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Rapidly Deployable WiFi Played Key Role in Thai Cave Rescue

A U.S. based company’s outdoor WiFi gear played an important role in the recent Thailand cave rescue.  In a saga that gripped the world, 12 young Thai boys and their soccer coach were trapped for two weeks, before being rescued by Thai Navy Seals.

Cambium WiFi solution being deployed in Thailand
Thai Rescue WiFi Deployment – Image courtesy of Cambium Networks

Cambium Networks, a global provider of wireless networking solutions, provided networking equipment for Wi-Fi coverage at the cave entrance site during the rescue exercise that helped first responders communicate with each other and get critical information about the boys trapped in the cave.

At the on-site rescue command post, local telecom solutions provider KING IT worked with regional telco 3BB to create a hotspot at the cave entrance with Wi-Fi connectivity provided by Cambium Networks cnPilot™ e500 outdoor access points.

Tents and trucks outside the rescue area.
Image courtesy of Cambium Networks

“Cambium Networks equipment helped provide Wi-Fi coverage at the cave entrance site during the rescue exercise, and we are very grateful to have contributed connectivity technology to this amazing effort,” said Atul Bhatnagar, President and CEO of Cambium Networks.

“We are thrilled that the soccer team in Thailand is safe and commend the rescuers for their efforts. We are honored to have played a part in the technical solution that assisted the rescue teams by facilitating wireless communications,” Atul added.

Specific details of the outdoor WiFi implementation:

  • The KING IT team established the Wi-Fi network, and it was managed remotely by another KING IT team in Bangkok using the cnMaestro™ network management system.
  • Two Cambium Networks cnPilot e500 enterprise outdoor network access points were used; one was placed facing the entrance of the cave, while the other access point was placed at the “information tent.”
  • Connectivity to the the WiFi hotspots (at the entrance of the cave) was via a fiber drop pulled off of a nearby network and run approximately 2,000 meters to a switch.  The switch provided PoE (Power over Ethernet) to the two cnPilot e500 outdoor Wi-Fi APs.

  • Was WiFi used to communicate to the rescuers once they were inside the cave?  Scott Imhoff of Cambium: No, coverage extended into the entrance of the cave a short distance, but was not the principal communication path of the divers.

Users of the WiFi network included Thai Navy Seals, rescue teams and various government agencies, totaling ~ 50 users at the entrance of the cave.  At the information tent, approximately 200 users included the immediate family members of the lost boys, as well as media and administrative personnel.

A make-shift structure outside the cave entrance.
Image courtesy of Cambium Networks

“Connectivity is vitally important to first responders, aid agencies, medical services and families as and when unforeseen events happen,” said Rohit Mehra, Vice President, Network Infrastructure, IDC. “Wireless connectivity is a proven solution for disaster recovery when it is rapidly deployed and reliable, provides high performance and is immediately interoperable with a diverse set of user devices. The incredible efforts of first responders and emergency workers in Thailand were supported by having access to reliable connectivity and internet access that enabled them to communicate with each other and to get critical information about the boys who were being rescued.”

Other recent examples of disaster response situations that used Cambian’s outdoor WiFi equipment included:

  • PTP 650 links were deployed in response to 2017’s Hurricane Harvey in Houston leveraged similar cnPilot equipment to deliver data from E911 dispatch services via wireless internet, enabling ongoing delivery of GPS information to fire trucks and ambulances; as a result, first responders had the latest information as soon as they got into their vehicles.
  • ePMP connectivity was deployed to reconnect Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
Looking into the cave entrance.
Image Courtesy of Cambium Networks

“Our company is all about connecting people, even in the most extreme circumstances and locations. And reliable wireless connectivity – including deployment in hours, not days or weeks – is part of bringing people together to respond and ultimately make challenging situations better,” said Bhatnagar.

Author Alan Weissberger

By Alan Weissberger

Alan Weissberger is a renowned researcher in the telecommunications field. Having consulted for telcos, equipment manufacturers, semiconductor companies, large end users, venture capitalists and market research firms, we are fortunate to have his critical eye examining new technologies.

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