Getting Internet to Remote Jobsites
Why jobsite connectivity matters?
Managing the modern construction project relies on a multitude of construction tech applications. These apps are software that ranges from simple, easy-to-use technology that collects data like timecards, to sophisticated pre-construction and progress-tracking tools that rely on BIM data and connect designers, owners, project executives, and installers in the field. All these applications have one thing in common: they require a robust internet connection to upload and exchange data. So, what do you do when you are working on a jobsite in the middle of nowhere?
The challenges of remote jobsites
Getting a reliable internet connection on remote jobsites comes with a number of obstacles. The most obvious is that there is likely no existing infrastructure nearby that can be tapped to get a signal to the jobsite. Even if fiber is in proximity to the first trailer drop, trenching can be expensive and prohibitive where subsequent excavation is planned.
Cellular data is a potential solution, but what happens when a reliable cellular signal is unavailable? Such was the scenario when one ENR general contractor began constructing a renewable energy project in the mountains of Southern California.
Furthermore, if there isn’t any existing telecom infrastructure available at a remote job site, then it’s a safe bet that power is also unavailable. This is most likely when the initial trailer drops, and as civil engineering begins. This is further complicated when a job site spans many acres or even several miles across a large field of work.
ConstructEdge, a CCR company based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, are experts at designing, installing, and managing jobsite networks. Based on more than 30 years of experience, they have formulated some best practices that can help project owners and general contractors address jobsite internet challenges on remote locations.
1. Temporary Cellular Networks
Temporary cellular networks are a fantastic option when an existing cell tower is nearby enough to provide a good signal. One of the challenges is that retail cellular data can be expensive. ConstructEdge has curated relationships with second-tier cellular data providers across the United States and Canada to tap into a more granular, local market and can often uncover options that are not visible to retail customers. ConstructEdge is also a certified LTE provider throughout the United States and offers private jobsite networks that save significantly on cellular data costs.
2. Microwave Line-of-Sight
One of the most common challenges in getting internet to a remote jobsite occurs when the nearest cellular tower is out of range from trailers or where job sites are spread out over a large area. Microwave radios that connect via line-of-sight are an option that can bridge this gap. For example, on a remote jobsite site in the California mountains, the solution was a 4-hop microwave link atop three mountain peaks. This provided the trailer city with 100 Mbps symmetrical broadband.
3. Custom Connectivity Kits
In most instances, simply getting network connectivity to the trailer is insufficient. Field teams increasingly rely on a jobsite network to track equipment, manage safety requirements, and share real-time updates on construction progress. Networks must grow alongside job sites as they expand, either to cover many acres or grow vertically as in high-rise construction. This requires two components: additional access points and the power to run them. ConstructEdge builds custom connectivity kits for customers using Connex boxes fitted with solar powered antennas to serve as access points. This allowed teams in the laydown yard to share data in real-time with trailer cities across the job site.
General contractors, project owners, project executives, and trade contractors use a variety of cloud- based software to manage projects and exchange information. This requires a reliable jobsite internet connection to keep data flowing. Remote jobsites pose a challenge to this communication when traditional ISPs are unavailable or where there is no existing infrastructure. Custom solutions including temporary cellular networks and microwave line-of-sight technology can address the challenge. To accommodate the growth of job sites and extend connectivity into the field of work, firms like ConstructEdge have developed custom connectivity kits and pioneered a suite of managed services solutions like private networks. Project executives will need to keep these options in their hip pocket when managing remote, hard-to-reach job sites.