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Drone solution for Orange Spain brings connectivity to remote villages

If you ever decide to avoid the crowded beaches of southern Spain and head northwest to the Galicia region, you’d experience the remarkable mountain ranges and very unremarkable internet access. Maybe enterprising eco-tourism could market it as a great place to go off-grid, but the landscape poses a significant challenge for the 2.7 million inhabitants of the region who really need reliable connectivity.

These areas are known as white spots on the connectivity map. In order to expand the access of ultrafast broadband to schools, (Spain’s Ministry of Energy, Tourism and the Digital Agenda) is running a program called ‘Escuelas conectadas’ (Schools Connected) which is supported by the European Regional Development Fund. Within this framework, Orange was challenged with the task of connecting over 400 schools in Galicia with 500 Mbps internet access and turned to Nokia to deploy a packet microwave network.  The circumstances in this area required a fast, effective and creative response.

Galicia school
Orange Spain successfully connects over 400 schools in remote mountainous region of Galicia.

Since the region lacked a sufficient telecommunications infrastructure, Orange’s strategy was to provide the best available technology for customers. Whenever possible, fiber connections were prioritized. Where fiber was not an option, we built a completely new network based on microwave point-to-point connections from the school buildings to the nearest site in the existing Orange network grid.

Installing antennas to provide a stable, high-quality link was no easy task, however. Schools  were typically situated in valleys and surrounded by woodlands, blocking the line of sight which is required by some wireless transmission technologies. Most of the school buildings were only two stories high but did not offer the possibility to build a mast or a pole, making radio antenna placement particularly difficult. Continuous rain and foggy weather also meant that  positioning  access points to the networks telecoms transmitters by using traditional methods such as hot-air balloons was virtually impossible.

Airborne assistants

We came to the conclusion that drones – also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) – were the most effective solution to  help us set up the point-to-point connections, while minimizing the risk factors.  We managed to set up 600 lines of sight thanks to the flying assistants, allowing us to complete the project more safely, cost effectively – and even ahead of the very tight schedule. 

Drones were used to calculate LOS between two towers to identify the right height and positioning of the microwave antennas.

Technology aiding social development

Connecting schools in a region like Galicia has proven to indirectly benefit the entire community - tourists included!  Another great example of how Nokia is committed to creating the technology to connect the world.

Visit our website for more on Nokia Microwave transmission solutions and about how we use UAVs for connectivity and other tasks 


Share your thoughts on this subject by replying below or join the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks using the hashtags #drones #connectivity (#conectividad) and #telecommunications (#telecomunicaciones).

Diego San Segundo

About Diego San Segundo

Diego is a senior project manager for Nokia in Spain. When he is not managing Packet Microwave projects, he loves doing sports and contemplating how technology can change our lives for the better.

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