ASTRID, the Belgian TETRA operator for the emergency and security services, has revealed that the number of communications devices connected to its network has recently topped 70,000.
The operator reports that since the first police and fire brigades joined the network in the early years of this millennium, the number of users has grown year on year. Each year, 12 million minutes of radio communications are processed through the ASTRID network.
A total of 70,344 terminals – radios and pagers - are now connected to the ASTRID network. For the emergency services in the field, the radio is a lifeline to their colleagues coordinating an incident, or the means to contact the control room for back-up.
ASTRID radios are used for both voice contact and for transmitting data, for routine tasks or in the case of a large-scale disaster. Pagers are primarily used to notify volunteers for the fire brigades, civil protection, and medical service to report, for example, to a local base or hospital.
Marc De Buyser, CEO of ASTRID, said: “As network operator, ASTRID guarantees the technology and the management of the flow of communications. This enables the police, fire and emergency medical services, and many other rescue services to focus completely on their core tasks: to save lives and ensure a safe environment.”
ASTRID radios are now part of the standard kit for workers throughout the security chain. ASTRID users are first and foremost the traditional emergency and security services such as the local (24,555 radios) and federal (5,057) police, fire brigades (29,519), medical services (2,197), Red Cross (1,180), civil protection (790), Defence (720), customs (616), etc. This group represents 93% of the total number of terminals connected.
Local emergency planning departments and community stewards are increasingly being supplied with ASTRID radios. It is not for nothing that even private companies involved in public security also come knocking at ASTRID’s door to seek access to its network, including security services, hospitals, fire brigades for Seveso industries, utility companies (water, electricity, gas) and airports.
Furthermore, ASTRID’s high-speed data communications (Blue Light Mobile) will play an ever increasing role in the efficient distribution of information in the field. Blue Light Mobile provides emergency services with a cellular Sim, which enables users to roam across all three Belgian mobile operator networks to access 4G broadband services.
Every day the ASTRID radio network processes an average of 57,000 group calls. Each of these calls involves an average of 37 people in contact with each other. That’s equivalent to over 2 million contacts between emergency service providers per day. 6,400 messages are sent via the paging network each day.
Daniel Haché, ASTRID’s Director of External relations, commented: “Radio traffic can peak significantly at local level when there are big events, such as a summer festival, visit by a head of state, or a disaster. ASTRID has proved that its system is more than capable of dealing with these pressure points”.
Significant advantages in the field
ASTRID’s radio network is 100% digital. This guarantees good availability, an optimum quality of communication, and a high level of security. Key functionalities include:
Multi-agency: Teams are able to communicate with each other easily in group calls, to ensure that everyone is kept in the loop. ASTRID has done away with the technical barriers between the various agencies that were a feature of analogue networks. This is a crucial element in the effective collaboration between the emergency and security services.
Speed: It takes just 300 milliseconds to make a radio link – a blink of the eye. Compare that with the several seconds that it takes using a mobile phone.
Availability: The network is reserved for the emergency and security services and therefore avoids saturation even in emergency situations. The quality of the connections is optimal even in very noisy environments.
Data and localisation applications contribute to secure and reliable communications.