Powering the UK’s emergency services with EE

EE, part of the BT Group, is one of the largest and most advanced digital communications company in Britain, delivering mobile and fixed communications services nationwide. In December 2015, The Home Office awarded EE, the contract to provide an IP enhanced Emergency Service Network (ESN) based on EE’s LTE network. Under the terms of the contract, EE need to provide an enhanced 4G network for the UK’s blue light services.

The Challenge

The ESN network allows fire, police, and ambulance workers to benefit from a range of advanced communication. Replacing the existing Airwave network, EE needed to upgrade over 1,000 base stations both primary and resilient sites across the 12 UK regions starting in the North West of England and finishing with the South East. The ESN network needs to support over 300,000 users and over 35,000 vehicles have to be fitted with new in-car systems. The network needs to allow emergency services to access an increasing range of voice, data and video services (based on the 3GPP Mission Critical LTE standard) which include priority calls, enhanced security, mobile push-to-talk, VoLTE and video over LTE.

EE required a “carrier grade” Cellular Backhaul solution, capable of meeting stringent security and operational controls required by the UK Government. The network needed to provide full coverage, even in rural areas, support rapid deployment, be highly resilient and reliable.

The Solution

EE partnered with Avanti Communications to provide Satellite Cellular Backhaul to over 1,000 fixed and portable base stations across the UK. Avanti’s high quality, secure and resilient Ka-band satellite connectivity offered the ultra-reliable network EE required. Avanti’s High-Throughput Satellite (HTS) technology offers flexibility, rapid deployment and competitive pricing per Mbps.

EE accesses bandwidth from Avanti’s HYLAS 2 and HYLAS 4 Ka-band satellites, which cover 100% of the UK and connect all EE LTE sites across the country.

Avanti chose Gilat hubs and modems to deliver high speed and ultra-resilient connectivity seamlessly to all Huawei and Nokia eNodeB LTE base stations.

The Results

The new satellite service helps EE reach more remote and rural areas of the country, whilst simultaneously boosting the resilience of the network

EE planned to reach 95% UK geographic 4G coverage by 2020 and uses Avanti’s HYLAS 2 and HYLAS 4 satellites to connect cellular sites across the UK, with the flexibility to double the Ka-band capacity.

 

“If you had a transmission outage on a site that had some form of fixed connectivity, that transmission outage could last weeks, but with satellite, you can bring it online in a matter of hours”

“Satellite has probably become a much bigger part than we originally anticipated.”

“We are using it to help us deploy quickly in terms of fixed infrastructure. We are using it to help us provide resilience into that infrastructure. We are also using it provide really critical in-life mitigation measures when we have outages and so forth. If you had a transmission outage on a site that had some form of fixed connectivity, that transmission outage could last weeks, but with satellite, you can bring it online in a matter of hours. 

The performance, reliability and versatility we get from satellite is really key for us. It has been part of our design and rollout of our network and how we actually operate the network in life.

Richard Harrap,
Managing Director of Emergency Services Network, EE, Via Satellite, November 2020

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