provider at my 'remote location' is all SatBased to the UK. We have a sat Modem, and on the London end our VOIPS connect to a call manager and Public Internet\Phone is provided in this way as well. Costs about 60k a year for a very well sustained (no double sale of bandwidth) 4mb up/dn and can serve 300 people easily. The price of this will come down as the technology for Seasteading goes up.

Phone - The only way to ensure access to phone access globally is via satellite or radio relay (digital or analog). When a platform is close enough to shore to be above the radio horizon, regular wireless links such as WiFi and GSM can be used.

Internet - The same goes for Internet access, however using HF radio is considerably more cumbersome.

Satellite Entertainment TV/Radio

Multiple dishes?

High Frequency Radio (2-30MHz) - HF is a worldwide option for phone and network access, however it has several problems that limit its usefulness. It does have the advantage of low latency.

  • Requires large antennas (30+ meters or longer)
  • Requires a lot of equipment.
  • Use of encryption is heavily restricted.
  • Establishing reliable links is difficult. Automatic Link Establishment (ALE) is a possible solution to this.

Troposcatter Over the horizon communications

Range is something like 100 to 1200 miles. Data rate to 40 Mbps

Some oil platforms use troposcatter. There is troposcatter hardware for sale.

Possible 'Pirate' Radio Station(s)?

UAV Communications Relay

An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle flying high can relay signals over hundreds of miles. If it was between the seasteaders and land they could be far from land and still have a communications link to it.

GMDSS System Global Maritime Distress Signal System, SOLAS requirement

VHF-FM Radio Marine Band 156-158 MHz SOLAS requirements to maintain a listening watch on distress frequencies

Coordinate small boat activities around SeaStead, each small boat equipped with one of these too.

Relatively small radios, low power (~25w ERP), small antennas (2 meters or less in length, max. Handhelds ~8" long)

VHF-AM Radio Aircraft Band 118-136MHz

Coordinating air traffic inbound and outbound.

Several frequencies: Departure/Approach, Tower (landing), Ground (ground movement), coordination frequencies

Air Traffic Control radar

Air Navigation aids? VOR/DME/ TACAN or rely on GPS?


Tactical Radios - Trunked 800 MHz systems? Used for:

Firefighting / EMS

Maintenance

Defense

Law Enforcement?

Need to investigate frequency propagation through structures.


Other radios - Ability to monitor/speak on military frequencies, ie

30-70 MHz FM (Military Tactical Net);

220-400 MHz AM (Military aviation band), etc?

"Company" radios for SeaStead operations, similar to business-band frequencies (VHF-FM High at 150MHz or UHF-FM at 450-470MHz and/or 800 MHz trunked system. Will probably require robust encryption.

External Links

  • seatel.com - makes satellite equipment for use on boats
  • seabandsat.com - service provider for satellite communications at sea
  • linkscape.net - service provider for satellite communications at sea


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