The World's First Offshore LTE-Based Network– Norwegian North Sea LTE Wireless Coverage Case Study
Headquartered in Stavenger, Tampnet is a telecommunications operator in Norway providing leased high-bandwidth communications service to the oil and gas exploration industry in Norway's North Sea area, including oil giants such as Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, and Statoil. Connecting nearly 68% of the oil drilling platforms in the North Sea area, the company owns a majority of the submarine optical cables and microwave networks in the area. Tampnet's global presence extends to Norway, the UK, and Australia.
In recent years, offshore oil research activities have adopted "Integrated Operation" practices to better manage the costs of Operation and Maintenance (O&M). Over a typical three to four month offshore exploration cycle, many former offshore activities are increasingly being completed in centralized onshore facilities.
Offshore data transmission and voice communication bottlenecks are historically common between oil drilling platforms, Float Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) facilities, as well as oil tankers. In their North Sea locations, Tampnet had previously employed microwave communication systems, including the installation of expensive antenna stabilization mechanics on the swinging FPSOs to facilitate more reliable communications.
Traditional communication systems have also used satellite for remote voice communications and helicopters to transport data on hard disks, which is both inefficient and costly.
Tampnet began development of a wireless communication system to meet sustainable service development requirements as well as to reduce communication system O&M costs throughout the North Sea area. Tampnet used its onshore technical experience to specify the requirements for building an end-to-end broadband data transmission system. An integrated application solution now seamlessly covers all oil drilling platforms, FPSOs, oil tankers, and onshore communication stations to provide voice, data, and video services. The wireless offshore communications services, once successfully put into commercial use, will become Tampnet's new profit mode that can be easily replicated across other offshore industries.
The Tampnet system is required to ensure highly reliable operations in the following areas:
• Device security: Offshore oil exploration devices must meet all applicable Atmosphere Explosive (ATEX) standards.
• Coverage area: Covering a large geographic area in the harshest of marine environments, Tampnet needed an advanced wireless communications system that could support signal transmission distances of 20 to 50 km to all drilling platforms, tankers, and FPSOs throughout the North Sea area.
• Data transmission quality: Production data transmission and service-associated voice communications required high system reliability and minimal transmission delay.
The project, in addition to its high technical requirements, presented the following challenges:
• Limited device installation real estate on oil drilling platforms.
• Extreme wind, weather, and strong sea waves.
• Ruggedized Customer Premises Equipment (CPE).
• Limited radio frequency resources.
• Radio interference rejection.
• Fast deployment.
• Large-scale custom services.
Huawei met Tampnet's service requirements by providing a state-of-the-art offshore LTE wireless communications solution with the following features:
The Huawei DBS3900, in BBU+RRU mode, was installed. In addition to simplified device transportation and installation, the feature-rich DBS3900 enabled the deployment of macro, micro, and distributed base-stations incorporating advanced wireless communications technologies, such as Mobile International Network Operator (MINO), and employing CPE terminals with external high-gain antennas for Maximum Allowable Path Loss (MAPL) over the largest coverage area.
• Explosion-Proof Design
Oil exploration and production require expensive explosion-proof devices. After detailed, in-depth analysis, Huawei developed an advanced explosion-proof mechanism that fully met Tampnet's requirements. Drilling platforms typically use a Zone 2 explosion-proof partition, whose design is based on coverage area, wind speed, resource type, and pressure. The Huawei solution deployed Remote Radio Units (RRUs) in the explosion-proof room, and installed outdoor CPEs and satellite communications system Outdoor Units (ODUs) under fairings.
• Dedicated Radio Frequency
The pilot phase now underway uses the 900 and 1800 MHz radio frequencies. Additionally, Tampnet has applied for the 800 MHz frequency, to enable DD800M high-speed data transmission with a 40 kilometer range.
Tampnet's maximum Return On Investment (ROI) solution was structured to deploy carrier networks on shore, and wireless communications base-stations on oil drilling platforms in BBU+RRU mode. Huawei used CPEs to enhance the signal coverage and adopted microwave as a back-up transmission system.
This project is the world's first application of offshore LTE communications technologies, laying a solid foundation for Tampnet's future service expansion in offshore energy exploration. Huawei's solution provides a network that features 2 Mbit/s downstream data transmission and 1 Mbit/s upstream. The system enables voice communications and data transmission between oil drilling platforms and FPSOs, oil tankers, and onshore stations within 37 kilometers. The advanced network design also supports service expansion, including video surveillance data uploading and wireless cluster services.