Passengers traveling to the United Kingdom on the Shuttle or on the Eurostar train, will now be able to use their mobile phone when they pass through the Channel Tunnel. This technological feat has been made possible in record time by Alcatel-Lucent working with French operators Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and the Eurotunnel teams.
Just days before the opening ceremony of the Olympic games in London, Eurotunnel has announced the successful deployment of mobile phone services in the Channel Tunnel. The cutting edge technology was developed in record time and many technological challenges had to be solved for a successful deployment.
As a result, passengers – professional or tourists – will now be able to use their mobile phones and access entertainment and information services while they are traveling in the Channel Tunnel. The tunnel is 53 kilometers long and it takes approximately 35 minutes to pass through the Tunnel from one side to the other.
The various challenges
The channel tunnel is 100 meters below sea level, which presents many technical challenges if you want to offer voice and data mobile phone service to the 20 million passengers who use the Tunnel every year. A complex technical project was carried out in under 10 months which is an extremely short timeframe for such a project. And it involved difficult working conditions as traffic had to continue throughout the installation.
What’s more, the confined environment meant respecting strict standards on the various elements of the GSM-P solution. We had to conform with safety standards concerning the use of next-generation radiating cables, in particular those concerning smoke and fire.
Adding to the complexity are the constraints concerning the transmission of radio signals which turned out to be very complicated. Not only do the trains occupy a large part of the tunnel when they pass through it but they also act as a sort of (isolating) ‘Faraday cage’ which means that the radio signal is weaker on the inside of the train.
As a result the radio signal needed to be treated in a very specific way to obtain a good level of transmission quality, in particular inside the Shuttles. In the end, Alcatel-Lucent came up with a new solution to ensure that the various radio signals could be effective in the tunnel. The solution uses GSM-R, GSM-P and a system used by the Fire service.
After months 10 months of hard work and perseverance the end result met all expectations. Alcatel-Lucent met all its commitments and the pre-launch tests clearly demonstrated that the system delivered a good level of service from one end of the Tunnel to the other.
Jacques Gounon, Chairman and CEO of Eurotunnel stated, “Eurotunnel is proud to be able to regularly improve the services we offer to our customers through major technical innovation based on the expertise of Alcatel-Lucent. We are particularly proud to be able to offer new communication services onboard the trains.”
Pascal Homsy, Chairman and CEO of Alcatel-Lucent France said, “As a result of the collaboration with Eurotunnel, and which has used many of the different technical skills we have at Alcatel-Lucent, we are very proud to have contributed to the provision of new communication services onboard the trains in the Channel Tunnel.”
Thanks to the GSM deployed by Alcatel-Lucent, the French Operators Orange, SFR and Bouygues Telecom will now be able to offer their customers uninterrupted GSM and 3G service South Rail Tunnel (from France to the UK). The north side will be covered by the British operators after the Olympic Games.
Read the press release (PDF)