Vodafone and Vilicom unveil 4G network for offshore wind farm


The new Hornsea 2 offshore wind farm, situated off the Yorkshire coast, is the largest in the world

This week, Vilicom, a BAI Communications (BAI) company, announces the successful live deployment of a Vodafone 4G mobile network at the world’s largest offshore wind farm in operation, Hornsea 2.

The windfarm itself, built by Danish firm Ørsted, became operational at the end of August and spans around 300 square miles of the North Sea, roughly 90km east of the Yorkshire coast. It will provide 1.3GW of renewable energy to the UK, enough to power over 1.4 million homes.

The wind farm’s LTE network will provide connectivity to the hundreds of staff that oversee the operation and maintenance of the wind farm, with the network coving not only the wind farm itself but also the route to and from port.

“Building a complete mobile infrastructure on an offshore wind farm is a technical challenge, but I’m delighted we’re able to provide the connectivity that Ørsted’s Hornsea 2 needs to connect to the outside world and be efficiently managed,” said Vodafone UK’s Business Director, Nick Gliddon. “It is testament to the great collaboration between us and Vilicom.”

The specific spectrum being used to operate the network has not been announced.

Vodafone and Vilicom have reportedly been working closely with the Ørsted team on the Hornsea 2 project for the past two years, including providing a temporary LTE solution throughout the project’s construction phase.

Offshore wind farms, naturally, present a difficult challenge when it comes to connectivity. Historically, offshore locations largely relied on very high frequency (VHF) radios or very small aperture terminal (VSAT) satellite technologies for their communications needs, but these carried inherent limitations when it came to bandwidth, latency, and reliability, particularly in rough weather.

More recently, however, it is mobile networks that are growing in popularity for offshore energy plants, being able to overcome their predecessors’ latency and bandwidth shortcomings.

Indeed, Ørsted itself appears particularly fond of using private mobile networks for their latest wind farm deployments, having worked with Chunghwa Telecom and Ericsson to deploy a private LTE network at their Greater Changhua 1 & 2a Offshore Wind Farms in the Taiwan Strait just last year. They also deployed a similar private LTE network in partnership with Norwegian connectivity specialist Tampnet for the Hornsea 1 wind farm, Hornsea 2’s smaller predecessor, earlier this year.

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