"Last mile" challenges to in situ volcanic data transmission
Abstract. Scientists play a key role in volcanic risk management, but rely heavily on fast access to data acquired in the vicinity of an active volcano. Hazardous volcanoes are often located in remote areas were telecommunications infrastructure is fragile. Besides being exposed directly to the volcanic hazard, the infrastructure in such remote areas can also suffer from "last mile" limitations derived from lack of market demand for data transmission services. In this paper, we report on the findings of the FP7 MIAVITA project in the topic of volcanic data transmission. We draw on the contribution of partners from emergent or developing countries to identify the main bottlenecks and fragilities. We also present the results of an experiment conducted on Fogo Island, Cape Verde, to test the availability of VSAT services adequate for volcanic monitoring. We warn against the false sense of security resulting from increasingly ubiquitous connectivity, and point out the lack of reliability of many consumer-type services, particularly during emergencies when such services are likely to crash due to excess of demand from the public. Finally, we propose guidelines and recommend best practices for the design of volcanic monitoring networks in what concerns data transmission. In particular, we advise that the data transmission equipment close to the exposed area should be owned, operated and maintained by the volcanic monitoring institution. We exemplify with the set-up of the Fogo telemetric interface, which uses low-power licence-free radio modems to reach a robust point of entry into the public network at a suitable distance from the volcano.