News


Reconnecting communities surrounding the SKA site

30 August 2023 News

South Africa is well known as an important global partner at the forefront of astronomy, with both optical and radio astronomy centres finding a home in the country’s sparsely populated Northern Cape. Local communities surrounding the Radio Astronomy Project, known as the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Radio Telescope, have had to pay the price, however, by losing connectivity, to prevent noise interference on the array. Now an innovative partnership between Altron Nexus and Telviva has reconnected local farmers, SKA staffers and emergency services to the rest of the world.

The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), which is a facility of the National Research Foundation, manages all the radio astronomy initiatives in the country, including the SKA. Radio astronomy requires radio silence for frequencies above 200 MHz, and for facilities to be built in remote,

high-lying regions. Terrestrial radio signals interfere with the signals received from deep space, which puts the science that is reshaping our understanding of the universe at risk.

Radio silence means that all radio frequencies that interfere with the telescope are banned, including cell phone networks and devices that produce radio waves. In a region where there are no analogue Telkom lines, the implication is that outside the confines of small towns where cell coverage is permitted, there is nothing except satellite communication. This comes at a significant cost as it has a negative effect on communities who are unable to communicate or respond to emergencies such as wildfires, crime and more.

A few years ago, SARAO enlisted Altron Nexus to provide a solution for this challenge. Altron Nexus runs the largest critical communications network in Africa and provides coverage to various bodies, for example law enforcement. The company builds infrastructure that could facilitate radio communication in a small frequency band which is invisible and inaudible to the telescope.

Deon De Villiers, business unit head for Altron Nexus in the Western Cape, explains: “We were requested to develop and provide a two-way radio network for the SKA itself and the surrounding community to replace the GSM networks – we were required to transmit below 200 MHz. Over the past five years we have built infrastructure which includes four high sites in the towns of Williston, Brandvlei, Vanwyksvlei and Carnarvon which serve SKA staff, farming communities, municipalities, emergency services and disaster management.”

“Telviva provides a platform to connect with the outside world. The infrastructure – the towers – are connected to a main switching office (MSO) in Woodmead, Johannesburg with Altron Nexus and from that platform, we break out into the Telviva platform which provides telephony connectivity to the rest of the world,” he explains.

De Villiers says the impact on the farmers and surrounding communities has been profound and immediate. The companies now have plans to extend the system to other communities for special use cases such as maritime communications.

For more information visit https://www.altronnexus.com




Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

Vicor Powering Innovation podcast
News
The episode explores electrification with Lightning Motorcycles, a company that produces the fastest electric motorcycle on the planet.

Read more...
ModusToolbox Workshop 3
News
This workshop will focus on enabling a PSoC development kit, connected over Wi-Fi and leveraging MQTT, to create the framework of an IoT application.

Read more...
Indium celebrates 90 years of innovation
Techmet News
The company’s innovative products, especially its advanced soldering solutions, are found in many common consumer electronics and high-reliability technologies.

Read more...
Revamped technical training centre in Welkom
News
Resolution Circle has announced the launch of its newly revamped training centre in Welkom, which will enhance technical education and foster industry partnerships.

Read more...
From the editor's desk: Funga: The unseen rulers of a new kingdom
Technews Publishing News
Up until a few weeks ago, our classification kingdoms were split into two parts; fauna and flora. I was amazed when I recently read that National Geographic has now changed this and has split the classification ...

Read more...
Hiconnex announces new partnership
Hiconnex News
With over 60 years of experience in the civil, military aeronautics, and space industries, Petercem offers robust solutions for position detection and human machine interfaces.

Read more...
Global semiconductor sales increase YoY
News
The Semiconductor Industry Alliance (SIA) has announced global semiconductor sales totalled $47,6 billion during the month of January, an increase of 15,2% compared to January 2023.

Read more...
Utility-scale solar development for local company
News
Teraco has announced that it has secured its first grid capacity allocation from Eskom, and will commence construction of a 120 MW utility-scale solar PV energy facility in the Free State province.

Read more...
Collab between Arrow and Infineon
Altron Arrow News
Arrow Electronics, represented by Altron Arrow in South Africa, and its engineering services company, eInfochips, are working with Infineon Technologies to help eInfochip’s customers accelerate the development of EV chargers.

Read more...
Printing as a subscription
News
HP has done the unthinkable and released its All-In Plan, a subscription-based printing solution that has many IT professionals and business users shaking their heads.

Read more...