Fairytales are real: mobile phone services at sea

The mobile phone signal has traveled thousands of kilometers to accompany fishermen in their long journeys and soldiers to ease their homesickness.

Mobile phone signal covers more than 3,000 kilometers of areas near the coast

“5 to 7 years ago, whenever we wanted to call home, we had to climb to the watch tower and waited for our turn. It took months for newspapers and letters to reach us and we could call home after every 3 months, Nguyen Van Hung, a soldier on Truong Sa island recalls.

“It’s different now as we can use mobile phones to call home using Viettel services. Our homesickness has eased significantly and we no longer have to long for news from home every day, every month, says Hung.

Fishing trips often last for months. Fishermen are lonely and small in the middle of the immense ocean with only sun, wind and waves. The only devices that maintain connection with the mainland are the intermittent radio and the rusty Icom. Thanks to mobile phone signal on the sea, the distance between the mainland and the fishermen has been narrowed.

From afar, soldiers and fishermen can call home and receive weather updates with their mobile phones. This is thanks to Viettel’s coastal, island and platform BTS with a transmission range of 60-100km.

Measurements in May 2011 indicated that Viettel’s mobile phone signal covered more than 3,000 kilometers of the areas near Vietnam’s coast. Coastal BTS have been upgraded applying long-range coverage technology. In addition, appropriate locations have helped to increase the transmission range to 2-3 times than those designs using GSM technology.

Viettel has developed a network of more than 1,400 BTS along the 3,200 km-long coast and offshore, serving approximately 7 million subscribers. Viettel is the only network operator in Vietnam that can cover seas, islands and platforms with a transmission range of 60-100km. This system brings communication opportunities to 2 million people working on Vietnamese seas, 70,000 of whom are offshore fishermen.

Turning crazy ideas into reality

Even foreign experts remained doubtful of the idea to cover seas and islands as it was unrealistic and costly.

However, as part of its marine economic strategy, Viettel was determined to carry out this task. Viettel has designated the work to Viettel Network Company.

“Theoretically, an ordinary BTS has a maximum transmission range of 35km. Meanwhile, research has indicated that most of Vietnamese fishermen work approximately 30-50 nautical miles (55-93km) offshore. Therefore, to provide signal to offshore fishermen, soldiers and people on islands as well as people working on oil and gas platforms, transmission with a range of 100km from the coast is crucial.

While researching solutions for long-range transmission, we faced 3 major difficulties. First, we had to overcome limitations as a result of the curve radius of the earth. Second, we had to figure out how to connect transmitters with mobile phones. Third, it was a new job so we had to work while trying to find the best solutions.

We had to spend months at sea studying and testing the functions of each equipment. The first test was measured at only 21km. We were very frustrated because we worked very hard and our efforts had been in vain. But we moved on and finally managed to lengthen the coverage range to the maximum of 121km, said Tao Duc Thang, Director of the Viettel Network Company.

The cost to build coastal BTS is much higher than to build an ordinary BTS. Despite this, the number of such BTS has been growing. Viettel experts have continued to research to expand its coverage, helping naval soldiers in their sea patrols and contributing to efforts to prevent floods and storms as well as search and rescue activities and fishermen’s operations at sea.

With the goal of improving signal quality and coverage to serve fishermen and ensure smooth communication during flood and storm seasons, Viettel began to improve the quality of its services in the third quarter of 2011. Transmission stations on Truong Sa archipelago and 9 platforms will be given more resources and 32 other locations will be equipped with signal boosters.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article/press release are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the approved policy or position of the GSMA or its subsidiaries.

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