Airwave radio solution for emergency services at Heathrow

About Airwave

The Airwave service uses a technology known as TETRA ‘Terrestrial Trunked Radio’, an ETSI standard digital Private Mobile Radio (PMR) systems which provides communications to keep emergency & public safety teams in touch using portable handheld & fixed vehicle radios.

Airwave works in much the same way as a commercial mobile phone network using transmitters to provide radio coverage across geographic areas of ‘cells’, with users maintaining contact with the transmitters through their radio handsets.

24 hours a day, every day, Airwave’s digital voice and data service is trusted by the emergency service teams, as well as other public safety agencies.

Emergency Services At Heathrow

The nationwide roll-out of the digital Airwave network meant the old analogue radio communication system used by the emergency services would be replaced.

At Heathrow, with its myriad of buildings and infrastructure, it was soon identified that an airport wide communication system would need careful planning to achieve the required operational criteria.

To ensure that their needs would be met, the customer was in close dialogue with Airwave as the new network was being created. This early involvement meant Airwave soon concluded they would need a company with specialist knowledge and experience of TETRA technology to deliver their customers needs at Heathrow Airport.

Based on their long established working partnership on TETRA networks, Airwave’s natural choice was affini.

Coverage Far & Wide

Airport coverage requirements were specified and this turned out to be almost everywhere!

As affini was responsible for designing the system, it was down to them to satisfy the customer that all the airside, landside, public & private areas had the coverage required. In fact, coverage was so important that the customer wanted to independently test the system. This was completed during the final commissioning phase to ensure it met their requirements.

A Challenging Environment

The network was designed to ensure that users have instant communication, even in remote areas & within the confined spaces of the building and tunnels
where radio coverage has often failed in the past. To make this a reality, required affini’s in-depth skills and expertise in design, to create and construct the wireless infrastructure to bring the network to life.

Due to the size of the airport, this was no minor undertaking. The network’s comprehensive indoor and outdoor coverage is now operational in the following areas:

INDOOR COVERAGE:

  • All airport terminals
  • Public car parks
  • Pedestrian subways linking the terminals
  • Airside road tunnels under the runway
  • M4 spur road tunnel

OUTFOOR COVEREAGE:

  • One rooftop macro cell inside the airport
  • Seamless external coverage from neighbouring TETRA cells outside the airport boundaries

Summary

The TETRA system at Heathrow is now fully operational and is the biggest indoor solution in the Airwave network. affini continues to manage and maintains the network.

Throughout the implementation they have been responsive and easy to work with… we have now awarded affini the maintenance contract to ensure their comprehensive coverage is maintained, providing users with the highest levels of availability throughout the airport.
Martin Benke, Operations Director, Airwave