The need for a private mobile network (LTE) is twofold:
- Firstly, it is intended for people working at the offshore wind farms. In the case of the wind farms off the Belgian coast, this easily amounts to 150 employees on a weekday. During the construction of a new wind farm, that number can even rise to 600 people. It is crucial that everyone can communicate easily at sea. For safety reasons, the operator of a wind park is also legally obliged to know where its staff is located at all times. The LTE network helps with that too.
- A second part is that of backup purposes and initial data communication of devices. The installation and service vessels at the wind farms are equipped with office spaces. Satellite connections used to be used as a means of communication, but they are expensive and slow.
- For customers working at sea, ebo acts as a private GSM operator. The LTE network is not visible to other users. At the same time, it has all the characteristics of a mobile network as we know it on land. The user accesses the network via his mobile phone and an LTE router. e-BO has installed the radios for the network at the substations between the wind turbines and the coast, where the transformation of energy also takes place. In this way, the network can cover an entire wind turbine zone.
- With the help of its LTE network, e-BO provides cloud access to the ships present. This way, employees of wind parks can work more smoothly and have more bandwidth at their disposal. For the operators of the parks, the communication costs are lower than those for satellite connections.
- The private LTE connection of e-BO has advantages in terms of latency. A public network achieves 100 milliseconds on an LTE connection, the network of e-BO drops below 35 milliseconds. We can give this guarantee thanks to the way the network is set up: the connection between radio and server happens almost one-on-one.
- LTE is a continuation of 4G. In the second quarter of 2022, e-BO will expand its network: with the installation and go-live of a first mast with 5G layer. e-BO has obtained the right rights for this.
- The set-up of the network is redundant. We work with five base stations, between 30 and 85 kilometres from the coast. If one should fail, the others take over. We have three fibre-optic connections with the mainland: two to Zeebrugge and one to Ostend. This way, we can guarantee our customers that the network is always available.
- Most export cables from the sea come ashore in Zeebrugge. The offshore data centre of e-BO is located in Oostende and is connected to Zeebrugge by fibre optics.
- In our application, receiving equipment is very important. We place antennas for this on a ship, up to 80 centimetres in size. We also place a good router there to guarantee good reception.
The LTE network offers possibilities for various applications: GSM communication, localisation and data communication. In addition to so-called office IT, e-BO also provides leisure IT. For wind farms that are far from the coast, the operators often stay at sea for up to two weeks at a time. With the LTE network from e-BO they can keep their work-life balance. For example, they can stream video via applications such as YouTube and Netflix via the LTE network without any problems.
It is e-BO’s ambition to use our experience with LTE on land as well. Through the rollout of a private 5G network, for example, we can support customers in their transformation to Industry 4.0.