ASTRID is a specialized telecom operator that provides the development, management and maintenance of a hi-tech mobile radio communications network for voice and data transmission (TETRA). ASTRID’s mission is to provide efficient communications services to Belgium’s emergency and security services. ASTRID is a federal and local council initiative.
Belgian authorities have achieved new levels of efficiency using ASTRID’s network, with radio, telephone and Computer Aided Dispatching (CAD) fully and seamlessly integrated in a single environment.
ASTRID has put an end to traditional communication barriers between the police, firefighters, emergency medical services, and other public or even private safety professionals. Numerous new applications enhance operational efficiency, including data and image transmission, message encryption, GPS and high-volume remote use of databases.
Thanks to the nationwide digital network and control rooms, ASTRID is bringing about a drastic improvement in the communications of emergency and security organizations.
Challenge: one single network for all public safety and security services
From the 1980’s, Belgian emergency and security services became increasingly dissatisfied with their obsolete analogue radio equipment.
The police, for example, experienced poor voice quality. Messages were sometimes partially or even totally incomprehensible, leading to possible compromises in security. Some people would receive radio messages that were not directed at them.
The analogue systems could not consult the authorities’ extensive databases for information on people, vehicles and weapons and they were also prone to unlawful eavesdropping, putting citizens and officers at risk.
During major incidents, each participating service would communicate using different frequencies, making any kind of co-ordination impossible - officers were reduced to using megaphones to communicate or to have several radios for each frequency. The different frequencies were also overloaded, so that only the service with the most powerful transmitters was able to communicate. Clearly, the situation was unacceptable.
In 1998, the Belgian government decided to acquire a shared system for all emergency and security services. The ASTRID company (All-round Semi-cellular Trunked Radio communication network with Integrated Dispatching) operates and maintains the system.
Today, the ASTRID network covers the whole of Belgium. A nationwide paging network complements the radio communication services.
The ASTRID network was sized to give all users maximum resources. The network provides permanent radio contact whatever the radio user’s location.
The network enables communications between police forces of different areas or between police, fire fighters, emergency services, and other organizations, such as energy suppliers and money transport companies. Operational needs are no longer limited by technical possibilities.
As well as providing clear spoken messages, ASTRID also provides wide radio coverage, even in tunnels and some buildings with thick walls.
When a phone call from a citizen in need comes in the control room, the operator sees the address and map details on the screen even before answering the call, as well as the locations of the nearest available patrols.
The result is a faster response and more efficient use of resources.
Facts and figures:
- On an average day in 2008, half a million talks are held via the ASTRID network.
- The radio network has about 500 base stations spread over the country.
- 50,000 radio terminals connected to the network.
- 11 provincial control rooms.