How the Orion Network expanded into Darwin
Cyclones and tropical heat were two of the challenges that had to be met in the Orion Network’s latest expansion.
The Orion Network has expanded into another Australian city, going live in Darwin in December. Based on Motorola Capacity Max technology, the DMR Tier III compliant network now serves the northern capital plus the Wollongong-Sydney-Newcastle-Blue Mountains region, Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, Melbourne, Adelaide and its surrounds, and Perth.
“As Australia’s largest commercial radio network operator, Orion is proud to be the first to include Darwin in a national network footprint,” said James Holmes, the Orion Network’s Darwin spokesperson.
The network supports a range of devices including handheld and mobile radios, telematics devices, desktop consoles with TRBOnet and smartphones with the Motorola WAVE PTT-over-cellular app.
“The devices enable a range of features such as critical PTT voice calls, messaging, man-down and emergency duress, GPS and indoor location tracking, voice recording, telemetry and event automation,” Holmes said.
In addition to communications, the network provides almost-immediate data analysis and graphical dashboard display for management across a range industries including aviation, construction, facilities management, security, utilities, transport and logistics.
The Orion Network currently supports 10 million calls per month across Australia.
To find out more about what was involved in expanding into Australia’s northernmost capital city, we conducted the following Q&A with James Holmes.
How did the project begin?
The Orion group have been actively looking to expand into Darwin for a while now. Recently we have secured two customer contracts in the transport industry which were key enablers, providing us with the number of network subscribers necessary to justify the investment.
Since the Orion Network was first launched nearly 10 years ago we have always planned to extend to Darwin. In recent years we have really ramped up activity since CSE acquired the Darwin-based Comm8 business in 2017.
Who was involved?
Growing the Orion Network requires a coordinated effort with a number of stakeholders. Involved has been all the Orion partners including CSE Crosscom, Mastercom and Gencom, as well as customer partners, vendor partners, government regulators and communication site owners.
What sort of preparations did you have to do?
Our initial planning is always focused on the customer requirements — coverage is king. We invest heavily in our RF projection and validation tools to design and implement network sites which will meet and exceed our customer needs. Once we understand the geographical area and topology, we look to engage our network of communication site owners (both nationally and localised) to identify the most appropriate site for the project. Some of the factors we need to consider include:
- tower location and height
- site availability, including access restrictions
- structural integrity, environmental considerations and wind-load ratings
- linking technologies and availability
- power systems
- civil engineering requirements
- financial and contractual commitments.
Can you describe the equipment involved?
When building a radio network, it always makes sense to utilise existing infrastructure wherever possible. Typically an Orion site consists of:
- Motorola DMR Tier III repeater infrastructure
- ACMA frequency assignments
- RF combining equipment
- antenna systems and rigging
- IP linking to provide a minimum two redundant carriers
- power systems with AC and DC backup
- remote monitoring and management of power, Ethernet and RF systems
- physical rack-mount hardware
- lightning protection.
Which sort of clients are you aiming for?
Orion currently caters to a wide range of customers and industries, including aviation, construction, facility management and security, government, industrial and utilities, and transport and logistics.
Did Darwin pose any special challenges?
Specific to Darwin there were some key environmental factors we needed to consider, including high-wind/cyclone region C ratings and high-temperature ratings. We invested in specific equipment and engineering services to ensure the Orion Network could cope with these conditions.
How far does the coverage extend?
The Orion Network in Darwin covers the major metropolitan area and extends into the outer suburbs. The coverage map is available at orionet.com.au/coverage-maps/. We are always looking for opportunities to partner with our customers and expand the network coverage as needed.
Was government supportive of the project?
The Orion Network has grown in partnership with our key commercial and government customers throughout Australia, and Darwin was no different. We worked with our customers to identify the need and deployed the solution quickly, working with the local government and site owners as required.
Any final points?
The Orion Group is very keen to meet with other commercial, government and enterprise clients who are interested in building a DMR Tier III radio network in their region.
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