ASTRID, the Belgian TETRA network operator for emergency and security services, registered significant peaks in radio traffic during the Great War commemorations that were held last Monday (4 August 2014). Because of the scope of the security organisations deployed, there was more than double the usual radio traffic on over twenty ASTRID base stations in Liège, Leuven and Mons.
The commemorations created a major challenge for the police and all the other emergency and security services. The presence of numerous royals (Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, Prince William and Duchess Kate, Prince Harry, King Felipe VI of Spain), government leaders, ministers and high representatives made exceptional security measures necessary.
Hundreds of agents of the local and federal police, defence, staff from town and province councils, the fire brigades, the civil defence, the medical services, national and international security personnel were deployed.
ASTRID reports that its systems behaved ‘flawlessly’. Police radio communications went without a hitch, despite a doubling of communications on 10 base stations in the Liège area, on nine base stations in Mons and on two base stations in the centre of Leuven.
On the air-ground-air base station in Liège, which is reserved for helicopter communications, there was nine times more radio traffic than normal generated. The base station of Lantin (Liège) processed up to 105% more communication than on a normal day.
ASTRID registered a traffic peak of 2,000 minutes of communication between 3pm and 4pm on the base stations in Liège and a peak of 800 minutes of traffic between 5pm and 6pm on the base stations in Mons.
With each movement of the delegations from one site to another, the ASTRID network clearly registered the corresponding communication peaks. For example, on the base stations in the centre of Mons there was a substantial increase in the radio traffic at 4pm, just prior to the arrival of members of the British royal family, and this continued until 8pm.
In the three provincial control rooms (provincial CIC in Mons, Liège and Leuven) dealing with the communications, an interactive map tracked the movements of field agents in real time. The position of the teams is determined via the GPS built into their ASTRID radios, and they can be dispatched in another direction at any moment. The helicopters transmit live video images, so that the teams can react immediately.
ASTRID prepared the events in consultation with the organising bodies. Coverage and capacity measurements were undertaken in the preceding weeks. ASTRID arranged for a temporary strengthening of the capacity with one carrier added on the base station in Cointe (Liège), which covers the Inter-Allied Memorial.
A mobile base station (MTU lorry) was also set up near the St Symphorien cemetery. Finally, a reinforced on-call technical team was also put together to handle any incident.
Daniel Haché, director external relations at ASTRID, said: “As has already been frequently demonstrated at large-scale events, TETRA proves its added value in critical situations. Despite an exceptional network load, the infrastructure was able to handle the traffic peaks thanks to constant network monitoring, but above all thanks to the excellent cooperation between all the security services.”
Thierry Brasseur, liaison officer for the governor of the province of Liège in charge of public order, added: “Fortunately we registered zero incidents on the memorial day, so the interventions of the police forces remained limited. As far as the ASTRID communication is concerned, everything worked perfectly. ASTRID offers a huge advantage for the operational coordination of large-scale events. Our teams strictly observed the radio fleet map.”