The Visa International Gymnastics event being held at the North Greenwich Arena in London, UK this week (10-18 January 2012) has provided a further chance to test the wireless communications systems ahead of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Airwave, the private company that runs the UK’s emergency services TETRA network, is the official private mobile radio supplier’s to the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). The company has built a completely new, independent communications infrastructure, known as the Apollo Network, to do this.
The network, which uses TETRA technology, has been active since June 2011. It covers the Olympic Park in East London, sailing in Weymouth on the south coast and football grounds around the UK. Up to18,000 people are expected to be using the Apollo Network during the games.
Speaking to Wireless at the gymnastics event, Gamal Shugafi, programme manager LOGOG and ODA, who was responsible for setting up Apollo, said that the network has ‘worked perfectly without any problems so far’ at each London Prepares Test Event.
Shugafi added: ‘We’ve built the service to meet LOCOG’s (London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games) exacting needs and provided the coverage and penetration they’ve asked for. The North Greenwich Arena is covered by one base station, but if LOCOG wants further in-building coverage anywhere we can supply that.’
He explained that Airwave was keen to provide an on-site presence and has set up radio distribution rooms (RDRs) at each of the venues. ‘The idea is that anyone who requires a radio can just walk in and pick up a terminal, or if they have a problem, they can come in and change it immediately without having to wait.’
Airwave has worked closely with LOCOG to define and manage the radio fleet map to assign call groups and establish who has access to which groups and what level of functionality and applications. ‘When Olympic staff collect a radio we can check our system and assign them the right radio with the correct pre-programming,’ said Shugafi.
Some users will take a radio on a long term basis and will be expected to manage the radio themselves, but they can hand back the radio at the end of a shift to the RDR to get it charged up and have it re-assigned to them the next day.
The Apollo Network has the same security, resilience and resistance to outside interference as the main Airwave network used by the UK emergency services. However, the two networks operate separately to ensure they remain secure and efficient.
The future of the Apollo Network after London 2012 is unclear, although Airwave is investigating various options for its continued use, including using it to enhance the emergency services’ network.