Connecting earthquake-hit communities in Nepal



In the wake of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal in April 2015 – the worst natural disaster the country had seen in 80 years – and subsequent tremors, communities and infrastructure were left shattered. When a particularly harsh monsoon season hit the already struggling communities two years later, their connection to the outside world was destroyed.

The Government of Nepal called on BFBS Media Innovation to venture into the most remote locations in one of the affected regions to re-establish connectivity.

By installing our MiPlayer solution along with Ruckus WiFi technology we helped to reunite communities with the rest of the country via live and locally-stored media.

The challenge

After the massive earthquake, Nepal was already in a state of mourning for the thousands left dead. Then, in 2017, the country was again at the mercy of the elements as monsoon season battered a country already on its knees. Villages were obliterated, and thousands were left cut off from the rest of the country. The Government of Nepal needed to reconnect communities quickly, not only to return communities to normality, but also to give citizens access to important political media with the upcoming general election, the first since the new constitution was introduced. Doing so without internet, or even a reliable power source, made an already challenging situation almost impossible.

No one else can do what BFBS Media Innovation does as our experience of developing and installing the latest broadcast and communications technology for unconnected and hard-to-reach locations is unrivalled. And MiPlayer’s ability to allow the delivery of streamed media to remote locations using WiFi in the absence of more standard connectivity options was perfect for the Nepali Government’s needs. Their long-term plan was to install two MiPlayers in each of the districts throughout Nepal, aiming to connect the disconnected communities.

They started with Tatopani, Formatted: Line spacing: 1.5 lines a village in the Sindhupalchok District sitting on the border between Nepal and China, which was originally a larger trading post between the two countries. Border trade was closed after the 2015 earthquake, which had left the village suffering from loss of life and livelihood and destruction of property. The problem grew worse when monsoons washed away the hydroelectric stations supplying power to the village, as well as the main Larcha bridge connecting them to other parts of the district and Kathmandu. Not only did storms create perilous landslide risks, but with limited transport and lack of connectivity, Tatopani was stranded. This was not going to be a straightforward installation project.

When in Nepal, our team had to transport their kit on foot for miles, unable to continue by vehicle due to destroyed and unsafe roads. With the challenging environment and without much information provided beforehand, they had to be prepared for anything. They carried out site surveying, heatmapping and installation at the time, designing and refining the solution based on what we established and the kit available.

The solution

Although our team was working on minimal information, their many years of experience installing MiPlayers across the globe in the most remote and harshest locations had equipped them with the professional experience to know how best to approach this project.

They collaborated with Purdicom, our long-time distributor, to choose products best suited for difficult terrain across long and short distances, and which could also withstand volatile weather and deliver reliable connectivity.

They discovered that to create a link from one side of the village to the other, we would require Ruckus P300 Outdoor P2P bridges, 7 x access points and a Zone Director 1200, with additional switches, and the star of the show – the MiPlayer.

The P300s were new additions to our toolbelt; assembly was quick, making them ideal for urgent travel. The ruggedized design ensures they operate in harsh outdoor conditions.

Arriving safely in Tatopani in early November, the team got to work on surveying the area and agreeing where best to situate the point-to-point links.

Tatopani has a population of around 3,000 people spread across the river and in the surrounding mountains. To make sure the connection was stable, the team designated a building on one side of the village that would have line of sight to its partner across the river at a distance of 5km.

Negotiations allowed the team to install the point-to-point links on two buildings without problems, despite the issues surrounding the village’s unconventional electricity supply.

Yet, despite all odds, initial testing revealed an interference-free signal that produced best-in-class wireless backhaul performance.

The outcome

Re-opening communication to the rest of the country made Tatopani’s recovery a much faster process. The phone culture in Nepal is a big part of people’s identity, so the return of connectivity gave spirits and morale a huge lift. Furthermore, MiPlayer supplies media in the form of video, audio and web access, as well as a specific community page in both English and Nepalese.

Working alongside the United Nations, MiPlayer meant we were also able to deliver humanitarian materials on animal husbandry, building techniques, post-disaster action plans and educational documents. The quick installation also meant that connectivity returned in time for the elections, allowing the residents of Tatopani to participate in the historic event, and truly contribute to the future of their country.

Tatopani was just the start. There are still many more remote villages in need of connection, and while no two installations will be the same, we are ready to tackle each one with the same dedication that made the Tatopani installation such a success.

Find out more about our humanitarian work, and how we can help you. Contact [email protected].