Festival goers who braved the crowds at Glastonbury can thank Orange's portable basestations for giving them the opportunity to tell friends where to find them in the throng.
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Orange used the latest mobile digital technology to meet festival-goers' growing desire to send video and sound clips from their mobile phones to friends and family.
This was Orange's 10th year supplying mobile coverage to the 900 acre site, said Tim Smith, Orange's director for network design and delivery. Smith said the now-honed operation was equivalent to supplying a town the size and population of Norwich with saturation mobile telephony within a week.
To carry calls from around 150,000 people per day, Orange deployed five mobile base stations that delivered 2G and 3G mobile services. The 2G service allowed up to 2,700 simultaneous conversations, while the 3G service provided bandwidth of 7.2Mbps using a combination of HSPDA and HSPUA high-speed network access and uplink protocols respectively. To increase the network's capacity further, Orange used a technique called half-rate coding, which doubles the number of possible simultanenous conversations at the expense of audio quality.
A single 3G user could have direct access to about 6Mbps, but in practice users received around 1Mbps, Smith said. This provided enough capacity for music lovers to send digital messages, pictures and sound clips from the gigs to friends elsewhere.
Smith said spectrum management on the site was especially tricky because it had to fit in with the surrounding ambient coverage as well as respond to changing demand patterns as the crowd moved around.
Orange had a team on duty around the clock to tune the network to ensure that callers had an optimum service without interfering with surrounding coverage.
Smith said Orange had bought a national licence to 32Mbytes of microwave spectrum earlier this year. This allowed it to set up direct links back to its core network. "This made it much easier to provide a fast reliable service without interfering with local coverage," he said.
Orange was using this spectrum to service other music festivals and events. It could also deploy it to help provide fast mobile coverage to large scale emergencies, Smith said.
"Glastonbury and other music festivals such as V and the Isle of Wight have given us a good understanding of what it takes to provide fast temporary coverage to relatively large areas," Smith said.