Wireless LAN in hazardous locations

Posted on 2003-10-27
Last Modified: 2010-04-11
Our company provides field services for Landbased drilling rigs. The setup involves computer terminals placed in trailers on drilling location that all connect to a Novell server by means of co-ax cables. Frequent movement of trucks and heavy machinery sometimes damages even the deeply entrenched conduits that carry the co-ax across.
Given this situation I am planning of get the network converted to wireless...but lack of info regarding the safety of the wireless LAN's technology in enviroments where natural gas vapours are commonly present in the ambient Air is delaying my plans. My management cites the incidents of cell phones around the world where people have caught fire when refuelling thier vehicles at gas stations as a discouragement to my Idea..Do cell phones and wireless LAn equipment share the same type of wireless energy....?
what would be the safest wireless LAN equipment to use in my scenario..?

would be glad if someone could help.
Question by:fieldtechsupport

Expert Comment

ID: 9631856

Cellular - 850Mhz, 900Mhz, and 1900Mhz

Wireless Lan - 2.4Ghz (b and g) 5 Ghz (a)

I believe that the gas pump scenario is not because of the fire hazard of the frequency, but the possible sparking of the electronic devices themselves.

Exerpt from
Exxon has begun placing "warning stickers" at its gasoline stations. The threat mobile phones pose to gas stations and their users is primarily the result of their ability to produce sparks that can be generated by the high-powered battery inside the phone. Please pass this on.

Expert Comment

ID: 9631863
Cellular - 850Mhz, 900Mhz, and 1900Mhz
In the USA anyway.
LVL 14

Accepted Solution

kronostm earned 250 total points
ID: 9631943
fieldtechsupport.......first of all, there's a frequency difference that t1n0m3n already specified. BUT, this difference affects your plans just from the point of view of how deep the signal can pass through walls/obstacles.
   Higher frequency from wireless equipments  means that it's much better to use it in open field. From my personal experience, emitting through 3-4 concrete walls attenuates the signal to 0 .
   So, you have to be very careful about the obstacles you have to pass with the signal, while cellphones emit at 900MHz usually , the 2.4GHz signal is much easyer to be attenuated.
   From the aspect of safety, 2.4GHz is much safer, since the output power of the equipment is considerably lower. While cellphones emit with 1-2 sometimes 3 Watt, the 802.11x equipments emit with a maximum of 100mW, but usually 50-60mWatt. That means a much smaller power demand and a less brutal power discharge.
   So, from my point of view the danger is much smaller (if the danger of catching fire in gas stations can be considered a chance of danger), but the theoretical possibility for a small spark still exists. HEHE .. I wouldn't want to hold the responsability of such a decision, even though I consider this equipments harmless in your enviroment.

Hope this puts some light on this matter


Expert Comment

ID: 9633565
Yes there are SOME 3 Watt handsets out there, but they are VERY old.

Most cell phones nowdays output .6 Watt (or 600mw)

If there was a problem with the frequency we would all be in trouble....Cellular frequencies are everywhere.  Usually in much higher power concentrations than the phone output itself.
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Expert Comment

ID: 9636364
I have had the "pleasure" of installing wireless networks in vapor emiting areas. After numerous talks with Cisco and 3Com engineers, it was determined thet there was no danger from the (2.4ghz) signal itself, but there is, as with all electrical equipment, danger involved from spark/arc generation from the Bridges and Access Points. Both companies recommended adequate earth grounding of ALL equipment (antennas, AP's, etc...) and to locate the access points as far away from areas of high vapor concentrations as possible. Also, SHEILDED cat5 cableing was highly recommended, due to the ability to ground the cables themselves. This project was implemented a year ago, and they have had no issues so far....
I just want to relay my personnal experiences with this matter, and in no way am I assuring you this will work in your situation. Murphy's Law should always be taken into consideration  :-)

Expert Comment

ID: 9636596
 Here go to this site and check out some of their stuff...

  Might be what you are looking for...
LVL 17

Expert Comment

by:John Gates
ID: 9642017
The big thing I would be concerned with is EMI interference from the rigs...  I think that you should have a site evaluation done by a consultant that deals in wireless networks everyday that has the equipment investment and can provide a detailed report and let you know wether a wireless solution will work or not.  With wireless 2+2 does not always equal 4 =-)

My 2¢

Expert Comment

ID: 9651291
As already stated above, the possibility of ignition does not generally come from the signal radiation itself, but from the small sparks and arcs which (possibly) occur within the device.  Apparently you can buy special sealed 2way radios and other electronic equipment meant for working in your type of enviroment.  Chances are, the other workmen on the site have these types of radio.  If you can find out who sells these radios, you maybe able to get either special wireless network gear from them, or they may be interested in developing sealed wireless gear, or modifying existing gear for you.

Brian Rance
IT Assistant & Firefighter

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