On Site WiFi Network Proved Essential to Thai Cave Rescue

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Broadband connectivity was a key element during recent rescue efforts to save 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded Thailand cave, reported Urgent Communications. Cambium Networks’ equipment was deployed to connect the trapped team to rescuers.

Two Cambium Networks cnPilot e500 enterprise outdoor network access points were used to provide WiFi; one near the entrance of the cave and the other at an “information tent” where families, media, and administrative personnel stayed. Neither access point was stressed by capacity challenges, reported Urgent Communications. Because of heavy foliage in the area, a local telecom provider was able to provide a 2,000-meter-long fiber extension to the rescue area to support the WiFi system operating in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, according to Scott Imhoff, vice president of product management for Cambium Networks.

Imhoff commented on the potential WiFi networks have in emergency response situations. “You think of WiFi [as a communications tool that lets users] access the internet, shop, stream video and other things; you don’t think of WiFi as your emergency-response communication medium,” he said. 

Imhoff added, “When you have one of these events and a large number of people who need to collaborate…data communication, access to those back-office applications and group coordination is really important. On-site WiFi enables that. Here, we had a single WiFi AP that could support up to 512 devices that provided that cloud of emergency-response support.”

Although Cambium Networks’ equipment is designed primarily to provide communications support to remote areas for non-emergency purposes, the company finds that “about once per quarter” first responders are relying on them.

With the WiFi system, rescue teams in Thailand with members from multiple countries—including Australia and the UK—could communicate and coordinate efforts, despite potential differences in verbal language and accents, as well as unfamiliarity with procedures, Imhoff said.

July 31, 2018

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