Vodafone deploys floating base station for SAIL Amsterdam event

Vodafone Netherlands harnesses non-line of sight wireless backhaul technology from Tarana Wireless to help deliver connectivity from a ship to spectators in the harbour

Vodafone deploys floating base station for SAIL Amsterdam event

Vodafone Netherlands set up a floating base station on board a vessel in Amsterdam harbour to provide extra 4G coverage to the 2.5 million people who attended the 40th anniversary SAIL Amsterdam event last week.

SAIL Amsterdam is the largest public event in the Netherlands and the largest free nautical event in the world. It occurs every five years, with over 600 ships from all over the world travelling along the North Sea Canal before mooring in and around the IJ-haven in Amsterdam.

Matthias Sauder, chief network officer at Vodafone Netherlands, explained in a blog today (26 August 2015) that the network needed extra capacity so that its customers could keep on calling, texting and sharing photos of the 44 class-A tall ships and thousands of smaller craft during the event. He noted that extending 4G coverage across the harbour area was particularly challenging because of the density of crowds.

Vodafone’s solution was to create the floating base station. It worked with its local event coverage partner AAA, Ericsson and main backhaul vendor SIAE Microelettronica (in partnership with Tarana Wireless) to roll a cell-on-wheels truck onto a utility craft that sailed around the harbour throughout the event.

The mobile base station was equipped with a 360 degree swivelling transmission link – a feature never tried before according to Sauder – to seamlessly transport all communication traffic from the mast to the regular network.

The solution also made use of US firm Tarana Wireless’ non-line-of-sight (NLOS) transmission on its network. Sauder pointed out that normally, mobile antennas need to be carefully and very precisely aligned in order to establish and maintain connections.

Even small misalignments will result in decreased performance, or even a complete loss of the link, he said. Here the advantages of NLOS equipment, which adapts the radio signals in real time to meet changing conditions, came into play to ensure that the inevitable movements experienced by the antenna as the ship rocked were not an obstacle.

Sauder said: ‘The mast transmitted 4G coverage using 1800 MHz spectrum meaning there was high capacity over a relatively small distance. Since the boat was close to the users, it was an ideal vessel (no pun intended) to provide a great service.’

He added: ‘This was a good test of how this technology could contribute to enhancing our regular mobile network performance and we found that it delivered 50% additional network capacity on and alongside the Amsterdam waters.

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