Communications optimisationSeptember 6, 2017
Ronald Walcott, BMobile CEO, talks to TOGY about technological innovations in Trinidad and Tobago that complement the hydrocarbons industry and plans to achieve 100% data coverage. In pursuit of its goals, over the next five years BMobile plans to invest TTD 4 billion (USD 499 million), TTD 1.9 billion (USD 237 million) of which was underwritten by Republic Bank on December 2, 2016.
Bmobile is a brand of Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) which is the largest provider of communications solutions to the residential and commercial markets in Trinidad. Walcott goes on to discuss the company’s plans to participate in local and regional development. Mobile communications will be an integral component to the success of Trinidad and Tobago’s offshore works, especially those related to deepwater developments such as BHP Billiton’s LeClerc development.
• ON COMMUNICATION BOTTLENECKS: “The current offshore communications technologies are primarily, satellite and low speed microwave-based systems; this represents a choke point with low bandwidth and high latency. For the hydrocarbons industry this means it can take several minutes for data to make the round-trip between an offshore platform installation cluster and an onshore data center for analysis.”
• ON THE ADVENT AND APPLICABILITY OF IOT: “IoT, as a driver of digital transformation, is becoming a much needed tool as the global oil and gas industry’s hunt for hydrocarbons in environments that are not only extreme but increasingly remote, while maintaining a focus on safety and efficiency. Data is critical for decision making and devices such as sensors can be used to capture data where previously it would be risky or dangerous for a human to be.”
Walcott also discussed burgeoning communications needs and the digital transformation. Most TOGY interviews are published exclusively on our business intelligence platform TOGYiN, but you can find the full interview with Ronald Walcott below.
What technologies is BMobile implementing to keep up with the much anticipated local offshore hydrocarbons boom?
We are also building a public cloud to be able to host solutions and allow for massive storage so that people can move away from costs associated with setting up their own servers and just rent space in our cloud. This will allow operators to focus on their core business. That is a huge part of what we have been doing and how we plan to move forward. Offshore you can access anything that you need from within your company or group, internationally and regionally. You can access systems or software anytime and from any device your mobile phone, tablet or from a laptop. That is the idea, and it is a powerful one.
People are using more data than the normal lines. How are you planning to reach the 100% data coverage in the territory?
To provide the ubiquitous 4G LTE coverage required in Trinidad and Tobago, we need the 700 MHz spectrum, and that has to be assigned by the local regulator TATT [Telecommunication Authority of Trinidad and Tobago]. They have not done so, as of yet, for a variety of reasons, however we have had some meaningful conversations with them.
My expectation is that if it continues to be fruitful sometime this year the spectrum will become available. We have done all the preparatory work in the background; we have completed the network designs and have detailed what goes where. Once the spectrum has been allocated to us, it will be a very short time frame to make the service available to our clients. With the 700MHz spectrum we will have ubiquitous coverage for 4G LTE.
What impact will the implementation of 4G LTE have on the hydrocarbons industry?
The current offshore communications technologies are primarily, satellite and low speed microwave-based systems; this represents a choke point with low bandwidth and high latency. For the hydrocarbons industry this means it can take several minutes for data to make the round-trip between an offshore platform installation cluster and an onshore data center for analysis. Additionally, these system carry high operational cost as equipment has to be moved relocated and realigned when operations shift from platform to platform. 4G LTE provides alternatives allowing platforms to connect to superfast mobile broadband within clusters or rings at speeds between of 10 Mbps [megabytes per second] and 50 Mbps. This facilitates faster data analytics and more rapid decision making leading to better efficiencies in the hydrocarbon industry.
Do the new developments, such as Juniper and the cross-border project with Venezuela, offer opportunities for Bmobile?
Absolutely, first of all, with the cross-border project, there are opportunities that exist that we are exploring in some of the neighboring countries. The Juniper [project] will also provide opportunities that we are going to explore. For any development in any industry, we look to see how we can help with their communication needs and provide a solution that best suits what they require at the best price. We also have [an] interest in Guyana and Suriname that we cannot disclose yet.
Are there any main differences between onshore and offshore services when applying your technology?
So, there are normally true-microwave systems. If you are offshore, there is no fiber connectivity. For example, if you are in Galeota onshore, the access back to the exchange or the data center is going to be via fiber. If you are offshore, you have to get that data transmission back onshore first. Typically if there is enough of a wavelength, it will be via radio and the technology is microwave or from direct access.
Can you clarify the distinction between the use of radio versus microwave technology?
Microwaves are a sub-class of radio waves, with the frequency of radio waves being between 30 KHz and 300 GHz. While microwaves have frequencies ranging from 300 MHz to 300 GHz. Radio waves in general have long-distance-communication capabilities and are primarily used for wireless /mobile radio communication purposes. Microwaves are generally used for point-to-point communication between nodes in a communications systems. This means that they can be used between the offshore hub and an onshore location. Other than that, there are no real differences in terms of the [communication] from onshore and offshore.
How is Bmobile planning to keep up with the new demands of the market?
We have a very clear strategic plan. The more that we work the plan, the more we realise that we are very much on course with where we need to be. We call it a “digital transformation” which means being able to use technology more and more to provide a better quality of services, to provide a better efficiency in terms of the communication solutions we provide.
Do you have any specific examples of the application of the digital-transformation strategy in the hydrocarbons industry?
IoT, as a driver of digital transformation, is becoming a much needed tool as the global oil and gas industry’s hunt for hydrocarbons in environments that are not only extreme but increasingly remote, while maintaining a focus on safety and efficiency. Data is critical for decision making and devices such as sensors can be used to capture data where previously it would be risky or dangerous for a human to be. This real time data can be used to help reduce non-productive-time [NPT] events, predict breakdowns and schedule preventative maintenance of equipment. Additionally, video technology can allow remote experts and onsite workers to share data and collaborate on solving an issue before it become critical. IoT is the next step in the evolution of the oil and gas industry. Data will have to flow in real time and seamlessly from fields to boardrooms. This will enable better decision making, better optimisation of processes, and create a safer working environment.
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