Guaranteeing communication coverage in the event of disaster
An EU-funded project that aims to develop a rapidly deployable wireless communication network for use in the aftermath of an emergency, disaster or unexpected event, was commended recently at an international event.
The ABSOLUTE ('Aerial Base Stations with Opportunistic Links for Unexpected & Temporary Events') project received the Best Paper Award at the 5th International Conference on Personal Satellite Services, underlining the potential of this field of research.
ABSOLUTE, which kicked off in October 2012, aims to design and validate a network capable of providing flexible, secure and resilient broadband services. Telecommunication infrastructures play a key role in recovery operations in the aftermath of an emergency. In most cases, however, terrestrial infrastructure cannot guarantee reliable services for citizens and rescue teams, while current public safety networks simply cannot provide sufficient capacity for broadband applications.
This is what ABSOLUTE seeks to address. By using rapidly deployable flexible aerial platforms with embedded 4G EnodeBs (hardware connected to the mobile phone network that communicates directly with mobile handsets), this industry-driven project aims to show that resilient communication networks can be quickly assembled to provide secure and reliable broadband service over areas affected by large-scale unexpected events, such as natural disasters.
Furthermore, the project will demonstrate that this technology presents a viable alternative to terrestrial communication infrastructure, which can be knocked out in the event of disaster. In addition to providing valuable assistance to emergency response units, the innovation has clear applications for major events such as the Olympic Games. ABSOLUTE will also help open the door to the development and further exploitation of new market opportunities in satellite communications.
The system works by integrating various radio technologies to provide heterogeneous communications over a specific area. ABSOLUTE will develop an LTE-A (a mobile communication standard) base station embedded in a low-altitude platform, which will enable broadband services to cover a large area. Portable land mobile base stations will also be deployed, and will be interoperable with conventional public safety networks. Advanced multi-service professional terminals will be developed for first responders, too.
ABSOLUTE, which is receiving EU funding totalling EUR 8 million and will run until September 2015, is being coordinated by Thales Communications & Security, France.