Orange, Eurotunnel, and Alcatel-Lucent Orange have set up 2G and 3G coverage in the Channel Tunnel which will allow Orange customers to call and surf the internet when they travel to Great Britain.
The new service, included in Orange’s offers in France, will allow all customers of the Shuttle, Eurostar and Freight service (travellers as well as drivers and passengers of cars, trucks and buses) to surf the net on their tablets, PCs or smartphones and make calls from 100 metres beneath the sea for the entire duration of the Calais to Folkestone crossing (about 30 minutes over a distance of 53 kilometres). Orange customers from outside of France will also be able to use the service subject to standard roaming charges.
“Giving our customers the best possible service is our number one priority, which is why we were immediately interested in Orange in Eurotunnel’s proposal to provide 2G and 3G coverage in the Channel Tunnel. We are proud to have taken part in a project as ambitious as this, both in terms of schedule and in terms of the conditions for its execution as well as the technological challenges to be met. For the network to be up and running at the same time as the 2012 Olympic Games required great commitment by Orange's technical teams,” commented Jean-Luc Vuillemin, Technical Director, Networks and Services.
A national and regional project team of some 50 associates with regulatory, legal and technical backgrounds, radio engineers, transmission experts and radio frequency specialists, led by a national coordinator was quickly formed within the Group to turn this technological feat into reality within only 10 months.
A special regulatory framework had to be set up for this first of a kind project with the agreement of both French (Arcep and ANFR) and British (Ofcom) regulators.
From a technical standpoint, the solution adopted by all of the parties involved the deployment of a broadcast cable the entire length of South tunnel (France to England leg) and the installation of 72 optical repeaters by Alcatel-Lucent. To operate this system, Orange’s role was to deploy a 2G/3G base station on either end of the tunnel, one at the French entrance and the other at the English exit (once again requiring special permits from the British regulators).
Detailed studies and a certain number of adaptations were required to connect the base stations to the “terrestrial” network for voice and data routing. For example, a specific transmission collection set-up was developed and the base stations required a particular design and parameterisation. In addition, the maintenance teams received special training to guarantee network and service quality for this atypical installation.
Orange is not stopping at the Channel Tunnel to provide end-to-end service quality and continuity to its customers, and has also launched a stepped-up coverage plan for the Paris-Lille-Calais TGV line. Travellers will thus be able to connect to Orange's 3G network whenever they want from Paris to the English side of the Channel Tunnel (a 2-hour trip on more than 400 kilometres of rail).