How I built a network in Astrakhan for 9 years
Flood and base station container
Good morning! My name is Ilya, in 2002 I started as an engineer for maintenance of base stations (there were as many as 14 of them at 10 sites), in 2004 I became the technical director of the branch, and now, since 2013, I have been managing Beeline throughout the region .
This is a typical suburb relief. There is no place to nest here, so the kestrel, small falcon, steppe eagles, buzzard buzzards and smaller birds are very often found between high-voltage insulators.
Let's start with nature. The region bisects the Volga, and for several months of the year it leaves the banks, spreading over the steppe. There are thousands of lakes and islets in the delta, which affects both the availability of the BS and the difficulties with power supply and high-quality transport channels.
In summer, we have very intense heat (southern region of the Russian Federation), which requires good cooling of equipment. We also have a lot of dust and midges, clogging the filters of air systems tightly. And under cool containers, steppe animals like mice, gophers, sometimes snakes like to wait out the day.
As soon as the power is turned off at the station, it very quickly heats up inside the container to +80. The first can not withstand batteries. Then more expensive equipment fails. Therefore, now we are setting free-cooling systems to such positions.
Inside one of the sites. This is a brick house, not a container.
Freecooling in our region is almost the same as an open container door. +40 is not at all suitable for data centers, but it looks great in contrast to +80 without access to external air. At the same time, during the midge season, freecooling filters for 2–3 days of operation are rammed tightly with biomass, so at that time they are an emergency reserve. The base station "Sazaniy Ugol" is a vivid example of this.
Base station "Sazaniy Ugol".
The wind in Astrakhan always blows, and quite strongly. The steppe is flat, like a table, and the only elevations are engineering structures like houses, bridges, and so on. Sometimes a particularly strong stream passes (a hurricane warning is given along it). He disrupts everything that is not fixed thoroughly enough. The region does not have the highest 3rd class downwind. And although weather conditions are taken into account during the design, we put maximum effort into installing and operating the BS to avoid emergency situations due to strong winds.
The wind also affects the sensation of temperature by the human body. In winter, due to strong winds and high humidity, ours are 5 as -15 in Moscow.
On days with temperatures below –20, we stop trips except emergency ones. The black cable is the feeder path.
Usually the BS container is the coolest place in the steppe. Therefore, mice or vipers almost always live under it. Approach equipment with extreme caution.
Another feature - at the base stations should not be anything brilliant. Crows never stop. You can eat, sleep, walk, relax, and they will hammer a shiny part in the hope of dragging them away. Day after day.
Here is an example of colleagues. On the roof with our sectors, birds peck the insulation, and it is gradually replaced by galvanization.
Volga in the region and coverage map
As you can see, the Volga divides the city and the region into two parts. People live on both sides of the river. A relay radio link (RRL) penetrates well through it, but it has bandwidth limitations. Given the peculiarities of boggy floodplain, often from one radio relay node to another the direct distance can be several kilometers, but you can get there by car almost a day through a bridge or pontoon crossing somewhere 300 kilometers upstream.
There are positions that can only be reached by boat. Of course, engineers take an additional course of behavior on water as part of safety measures.
And here is the boat itself.
Pancake. This is in the spring and most of the summer can only be reached by boat.
The population in the region is about a million, about half of it lives in the city of Astrakhan, there is a very high concentration of people in the north of the region (up to 10-12% of subscribers), the areas between these points are well inhabited. Given this, it is worthwhile to understand that we can reach an average BS or website without power in 6-7 hours. Therefore, almost from the very beginning of the development of the network, we made the structure of the transport network circular. The result is three large RRL rings. The narrowest point almost at the border of the region is 60 Mbps, which is quite enough for local residents to confidently surf 3G at speeds of about megabits.
BS "Lotus", a typical representative of the BS in two hopes from the ring
There are few people at the seaside, therefore, as a rule, where there is no power supply, there are no people. Therefore, there is no exotic such as a BS with solar panels in the region. If the place is interesting, there is most likely a camp site and a normal industrial input. There is one station that has been running on diesel for several years, but the Rosmorport checkpoint, and their diesel. Large vessels always stand at the entrance to the main bank of the Volga-Caspian Canal, waiting for permits or water level.
Station on Artificial Island, which is powered by a diesel engine.
So grows in the lower lotus.
We recognized the importance of high-quality transport channels from the very beginning, so we paid great attention to the construction of fiber optic links. At the moment, there are about 750 kilometers in operation, of which about 150 urban fiber optic links, and about 200 broadband access lines. Now we are putting optics on the left side of the Volga to the cities of Kharabali, Akhtubinsk and Znamensk, calling at almost all stations, making reservations this branch through Volgograd. It should provide our stations with fast and high-quality transport, and our subscribers with reliable and fast service.
In Astrakhan itself, most stations are connected via FOCL, which gives us the opportunity to provide our customers with access to packet transmission networks at high speeds.
We have the opportunity to earn on the market selling services to local operators
The steppe is very smooth and even. This is good for signal propagation. When I was developing the network, then almost immediately we decided to build the “backbone” of the network on our own high-rise buildings. All of them are located in the center of settlements. Thanks to these BSs in the “sweetest” places in the region, we now have no difficulties with the further development of the network. And the deployment of the network in each village goes through its own high-rise buildings, which have turned into powerful transport hubs
on the HSE Artificial Island
In the city, the majority of our positions are either at production facilities or in areas with dense buildings. There we put low-power antennas in the center of houses - at cafes, substations and so on. If you rise above and cover a large area, then the subscribers will become much more available channel capacity, plus difficulties will begin with interference and signal quality. Our position was somewhat more expensive in the case at the beginning of work, but now, again, has paid off one hundred percent. And all because the radio planning in our company is traditionally strong.
Typical relief of the city, the very center, “Fair” shopping center. In residential areas, houses are taller and denser
When I started as an engineer, we had, as I said, 10 sites and 14 base stations. We thought we covered the whole city. The regional operator Smarts had approximately adequate infrastructure. A little later, Megafon came to the city, and a couple of years later MTS bought a small operator with licenses and also began its work.
There was a case. On the other side of the Volga - in the Trusovsky district - the RRL left. We calculated that we needed a four-stream (RRL for 4-stream E1), and eight-stream equipment was sent from Moscow. It was clear that 16 megabits to this area was just some kind of outrageous band, and the project itself turned out to be not cheap. For comparison, today the link goes to 10 Gbit / s.
Gradually, the construction went into normal mode, taking into account local specifics, of course. If interested, I’ll show you custom postings as a separate post.
Installation of a pillar on the Military Town BS
When Corbina arrived in Astrakhan, the company was just in the process of negotiations on the purchase, Golden Telecom owned 50% of the shares. Therefore, we immediately and quickly agreed that they take our highway (and do not build their own), plus they "fit" into our own positions. As a result, Corbina had a complete transport network (then on lease). And excellent places for broadband access nodes in our containers, where there is temperature, protection against external factors, security, and good service. After purchasing Corbina, we got a network without unnecessary elements - everything is simple, efficient and immediately ready for service. Handsomely!
Therefore, now we are leading in this segment in the city. Technically, we can provide subscribers with up to 100 Mbit / s, which is done at certain rates for individuals and some for legal entities.
Given the number and geography of broadband connections, the city is fully prepared for a P2P network on Wi-Fi devices. We even considered such a project “on napkins”; it would really be very interesting. But you yourself know that everything that’s not indoor needs frequency permissions.
Now the main task of broadband access is to abandon the old technologies that were at the core of the Corbina network. In particular, we want to move away from L2TP / VPN in the future to offer a channel without a tunnel. Work is already underway.
We were in VimpelCom’s first five to launch LTE first in test, and then in commercial operation.
Commissioning of the first LTE station in Astrakhan
Now in most of the region 3G is available, and in the city - LTE. However, there are still not too many devices supporting 4G.
Borders with Volgograd, Kalmykia and Kazakhstan
Due to the flat terrain on the border with the Volgograd region, our subscribers often “cling” to colleagues' base stations, and their subscribers - to ours. This is especially true for hunters and farmers. Therefore, we made a fairly wide strip where there are "neutral" stations. That is, the subscriber continues to talk, not suspecting that he is in another area.
A similar strip is implemented on the border with Kalmykia. There is a feature: on Tsagan-Aman, 10 kilometers of the river “protrusion” belong to Kalmykia, and the local BS is connected to the Elista switchboard. Given the non-roaming band, many Astrakhan pass there, not even suspecting that they have visited the neighboring republic.
Of course, there is a need for special projects. For example, now a large object is being built right near the border of Kalmykia (on their side). By agreement, we organized communication there using a mobile station, which distributes around quite Astrakhan 2G, enough for talking, checking mail and social networks.
There are no people on the border with Kazakhstan, so the coverage here is targeted. The only exception is the customs points where both our connection and our pretty fast Internet are available. It should be noted that the border with Kazakhstan is not the same as the border, for example, with China. Former USSR residents live there, who quite often work in Russia and vice versa.
This is an object in Mumra. There is a tower on which there is a standard light barrier and standard red lights. We checked this remote position once every two months and several times in a row we noticed that the red “lampshades” were removed from the lights. The lamps are intact, but there are no caps. They changed, of course, but they came again - they are again gone.
Caps immediately after installation.
We talked with the locals. The dialogue turned out to be something like this:
“So, granddaughters, the tower is high.”
- So what?
- It’s worth it.
“But the lights disappear, don’t you know?”
- Lanterns, I say.
- Ahh! .. So this, when you go from the seaside, it is like a lighthouse.
- Yeah. And without caps it’s brighter, right? And you take them off.
- Not just shooting, granddaughter. We still see that everything works, we drive away strangers, we change the bulbs for you. The lighthouse.