Public Safety Radio Network encounters Capacity Challenges during Brussels Bombings 29-03-2016
During last week bombings, ASTRID, the Belgian Public Safety TETRA network encountered a huge increase of traffic which resulted in a temporarily capacity problem.
ASTRID, the TETRA radio communications network in Belgium, used by the security forces, has not functioned as desired, after the attacks of last week Tuesday, several media announced. Also the GSM network was down and therefore in some cases WhatsApp had to be used by the security forces.
Commissioner General Catherine De Bolle has requested an investigation. Several media mentioned that for many hours the system would not have worked. Therefore, the rescue operations of the police at the airport were much more difficult and more chaotic than it should be. Spokesman Peter Dewaele of the federal police admits that some things did not run as planned.
"After analyzing the situation, Astrid requested all user organizations to sit around the table in order to examine the communication after the attacks of 22 March. Meanwhile, concrete action and specific recommendations were specified,"
According to ASTRID, the exceptional nature of the emergency caused that some masts of the radio network could not be reached for a short period of time, because of the enormous increased traffic. Therefore communication was not possible, Astrid announced.
"From across the country emergency and security services were asked to provide assistance, which led to an extraordinary radio traffic. On specific requests of many of these organizations Astrid registered hundreds of extra radios to the network. Also the failure commercial mobile phone networks has led to a significant increase in radio traffic."
"Not flat, or capacity"
Astrid points out that the control rooms/emergency centers were particularly busy in Brussels and Flemish Brabant, but they continue to function properly. Also the alarm system for calling the volunteer fire brigade received extra traffic, but the system worked without any problem. Astrid also installed a mobile-transmission tower in order to strengthen the radio network in the Brussels area.
On a nationwide level, the radio network was still operational, but especially in the Brussels region there were severe capacity challenges," Astrid notes. "Shortly after the attacks the nearby Astrid masts reached their maximum output, which resulted in difficult communication during some crucial hours. Some users had no access to their talk groups."
"On Friday March 25th we discussed the situation with the End User Advisory Committee. Concrete action points and recommendations for the use of the radio network and training were determined," concludes Astrid.