Protecting against the Mother of All Storms


On Saturday 26th May 2018, it was reported that around 15,000 lightning strikes were recorded in just four hours in the UK, in what was termed the “Mother of All Thunderstorms.”

Whilst lightning can be exciting and visually stunning, it also brings damage to property and in rare cases, risk to life. Additionally a significant vulnerability is to IT and telecoms equipment which can often be connected to the roof area via antennas. For example, a common application today is for data centers, finance/trading houses and critical utilities to require Precision Network Timing (PNT) providing NTP/PTP timing signals, these are often derived from GPS/GNSS signals from a roof top antenna. Coaxial cable is a common method providing a direct electrical connection from the roof to the PNT’s, and hence a nice clean path for lightning! Lightning arrestors can be deployed, but Mother Nature is unpredictable and arrestors can’t always be 100% guaranteed against close or very powerful lightning strikes.

This is one of the reasons why more businesses are deploying 'RF over fiber' technology to link the roof top antennas to sensitive equipment such as PNT servers. The GPS/GNSS radio signals are converted to a light signal which passes through fiber optic cables. Not only does this provide an electrically isolated connection and protects vital IT and telecoms equipment, it brings other advantages including: added security to tamper proofing, smaller cable footprint, added extension length compared to high losses in coax cable, and easier signal splitting and distribution options.

ViaLite Communications is the only supplier which has a complete specialist range of GPS/GNSS RF over fiber link extension products including:

- Integrated with all the major PNT suppliers

- Specific GNSS (GPS) frequency band coverage  GNSS (GPS) antenna powering

- Time server antenna port loading (to correctly relay any roof top antenna problems)

- Multiple fiber optic distribution solutions.

Some weather forecasters are predicting a sustained period of unsettled weather due to jet stream positions and other factors; a good reason to consider again how to protect vital equipment from future thunderstorms!

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