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The Benefits of an Ethernet Radio Link in Remote or Hazardous Areas

Updated: Jun 14

A man in a hard hat stands facing an enormous yellow industrial vehicle on a hazardous worksite

Ethernet radios are increasingly the go-to technology for industrial communications, particularly in remote and hazardous areas. Consider facilities, such as oil rigs in the middle of the sea, underground mining operations, or energy or military installations in isolated spots. All of these places present unique operational challenges. 

Conventional cell tower reception is hard to come by in these areas, mainly because no one is likely to have run fiber optic cables to a solar installation in the middle of a desert or to a mountaintop through miles of broken land. In such cases, industrial communications often rely on purpose-built wireless RF devices, such as Ethernet software defined radios (SDRs).

An Ethernet radio link can provide a means of data transmission in spots that commercial providers can’t reach. Enterprises or government agencies can use this network link to do everything from controlling and monitoring SCADA data to geolocating assets, remotely controlling robots, monitoring the environment, and more.

Here’s how Ethernet radios can prove to be game-changers for industrial communications in challenging environments. 

Understanding Ethernet Technology 

In order to exchange data, machines need to be connected over a network. WiFi, local area networks (LAN), and cellular data are all examples of networks. Similarly, Ethernet is a technology that establishes a network between devices or computers, helping them share data. 

Devices can tap into these networks using Ethernet radios that are tuned to the same frequency. One host radio, connected to a server, can establish an Ethernet link between several remote radios thousands of miles apart if necessary. 

Difference Between Traditional Radios and Ethernet Radios

Traditional radios, based on serial technology, use a protocol called RS232. It’s used to transmit a stream of characters one after another over a single electrical signal — hence the term “serial radios.”

While these are still in use for devices, such as scales, alarms, and serial printers, modern industrial communications typically involve the exchange of much larger volumes of data among multiple devices. This is where Ethernet radios come in.

An Ethernet interface allows a host of devices to seamlessly communicate over large distances, sharing packets of data over a secured network. Like serial radios, Ethernet devices are wireless, too. However, Ethernet is a lot faster than serial technology, allowing you to monitor and manage facility operations in real time.

Benefits of Using Ethernet Radios in Challenging Environments

Ethernet technology has proven transformative for industries, such as oil and gas, mining, military and defense, and agriculture, among others. It offers facility managers a host of advantages in improving safety and boosting productivity at their sites.

An oil drilling operation with lighted towers and equipment on the coast at dusk

1. Real-Time Monitoring

Ethernet radios are often the first-choice technology for industrial communications in situations where careful monitoring is necessary. Consider, for example, workers on an oil rig drilling the seabed. It’s vital that the pipeline pressure in the wellbores be continuously monitored to ensure it’s within acceptable parameters. Too high and the pipeline will not be able to sustain it. Too low and the pipe may have developed a leak. 

Real-time monitoring helps you identify any potential issues before they lead to mishaps and schedule adjustments, shutdowns, or maintenance, as necessary. Monitoring is also useful for tracking employee productivity and helping you get the most out of your resources.

2. Network Strength

One of the biggest reasons Ethernet radios outperform traditional ones for industrial communications is their built-in network strength. An Ethernet radio link is built to transmit huge volumes of data over a connection between a dispersed network of nodes. Essentially, multiple Ethernet radios can send and receive data simultaneously when linked over a frequency. 

What’s more, the transfer happens at speeds far superior to what you’d expect from a serial radio. This is very useful for executives who oversee potentially hazardous facilities like oil refineries. A single oil refinery can generate over one terabyte of raw data per day. Analyzing that amount of data to generate actionable insights requires a robust connection, and run-of-the-mill serial radios simply won’t suffice. 

3. Data Integrity and Disaster Recovery

Ethernet can assure data integrity for your wireless industrial communications in a way that few other technologies can. For starters, you’re assured that the network won’t lose data in transmission. In fact, if there is a network outage or interruption, certain Ethernet protocols will, by design, stop further transmission until any lost packets of data are secured, and only then allow any subsequent data through.

This is highly useful for communications in industrial facilities of a hazardous or critical nature. Just one severed cable due to an unforeseen mishap or a natural disaster can lead to significant downtime. A wireless Ethernet radio link can provide effective backup in these situations and allow you to continue transmitting vital data.

4. Worker Safety

Worker safety is among the foremost concerns at facilities operating in challenging or remote environments. When on-site personnel have to deal with heavy machinery and flammable materials, it greatly increases the chances of an accident. If the facility is situated in an isolated spot, it might be a while before specialist medical help is able to arrive. 

Robust data input and analysis can be crucial in these situations. Ethernet radios can facilitate real-time monitoring and on-site edge computing to deliver powerful insights, such as overused machinery or an overworked employee, and help you preempt a mishap. 

5. Data Security 

Industrial communications are often susceptible to cyberattacks. A successful hack can result in lots of sensitive personal or enterprise data being exposed, resulting in a subsequent loss of confidence from stakeholders. This assumes even greater significance in cases where a facility is in a remote location and specialist IT help isn’t readily available. 

Ethernet radios are an excellent foil to this. A distributed network system is much easier to protect from a security standpoint. What’s more, built-in safeguards such as firewalls, anti-virus software, 128-bit encryption, and frequency hopping can help you blunt most attacks and preserve confidential data.

Level Up Industrial Communications With XetaWave

XetaWave is the largest independent U.S. manufacturer of wireless radios. We excel at providing communications solutions for challenging environments with Ethernet SDRs that perform flawlessly at operational temperatures of between  -40° to +75°C and across a global frequency range of 150 MHz to 2.4 GHz. Our near-comprehensive offering of radio devices is fully backward- and cross-compatible and can be tailored to practically any use case. Speak to an expert about your industrial communications needs or schedule a demo for one of our solutions.

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