As a beta user of Sprint 4G Enterprise WAN, Senior Network Engineer Greg Wagnon of Explorer Pipeline already has a lot of positive experience with it, thanks to a highly successful deployment at an Explorer Pipeline fuel storage facility in Houston.
Explorer Pipeline operates a 1,900-mile fuel pipeline from Gulf Coast refineries to the Midwest. Each Explorer Pipeline site along the route is part of a massive data system that remotely operates the pumps and valves directing the flow of fuel. SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems monitor the pipeline and collect data every second about flow, pressures, valve positions, and pump conditions.
The company's data needs have grown tremendously at remote sites. At Houston and similar facilities, network needs now exceed what current 3G wireless services can provide, but a telco T1 option poses logistical challenges, beyond the time required for installation and high monthly recurring cost.
“These storage facilities are basically tank farms, with piping all over the place. It’s not a lot of fun to bring a landline in if it means having the telco dig a trench for it,” Wagnon says. So installing 4G Enterprise WAN at the Houston facility was a first step toward multi-site deployment.
The Houston site needs network access to Explorer Pipeline headquarters in Tulsa for many applications, with heavy traffic both upstream and downstream, and a critical need to transmit and receive pipeline data. Even the slightest communications network loss requires a pipeline shutdown.
“I really didn’t want to spend the money on a full T1, and the 4G solution sounded like it would provide everything a T1 would, at less expense. I needed performance that would handle two to three people in a small branch office with good download and upload speeds,” Wagnon says.
From day one, Wagnon has been impressed by 4G Enterprise WAN, including the ease of installation. Performance improvements were immediate
“The network speeds are faster, and I didn’t have to go to the phone company to dig a trench for a T1. I don’t have to deal with tariffs and local loops. It’s so much easier to just hang an antenna, and only deal with one provider, Sprint. There’s no middle man at the local exchange.”
Wagnon estimates 4G Enterprise WAN will save $4,500 a year at the Houston site alone when compared with a T1, and says the improved network performance has already boosted site technicians’ productivity.