Up to seven times more radio traffic on the ASTRID network when world leaders gathered to commemorate the WWI centenary in West Flanders.

ASTRID, the Belgian TETRA network operator for emergency and security services, registered significant peaks in radio traffic during the WWI commemorative ceremonies that were held last Tuesday (28th October 2014) in West Flanders. The special security measures generated significantly more radio traffic than normal during the two commemorative events in West Flanders (Nieuport and Ypres). Public safety radio communications are absolutely essential during such large-scale events.

Securing VIPs from 83 countries 

Many events are being staged throughout Europe to commemorate the start of the First World War. In Belgium, several remembrance ceremonies have already taken place in a number of cities throughout the country.The commemorations that were held last Tuesday in smaller coastal towns once again represented a major challenge for the police and emergency services. The presence of numerous members of the royal family, world leaders and high representatives (including Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, Dutch Princess Beatrix, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Moroccan Princess Lalla Meryem, Australian Minister Scott Morrison and Sir Timothy Laurence representing Great Britain) meant that special security measures were absolutely imperative.

Teams 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. The provincial control room and the crisis and command centres were veritable beehives of activity. Management of the events by all of these components of the security system generated far more radio traffic on the ASTRID network than on a normal day.

More radio traffic on ten ASTRID base stations

The ASTRID systems played their supporting role in a flawless manner. Radio communications went off without a hitch, despite a massive increase in radio communication on ten base stations in the region. 

Understandably, the base stations covering the two commemorative events processed the most traffic: up to five times more communication than that of a normal day in Nieuport and up to seven times more than a typical day in Ypres. 

With delegations being escorted from the first ceremony at the King Albert I Memorial in Nieuport to the town of Ypres 40 km further south, the ASTRID network clearly registered the corresponding communication peaks. On some eight ASTRID-base stations covering the region in between both locations, peaks in radio communication were measured. When VIPs gathered at the Menin Gate in Ypres for the second ceremony, another peak was registered between 16.00 and 20.00.

In March this year, the Obama visit to the Flanders Field American cemetery in the same region represented a good test for large scale communications on the ASTRID network.

Radio location for better communications

In the provincial control room an interactive map tracks 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. 

The Ypres Police chief Georges Aeck commented: “The localisation of TETRA radios was really exceptional and had a positive effect on operations. The command and control room did not have to request teams to update their positions. All of the teams were visible in real time on large screens. As far as the ASTRID radio communications is concerned, everything worked smoothly. ASTRID offers a huge advantage for the operational coordination of large-scale events”.     

Event preparations

ASTRID prepared the events in consultation with the organising bodies. Coverage and capacity measurements were performed in the preceding weeks. At the request of the local security forces, ASTRID added one extra temporary carrier on one Nieuport base station as both a preventive measure and for better user comfort. Meanwhile, a permanent carrier was added on the Ostend base station. This was due to medical services being kept on standby at the local airport during the commemorative ceremonies and because many other events will be organised in Ostend in the future. 

Effective fleet mapping 

Co-ordination between motorcyclists, foot teams, mounted police units, helicopters, vehicles, command centres and provincial control rooms requires structured radio communication. For events of this size, good radio discipline is an absolutely necessity: avoiding individual calls and scanning, using DMO on short distances, keeping the PTT button pressed, keeping calls short and to the point.

The ASTRID radio network is able to handle large communication peaks. Day after day, ASTRID systematically monitors the network traffic in order to identify and address any problems in good time, so that the capacity can continue to meet the needs of the radio users in the field. The ASTRID radio network currently has around 520 base stations located throughout the Belgian territory.

Frederik Langhendries 
Mobile +32 (0) 496/59 57 14
Email fred.lang@astrid.be

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