As Catherine Laug explains, the telecoms industry has grown at such a remarkable rate that it’s now a key part of our everyday lives. At present, the COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented requirement for almost all industries to operate a ‘working from home’ policy and to provide the general public with an increased access to online services, in turn making the telecoms industry even more vital.
A major impact of this fundamental change is the presence of a growing number of telecoms facilities, which are proving to be the cornerstone of service delivery. Equipment is often located in isolated areas, so strict access control systems are needed to keep any vulnerability to an absolute minimum.
Telecoms companies cover vast expanses of land to keep the service up-and-running for their customers. This involves several tens of thousands of plants and facilities, from mobile phone towers through to street cabinets for the wired network. This underlines the value of a standardised access control strategy to simplify access to all sites.
Now, maintenance technicians no longer need to worry about accessing the numerous facilities during their daily inspection rounds. Once configured, single electronic key solutions guarantee access to the right place at the right time, allowing technicians to focus their attention on the task at hand.
Specific access processes
For their part, operators are assured that their field teams, often comprised of sub-contractors, can carry out all maintenance work during specified times in line with their specific access processes.
Most of the facilities requiring protection are outdoor sites particularly exposed to wind, sun, snow and sea spray. That being so, access control systems must be able to withstand corrosion caused by bad weather. End users can now specify a certified and conceptual solution to this challenge with cylinders that meet the requirements of the EN 1670 corrosion resistance standard with a, IP66-67-68-69 rating designed to guarantee maximum protection.
In point of fact, the latest generation electronic keys also use inductive technology for contactless information exchange between the key and cylinder. With this technology, the electronic key can transmit access rights to the cylinder even if the humidity at the site has corroded the surface of the lock. In other words, bad connections no longer prevent information from being transmitted between the key and lock.
At some telecommunications towers, access is restricted to those authorised to work at height. Software is now available that liaises with the operator’s information system, collecting select information from the various user profiles to limit access to authorised individuals. This allows operators to use the software to assign access rights for specific areas based on the technician’s profile and authorisation.
To improve on-site control activities, electronic keys work with specific apps and new technology (ie RFID and beacons, etc) to send technicians verification messages about their access rights or required safety instructions (such as wearing a helmet and abiding by the buddy system, etc).
Similarly, users can interact with the central system and submit on-site attendance reports and flag up anomalies errors, etc. These bespoke features are designed to meet ever-stricter security requirements in companies and, importantly, accommodate the latest Government guidelines.
Sub-contracting and shared access sites
Sub-contractors are an increasingly common fixture in both maintenance activities and emergency call-outs. Several officers may well require daily access to a number of scattered, remote facilities.
The access control system is further complicated by the fact that sites may be shared by different businesses. Water towers, for instance, are often used to support radio masts.
It’s now possible to deliver an effective response to multi-activity sites with just one electronic key being needed for countless locks. Officers no longer need to carry large bunches of keys between sites. Instead, they can access the right place at the right time with maximum security.
Communication infrastructures may be the prime target for large-scale attacks wherein those parties involved are looking to compromise the country’s economic potential. They may also attract various types of vandal, tempted by the challenge of scaling facilities or the apparent vulnerability of street cabinets.
Today’s access control solutions are invaluable when it comes to protecting facilities from harm. Electronic cylinders and padlocks have CEN 1303 certification with the highest level of resistance to drilling and, therefore, vandalism.
What’s more, a lost or stolen electronic key can be disabled on a swift footing to prevent any unwanted intrusions. In certain solutions, the built-in reporting feature in the system software aims to report any attempts to gain access outside specified time ranges or in out-of-bounds areas, thereby detecting any anomalies.
Catherine Laug is Group Head of Marketing at LOCKEN