Chilly times ahead for Antarctic-bound partner

Chilly times ahead for Antarctic-bound partner

The Australian Antarctic Division is on the hunt for a service provider to support the telecommunications needs of its stations

One local tech provider is set to experience some subzero temperature extremes, with the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) on the hunt for a service provider to support the telecommunications needs of its Antarctic and sub Antarctic stations and operations.

The Division oversees the telecommunications services for three permanent stations within the Australian Antarctic Territory at Casey, Davis and Mawson stations, and one sub Antarctic station at Macquarie Island.

The Department also operates an ice runway aerodrome at Wilkins and an ice-breaking ship, both of which are only operated during the Antarctic summer, from around October to early April each year.

The AAD has issued a request for tender calling for potential suppliers to service its telecommunications needs and IT systems that underpin it, while also helping it to update some of the associated infrastructure.

“The AAD intends to take this opportunity to substantially upgrade the satellite capacity and support services to each of its Antarctic stations,” the AAD said in the tender documents.

The services the AAD is looking for from a potential partner include transport data Link services, satellite terminal equipment, software, network support services, support services and other additional services.

The deal could also include managed services for end to end support, particularly around modem router and traffic prioritisation for medical and aviation weather reports.

Also within the scope of the tender is a review of existing software, involving more than 70 applications, and hardware used over the AAD’s links, with a view to reducing application and database latency and reducing bandwidth usage.

Finally, the winning supplier will also find itself providing project management, testing, training, support and other related services.

The tenderer that bags the deal will be handed a contract that runs for a term of three with the option to extend by two, one yearly increments, based on performance.

But the triumphant supplier will need to be ready for some extreme conditions and distances within which to carry out its tasks.

“The Antarctic environment creates challenges for the delivery of the services,” the AAD said. “For the Antarctic stations, temperatures are often down to -40C with winds greater than 185km [per] hour and heavy snow. The vessel routinely encounters waves of 10+ metres, with winds and snow similar to the Antarctic stations.

“Macquarie Island experiences nearly continuous gale force winds from the west as well as rain, sleet and snow for around 300 days of the year. Temperature varies from around -10C in the winter to +10 in the summer,” it said.

As such, the AAD only has access to Antarctica between October and February each year. The winning service provider will need to work with the AAD to ensure that all equipment is installed and tested by the end of 2017/2018 summer season. Certain locations are visited only once per year.

The three Antarctic Stations that are set to be covered by the deal are separated by approximately 2000km and are around 3,500km south of Hobart, Tasmania, and can typically only be reached by ship and aircraft in the Antarctic summer.

Each station is visited only once or twice by ship each year for personnel and cargo delivery.

Meanwhile, Macquarie Island is 1,500km south of Hobart and has similar limited shipping arrangements, and Wilkins is about 70km south of Casey Station.

“The limited accessibility will create difficulty supplying new equipment to, and maintaining existing equipment at, the Stations,” the AAD said.

Interested parties have until 26 June to get their tender submissions in.

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Tags softwareTelecommunicationspartnerantarctica

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