Vodafone Netherlands helped the 2.5 million people who attended the 40th anniversary SAIL Amsterdam event last week enjoy full and reliable 4G coverage thanks to what we believe is the world’s first floating base station.

SAIL Amsterdam is the largest public event in the Netherlands and the largest free nautical event in the world. It occurs every five years, with over 600 ships from all over the world travelling along the North Sea Canal before mooring in and around the IJ-haven in Amsterdam. It is a spectacular event drawing huge crowds, and as such, a great opportunity to try to do something new and exciting with our network.

Our network needed extra capacity so that our customers could keep on calling, texting and sharing photos of the 44 class-A tall ships and thousands of smaller craft during the event. Extending 4G coverage across the harbour area was particularly challenging because of the density of crowds.

We worked with our local event coverage partner AAA, Ericsson and our main backhaul vendor SIAE Microelettronica (in partnership with Tarana Wireless) roll a cell-on-wheels truck onto a utility craft that sailed around the harbour throughout the event.

The mobile base station was equipped with a 360 degree swivelling transmission link - a feature never tried before - to seamlessly transport all communication traffic from the mast to the regular network.

Innovative use

This was also an innovative use of Tarana’s Non-Line-of-Sight (NLOS) transmission on our network. Normally, mobile antennas need to be carefully and very precisely aligned in order to establish and maintain connections. Even small misalignments will result in decreased performance, or even a complete loss of the link. With NLOS equipment, the inevitable movements experienced by the antenna as the ship rocked were not an obstacle.

The mast transmitted 4G coverage using 1800 MHz spectrum meaning there was high capacity over a relatively small distance. Since the boat was close to the users, it was an ideal vessel (no pun intended) to provide a great service.

This was a good test of how this technology could contribute to enhancing our regular mobile network performance and we found that it delivered 50% additional network capacity on and alongside the Amsterdam waters.

Watch a video about our sailing base station:

Matthias Sauder has been Vodafone Netherlands' head of networks since 2012. In the 22 years he has worked for Vodafone he has been responsible for projects including the introduction of 4G by Vodafone Germany and the transformation of the Vodafone Netherlands network.

Matthias Sauder has been Vodafone Netherlands' head of networks since 2012. In the 22 years he has worked for Vodafone he has been responsible for projects including the introduction of 4G by Vodafone Germany and the transformation of the Vodafone Netherlands network.