Airwave undertakes major retune of TETRA network in London area

The network operator has carried out the largest single wide area retuning of a TETRA network ever to boost capacity in time for the Olympic Games

Airwave undertakes major retune of TETRA network in London area

Airwave has carried out the biggest wide area retuning of a TETRA network ever undertaken. In February, it upgraded the UK emergency services’ communications network by retuning 312 base sites and 1,280 base radios in London and the Home Counties within 24 hours.

The retune was designed to increase the network’s capacity ahead of the London 2012 Games and also involved integrating additional spectrum which has been made available for the Olympics. Additional surge capacity in case of unplanned events has also been incorporated.

Martin Benke, operations director for Airwave, which owns and operates the Airwave TETRA network in the UK, said: ‘Airwave is the largest TETRA network in the world – nobody has ever done a retune of a network of this size before. It is a logistics nightmare given that our customers are the police, fire and ambulance services. We had to ensure the retune had the minimum impact on them, so that meant we had to get it right first time.

‘Radio propagation is not an exact science, you have to plan, implement and then test,’ he added. ‘A significant part of it involved getting around 100 people out on the ground in the middle of the night to confirm the changes were performing as expected.’

Benke said that the vast majority of the retuning was done over the air, but some sites had to be done manually because of the scope of the changes. For example, enhancers are needed for in-building coverage and they required manual retuning. Two-person teams, one driving and one with the test equipment, were sent out at night to check the received signal level and the quality of the signal.

‘The results exceeded our expectations,’ said Benke, ‘and there was minimal impact on our customers, which was the key thing. We knew what we could tolerate, but we didn’t have any problems as it worked very well.

‘Obviously, validation came the following day when the network was much more heavily trafficked, but there were no issues at all; it was business as usual for the Blue Light services.’

Airwave is undertaking further wide area retunes, although the later upgrades involve a slightly smaller number of sites. The second one was due to take place on 14 March 2011 comprising around 100 sites, all but one of which was contained within the London Metropolitan Police area.

Written by Wireless magazine
Wireless magazine

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