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Northwest Towers was founded in 2002 to become a globally recognized turnkey industrial wireless solutions provider. After years of successful solutions delivery, the company started developing its own line of custom rugged industrial wireless components suitable for the harsh outdoor environments that clients might experience in areas such as mining, oil & gas, remote outdoor scientific studies, railway, etc. Following is the conversation that CIO Applications had with Northwest Towers’ President, Tyler Booth on how his company is poised to take the wireless solution space to the next level.
Tell us about the novel trends that are impacting Northwest Towers’ operations.
One thing you can count on in technology is that every day, people are developing applications requiring higher bandwidth capabilities. We’re seeing manufacturers trying to keep up with this trend through the application of higher and more complex modulation rates—MU-MIMO, “Massive” MIMO, Channel Aggregation, Larger Channel sizes—and new data coding techniques.
We work closely with our key manufacturing partners to ensure that we have a futuristic roadmap and are evolving in the direction that best fits our customer’s needs.
Please elaborate on the methodology that Northwest Towers adopts to engage clients.
Many of our customers include industrial applications, additionally we—on occasion—work for tier1 mobile telecommunications providers such as AT&T, Verizon, etc. 100 percent of our work revolves around high-bandwidth data communications which involves microwave or millimeter wave radios whether it be a high-capacity point to point circuit or a fixed or mobile point to multipoint broadband network.
Our methodology revolves around selecting appropriate technologies including antennas, cabling, radios, and power components to meet each client’s unique challenges.
What are some of the challenges that your client face today, and how do you mitigate them?
Our customers turn to us with challenges including difficult topology, skyrocketing bandwidth requirements for new data-hungry applications, off-grid power solutions for wireless assets in remote areas, developing rugged components to replace and outlast commercially available alternatives. We overcome these challenges by designing all components of a network to operate in extreme conditions such as above the Arctic Circle or in the Sahara Desert.
We work closely with our key manufacturing partners to ensure that we have a futuristic roadmap and are evolving in the direction that best fits our customer’s needs
Are there any support options that you provide?
We rarely just install a system and “walk away”. Most of our customers engage us in a long-term support relationship where we handle every aspect of supporting their network, which often consists of components from dozens of manufacturers. We handle all tier1, tier2 technical support, RMA testing and return, and interface directly with manufacturers for any deeper tier3 or developer level support requirements. Additionally, we provide a 24x7 monitoring and proactive support service. Our NOC engineers continually monitor our client’s networks for dozens of metrics which may require further support. However, our proactive approach often catches a problem before the client experiences any kind of outage.
Being proactive about support includes watching off-grid battery banks for charging issues—solar or otherwise— generator fuel levels, heat (or cooling) levels, fan failures, link level RSSI metrics, modulation rates, and data performance metrics such as latency, packet loss, or overall capacity utilization.
Can you elaborate on a customer success story?
One of our long term clients has been Agnico-Eagle mines. They have an operation in Nunavut, Canada, up near the arctic circle. They frequently experience conditions in well in excess of -40C. They requested that 100% of the components supplied would be rated for operation in -70C. As an open pit mining operation, they require a lot of flexibility in where their mobile coverage area operates. This is typically addressed with a solar powered or hybrid (solar + generator) mobile communications tower but because they operate so far north, they have very few hours of sunlight through most of the winter, and thus solar was not an option. We developed a 100 percent diesel powered generator solution instead of our normal hybrid offering. We increased the size of the onboard fuel tank from 70 to 200 gallons which provided enough onboard fuel reserves for roughly one week of operation in addition to 2 weeks of battery capacity on board. They have a fuel truck which tops them up every few days.
Additionally, under such extreme conditions, traditional outdoor CAT5E ethernet cable, when moved, would typically snap in half as the plastic jacket becomes extremely brittle in the cold. We worked with a custom cable manufacturer which exceeded the required temperature rating and developed a cable that would withstand operation (and active movement) in temperatures as low as -90C. We developed heavily insulated weather tight stainless steel enclosures for all of the outdoor radio components to reside in on each trailer and all other vertical assets (towers & rooftops), and built low power heating components into the electronics cabinet in the trailer. That network has been powering their arctic mining operation since 2012.
What differentiates Northwest Towers and how do you envision the future?
There are thousands of project-oriented wireless construction companies out there in a race to the bottom. We focus on quality, reliability and being a true solution provider.
Northwest Towers offers the most value to a customer that has a unique challenge that the average contractor isn’t capable of solving. Additionally, our line of wireless accessories is filling a gap in rugged industrial components that were not previously commercially available. It should also be noted that we were recently awarded the Fastest Growing Partner in North America by Rajant Corporation.
As a global solutions provider with customers located in all parts of the world, we are in the process of opening our first international office later this year in South Africa to provide greater levels of service to customers in that part of the world.