Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue have deployed Peplink routers and access points to integrate satellite and bonded 3G/4G cellular networks within a range of emergency response vehicles, trailers and portable units to ensure reliable network access during incident response.
Covering an area of over 1,000 square miles in South West England, the Service has 22 stations serving a population of approximately 600,000 people. In common with most fire services in the UK, Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue maintains a command vehicle and several deployable units to provide first responders with access to information and communication services to help manage incidents.
These critical ICT systems within command vehicles can range from incident response planning software to accessing detailed digital maps of an area or individual buildings.
Since 2003, computers in the command vehicle have communicated with headquarters and the wider internet using a satellite uplink. However, the satellite system was susceptible to problems if the vehicle was in a location without line-of-sight to the satellite, for example, in dense urban areas with high rise buildings or in certain geographic areas.
Understanding the need for more resilience, the Service was approached by Primetech, the solution provider for the Service, which suggested Peplink as an innovative solution to the topography problem.
Peplink routers and access points allow Ethernet, satellite, DSL, Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G networks to be bonded together forming an aggregated redundant link to increase bandwidth, enhance Internet reliability, and reduce costs.
As Rob Lacey, head of IT, telecoms and resilience for Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service said: “The Pepwave technology has proven incredibly useful and allows us to use the most effective communication method without requiring a complex failover or reconfiguration process – this simplicity is essential when we are attending an incident.”
In its main command vehicle, Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue use a Peplink appliance to manage the connection between two satellite receivers on KA and KU bands and two separate mobile broadband connections from two physically separate providers. The command vehicle can also create a separate Wi-Fi network for other users within civil protection or other blue light agencies.
The Service has also deployed Peplink into trailer and suitcase based solutions, giving flexibility in various scenarios for mobile deployment. “The Peplink technology has been incredibly valuable and has improved the usability and resilience of our information and communication systems,” added Lacey.
Following the successful deployment, Primetech, a Peplink partner has been approached by several other ‘blue light’ organisations. As Henry Walker, MD for Primetech explained: “Resilient and robust solutions that utilise a combination of satellite broadband, 3G/4G and Wi-Fi capabilities are crucial to improving operational stability, particularly where different types of data traffic can be transparently distributed over the most appropriate carrier.”