Trackless Broadband within Russia's Frozen North

An expedition to the northernmost point of the planet that’s reachable by car is no ordinary trip. Just ask the participants of YakutEthnoExp, an annual winter expedition of Russia’s “In Search of the Edge” project, which focuses on ethnographic research, a branch of anthropology dealing with the scientific study of individual cultures.

Traveling in four SUVs especially prepared for extreme northern conditions, seven participants set out from the town of Neryungri on February 24, 2011 on a 5,000-kilometer trek through the Russian Republic of Yakutiya and the Taimyr Peninsula in the Krasnoyarsk Region—passing through 10 remote settlements well inside the Arctic circle, ending an exhausting 28 days later in Norilsk City.

Notwithstanding the harsh travel conditions on trackless roads, accessing broadband connectivity north of the Arctic Circle—where temperatures can dip to -50 Celsius or colder—presented a formidable challenge, yet was essential for the project’s success.

Broadband on Wheels

With limited or no availability of terrestrial telecom, the expedition relied on a transportable satellite communications solution from AltegroSky Group, a leading service provider and Hughes customer in Russia, and official sponsor of the ethnographic expedition. AltegroSky’s robust offering utilized the C-COM iNetVu® 1200 auto-deploying antenna system configured with the powerful Hughes HN7740S satellite terminal.

Installed inside one of the SUVs, the HN7740S was an off-the-shelf unit with no special configuration except for electric power using the automobile inverter. The iNetVu antenna system was also a standard unit mounted on the roof—in a collapsed state when in motion, and deployed for the delivery of high-speed satellite services while stationary. At the press of a button, the system began calculating its location automatically, and within 90 seconds pointed the antenna to the required satellite.

Throughout the expedition, the solution reliably delivered Internet speeds up to 4 Mbps, enabling participants to stay connected and access email, leave comments on blogs, Twitter, and LiveJournal, and most importantly, upload and view photos.

Team AltegroSky

Highly experienced in providing communications services during extreme conditions in remote locations like Siberia and Mongolia, the AltegroSky team closely monitored the expedition’s progress.

“We are proud to have provided reliable broadband Internet service for this important expedition in one of the world’s most challenging and hard-to-reach areas of Arctic Siberia,” said Sergei Pekhterev, COO of AltegroSky Group. “The system operated flawlessly under extreme circumstances of icing and high winds, in bitter temperatures as low as -50 degrees Celsius. It’s a testament to the high quality and reliability of products from Hughes and C-COM that our road warriors were able to stay connected, helping ensure the success of the project.”

Konstantin Lanin, sales director and head of the Hughes office in Moscow, added, “Satellite broadband plays a vital communications role throughout Russia and the CIS countries, particularly in regions like Yakutiya where there is limited terrestrial infrastructure, and serving this expedition is just one more example of its intrinsic value. Hughes salutes the researchers for their important work and we look forward to continuing to power AltegroSky and other customers with our advanced technology to deliver the highest quality broadband services—from Internet access and telemedicine to distance learning, and emergency preparedness.”