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Connectivity at Himalayan Altitudes

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We discuss the following topics in this blog:

  1. How STL is Deploying a Secure Network for the Defense Forces?
  2. How We Conquered Ice-Bound Mighty Landscapes?
  3. Cherishing Experiences for a Lifetime

In addition to these topics, we shall also be answering the following FAQs:

  1. What is WiFi?
  2. What is an Optical Fibre Cable?

How STL is Deploying a Secure Network for the Defense Forces?

“All my bags are packed and I am ready to go!” The lines of this song aptly sum up my state of mind when I set out on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure to the treacherous terrains of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

It was not a routine project for me or STL. We were deploying a secure network for the Defense Forces at the highest of altitudes. Swelling with pride (enabling real-time visibility of threats on the borders is big) and raging hormones, accompanied with heavy woollens, some home-cooked goodies and necessary medicines, I was ready to brace all odds.

How We Conquered Ice-Bound Mighty Landscapes?

Shelling has been a regular feature at high altitudes and there we were traversing 10,000 km of rough terrain to survey the areas going right up to the Lines of Control of China and Pakistan.

I had seen such ice-bound mighty landscapes only in films, but here I was marching alongside the jawans of our heroic Indian army and rugged Himalayan locals, bracing extreme temperatures, rough terrain and unpredictable challenges that lay ahead of us.

Our first endurance test came when we got stuck on a road inclined at a 75-degree angle. Leave aside us climbing the slope, moving the machinery seemed an impossible task. It took all our patience and creativity to negotiate the slope and we were left with an experience that made us more resilient and determined. We were like Daenerys from the game of thrones… relentless,  not for the iron throne of course!

We did face our own little battle of survival when mother nature decided to wreak havoc. Dragon privileges would have been a bonus here. The weather play truant and heavy snow engulfed everything around us. We were holed up for three whole days in a remote area, the only way to seek assistance was to dare a walk of 10 km in the snow. Well, didn’t someone once say, “hardships bring out the hero in you”.

Snowfall also brought with it the fear of avalanches, and we had to depend on the sun to melt the snow and then the local authorities to clear the roads for us to progress further. Wait, frustration, anger, helplessness were common emotions we dealt with everyday but as we inched closer to completion, working just 4-5 hours a day, laying volumes of fibre cables in harsh unpalatable conditions, it also gave us immense satisfaction and hope to be able to provide for our jawans and fellow beings who survive these conditions on a regular basis.

Cherishing Experiences for a Lifetime

Every experience is worth its salt and as a team, we learned not to complain. Our camaraderie grew thicker and bonds stronger. The clear starry skies, the ebbing fireplace, the refreshing hot tea, and the kindness of our Himalayan hosts kept our spirits high and pace going. On successful completion of the project, we remembered not just the hardships but the comfort and warmth we received at one of the coldest places on earth. I can say with immense “pride” that this project has not only made our borders safe, but it has also helped us appreciate life in its simplest form.

Do you remember any experience that changed your life too?

FAQs

What is WiFi?

Put simply, WiFi is a technology that uses radio waves to create a wireless network through which devices like mobile phones, computers, printers, etc., connect to the internet. A wireless router is needed to establish a WiFi hotspot that people in its vicinity may use to access internet services. You’re sure to have encountered such a WiFi hotspot in houses, offices, restaurants, etc.

To get a little more technical, WiFi works by enabling a Wireless Local Area Network or WLAN that allows devices connected to it to exchange signals with the internet via a router. The frequencies of these signals are either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bandwidths. These frequencies are much higher than those transmitted to or by radios, mobile phones, and televisions since WiFi signals need to carry significantly higher amounts of data. The networking standards are variants of 802.11, of which there are several (802.11a, 802.11b, 801.11g, etc.).

What is an Optical Fibre Cable?

An optical fibre cable is a cable type that has a few to hundreds of optical fibres bundled together within a protective plastic coating. They help carry digital data in the form of light pulses across large distances at faster speeds. For this, they need to be installed or deployed either underground or aerially. Standalone fibres cannot be buried or hanged so fibres are bunched together as cables for the transmission of data.

This is done to protect the fibre from stress, moisture, temperature changes and other externalities. There are three main components of a optical fibre cable, core (It carries the light and is made of pure silicon dioxide (SiO2) with dopants such as germania, phosphorous pentoxide, or alumina to raise the refractive index; Typical glass cores range from as small as 3.7um up to 200um), Cladding (Cladding surrounds the core and has a lower refractive index than the core, it is also made from the same material as the core; 1% refractive index difference is maintained between the core and cladding; Two commonly used diameters are 125µm and 140µm) and Coating (Protective layer that absorbs shocks, physical damage and moisture; The outside diameter of the coating is typically either 250µm or 500µm; Commonly used material for coatings are acrylate,Silicone, carbon, and polyimide).

An optical fibre cable is made up of the following components: Optical fibres – ranging from one to many. Buffer tubes (with different settings), for protection and cushioning of the fibre. Water protection in the tubes – wet or dry. A central strength member (CSM) is the backbone of all cables. Armoured tapes for stranding to bunch the buffer tubes and strength members together. Sheathing or final covering to provide further protection.

The five main reasons that make this technology innovation disruptive are fast communication speed, infinite bandwidth & capacity, low interference, high tensile strength and secure communication. The major usescases of optical fibre cables include intenet connectivity, computer networking, surgery & dentistry, automotive industry, telephony, lighting & decorations, mechanical inspections, cable television, military applications and space.

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