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North Sea: World’s First Offshore LTE Network

3/30/2013 6:11:00 PM

Background

Tampnet is an authorized telecommunications operator in Norway that provides high-bandwidth communications service in the oil and gas exploration industry in the North Sea. The company owns most of the submarine optical cables and microwave networks in the area and leases bandwidth to drilling platforms. Tampnet provides services for a large number of customers, including such oil giants as Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, and Statoil. Tampnet has also extended its presence to Norway, UK, and Australia. Nearly 68% of the oil drilling platforms in the North Sea area connect to Tampnet’s communications networks.

Challenges

In recent years, offshore oil exploration has grown in popularity worldwide. Most offshore oil exploration work is completed using research and exploration vessels, with exploration usually taking 3 to 4 months. To cut labor costs, oil companies increasingly encourage integrated operation practices, based on more offshore personnel completing their work onshore. In addition, oil companies need to improve Operation and Maintenance (O&M) efficiency.

Data transmission and voice communications between oil drilling platforms and Float Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) facilities, and those between FPSO and oil tankers, are offshore communications service bottlenecks. Tampnet used microwave for communications between oil drilling platforms and FPSO and installed expensive antenna stabilization systems on the swinging FPSOs to ensure normal communications.

Voice communications and data transmission between FPSO and oil tankers are still Tampnet’s pain points. Traditional communications systems use satellite for remote voice communications and helicopters to transport data on hard disks — which is both inefficient and costly.

To meet sustainable service development requirements and reduce communication system O&M costs, Tampnet began development of a wireless communication system that can cover all their oil drilling platforms in the North Sea. Tampnet used its onshore technical experience in developing broadband applications to create an end-to-end, high-speed data transmission system. The seamless system covers drilling platforms, FPSOs, tankers, and onshore communications stations to provide voice communications, data transmission, and video services. The system was also designed to provide voice communications and data transmission services for passing vessels, bringing new service growth points. The wireless offshore communications services will become Tampnet’s new profit center that can be copied to other areas.

To ensure normal operation, the system must meet high requirements:

  • Device security: Offshore oil exploration has risks that bring significant requirements for device security. For example, devices must be authenticated by Atmosphere Explosive (ATEX) standards
  • Coverage area: The project covered a large area in harsh environments, such as strong winds and long-distance transmission. Tampnet needed an advanced wireless communications system that could support signal transmission distances of 12.5 miles to 31 miles (20 km to 50 km) to cover all platforms, tankers, and FPSOs in the North Sea
  • Data transmission quality: Production data transmission and service-associated voice communications required high system reliability and minimal transmission delay

The project presented the following challenges:

  • Insufficient device installation space on drilling platforms
  • Extreme weather and strong seas
  • Outdoor Customer Premises Equipment (CPE)
  • Limited available radio frequencies
  • Radio interference
  • Short construction period
  • Large-scale custom services

Solution

To meet Tampnet’s service requirements, Huawei provided a state-of-the-art offshore LTE wireless communications solution.

Technical advantages

Macro, micro, and distributed base-stations for Tampnet simplified device transportation and installation. The solution uses Huawei’s feature-rich DBS3900 in BBU + RRU mode, adopting advanced wireless communications technologies, such as Mobile International Network Operator (MINO), high-gain antennas, and Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) terminals with external antennas to optimize Maximum Allowable Path Loss (MAPL) and enlarge the coverage area.    

Explosion-proof design

Oil exploration requires expensive explosion-proof devices. Huawei developed an advanced explosion-proof mechanism to fully meet Tampnet’s requirements. Drilling platforms typically use a Zone 2 explosion-proof partition that is designed based on coverage area, wind speed, resource type, and pressure. The solution uses Remote Radio Units (RRUs) in the explosion proof room and outdoor CPEs and satellite Outdoor Units (ODUs) under fairings.

Dedicated radio frequency

The uses the 900 MHz and 1,800 MHz radio frequencies and Tampnet is applying for the 800 MHz frequency, which enables DD800M high-speed data transmission within 25 miles (40 km).

To maximize Tampnet’s Return On Investment (ROI), CNs were deployed on the shore and wireless base-stations and drilling platforms in BBU + RRU mode. Huawei used CPEs to enhance the signal coverage and adopted microwave as the back-up transmission system.

Benefits

This is the world’s first application of offshore LTE communications technology. Huawei’s solution provides:

  • A network with 1 Mbit/s upstream and 2 Mbit/s downstream data transmission
  • Voice communications and data transmission between drilling platforms and FPSOs, tankers, and onshore stations within 23 miles (37 km).
  • An advanced network design that supports service expansion, including video surveillance data uploading and wireless cluster services

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