The construction industry is more reliant on IT than ever before.
But eight week delays in setting up phone lines on new sites, even in urban areas, are not uncommon.
In answer, internet specialist altoHiway and satellite fi rms Inmarsat and Stratos have created Satconnect, at the urging of contractor Amalgamated Construction (Amco).
Satconnect provides an interim means of communication until permanent telephone lines are established, and allows project managers to access project files across the internet, an increasingly common method of communication in the construction industry.
For site managers on remote rural sites, satellite communication system can be used for the duration of a project. The system links to corporate computer files from day one of a project and should give construction teams a fighting chance of establishing good lines of communication with head office.
The system can also provide reliable phone and fax connections so that a site worker simply becomes another extension on the main switchboard, according to altoHiway marketing director Chris Wood.
'Satconnect can allow site staff to access applications run from an office, such as financial software and project management programmes and gives them the ability to view computer aided design drawings, ' says Wood. 'We believe this technology to be more reliable than mobile data services such as GPRS and 3G.' Satconnect uses Inmarsat's regional satellite network and the system can be operational within a few hours. A central hub is attached to a company's internal switchboard and up to 60 portable network receivers dispatched to company sites and moved around as required.
Amco trialled the technology on a rural construction site at Kingairloch in Scotland last year linked to its offices in Barnsley and Tuxford to see whether Satconnect delivered on its promises.
'Email, fax and data transfers performed admirably and, although there was a degree of latency with voice, I found the system to be perfectly usable, ' says Amco group IT manager Stuart Fennell.
'When using a satellite there can be a delay from when a signal is sent to the information being received at the other end. I wanted to make sure the system was reliable and capable of delivering acceptable data transfer rates, ' he explains.
'There is still scope for improvement but Satconnect will be welcome at our sites that lack basic telecommunications provision. It will bridge the gap between project start up and eventual line installation, ' says Fennell.
Results of the Amco tests are being reviewed and an extensive trial is set for the spring ahead of a launch later this year.