Australia Antarctic division looks to Irish for SMS

Von Julia Wasserberger

An Irish communications company has demonstrated that there is no site too remote and no conditions too extreme with its recent installation of a remote GSM solution in Antarctica.

The network, from Altobridge, has been installed by personnel at Australia"s Antarctic station for its resident scientific team at Casey, on the continent"s Bailey Peninsula.

The system consists of a standard GSM BTS (base transceiver system) and a remote server running Altobridge"s patented AM Gateway Platform, which supports voice calls and text messaging (SMS) in the same way as a land-based GSM network.

The primary purpose of the system is to test the use of SMS to alert staff to equipment alarms.

Although it is only at the trial and demonstration stage, Peter Yates, telecommunications manager at the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), said the system shows potential and is proving it at the moment with both SMS and voice services working.

The technical group at the station consider the experiment as "valuable and has provided us with [important] information about the operation and coverage of such a system", he said.

Previously, the station used an alarm based on a proprietary radio system. Now, the new system has shown that standard GSM devices can be used. If there is a problem with a weather station or a power generator, the unit will send a text message to a predefined number.

The future applications of the system would allow station residents and visitors to communicate more easily with friends and family.

As for any complications about installing the system in such a remote location, Yates said, "Other than the normal cold climate and high wind considerations, there was nothing out of the ordinary."

The system can be maintained remotely both from the AAD"s headquarters in Hobart, Tasmania and from Altobridge"s offices in Tralee, Ireland. However, if the system is to be implemented, a permanent gateway would need to be established in Hobart.

The trial ends in September.