Tetra | 2019-10-03

ASTRID Continues to Invest in TETRA and Improves Radio Coverage in Belgium

Source: The Critical Communications Review | Gert Jan Wolf editor

To further improve radio coverage on the public safety communications network in Belgium, ASTRID is building 29 new masts, the so-called "Block 5". These masts are an answer to the most important coverage requests from users on the ASTRID network. 

The most recent ASTRID business plan provides budget to tackle a number of known radio coverage problems. In addition to a number of indoor installations, this so-called “Block 5” also includes 29 new masts.

As ASTRID is a government organization you might think it is easy for ASTRID to find new locations and obtain permits to build new radio masts, however that is not alway the case.....

Radio coverage challegens are often related to user complaints. When and ASTRID end-users identifies a coverage problem, the Field Intervention Team (FIT) goes on site. If the measurements from the FIT confirm the coverage problem, the organization can pass on a complaint to the Advisory Committee of Users. The user committee then determines the priority of the coverage problem, based on a number of agreed criteria. The most important problems are included in Block 5.

In search for locations
Building a new mast is not an asy undertaking, explains ASTRID advisor Olivier Peraux. A site must meet many criteria to be suitable. The owner of the site must then agree, then the environmental permit and the building permit must be applied for and only then the construction of the site can begin.

"We always look for a public building or site first, or try to share a mast with another provider. The latter is the case in the community of Hélécine and Belle Croix. In other places we can use municipal or provincial property. In Bersillies-l'Abbaye we can use the roof of the church. Not only the location of a location plays a role. It is also important that there is a line of sight between the new mast and at least two other ASTRID masts. Furthermore, the site must also meet a number of requirements, there must be suitable electricity lines nearby, and so on."

During the search to the perfect location, many obstacles can arise in the process.

"Once we have found a suitable place, anything can happen. Sometimes we do not reach an agreement with the owner or we are unable to arrange electricity supply. At one of the locations, a NATO pipeline appears to be close to one of the masts, for which we need extra permission. Near another location a mill has just been restored. In the town of Brûly, the local situation has changed: the coverage problem had to improve communication around a national road, but in the meantime a motorway has been planned in the region, which will cause traffic flows to shift. Then we have to work with the users to see if their needs have changed."

Building a new radio tower costs on average around € 250,000. ASTRID therefore continues to invest in the TETRA radio network to ensure continuity until a switch can be made to a new technology.