The initiative for a fieldlab first arose during a project for the Coastguard Netherlands in 2017 and 2018, called Breedband Noordzee (Broadband North Sea). It examined the possibilities to be expected over the next five years to obtain broadband connectivity at sea. The study defined broadband solutions for the maritime environment and broadly identified the Coast Guard's current and future needs for digital connectivity. And yes: also at that time we knew about the ambitious plans for Dutch Offshore Wind Farm Zones and a Brexit was lurking!
In addition to satellite connections, Wi-Fi, DAB+ and VDES, 5G in the sub-1 GHz band was identified as an important contender to provide a lot of the required broadband in near future for the operational area of the Coast Guard, maybe even for the entire Dutch continental shelf. Extra attention was paid to the territorial waters, for which, according to this study, 5G coverage could (technically) easily be obtained for the public mobile networks from land, when this long-range spectrum would become available in 2020.
In 2018, Rijkswaterstaat (RWS) Sea and Delta(, part of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management -see organogram -) took on the task of making a more specific inventory of the Coastguard's connectivity needs and broadend the scope (I&W-) department-wide, primarily aimed at support of its public tasks. This has resulted in a study entitled "Outlook for the Information Provisioning North Sea 2020-2040" (download here, in Dutch). The sensors used to protect the coast and water quality, Air Traffic Control and other sensors are included in the scope, and also the decommissioning of the oil and gas platforms that are still hosting most of these. Rijkswaterstaat produced a very informative and nice looking infographics for the intended Connectivity Fieldlab North Sea, you can download here.
In 2021 and 2022, the CFNS was integrated into the Offshore Expertise Center of Rijkswaterstaat in Stellendam. Several studies and Proof of Concept pilots were started and the internal and external community was further expanded, laying the foundations for new maritime communication possibilities and the future digital infrastructure at sea. For example, a pilot has been running since December 2022 together with Utility Connect and the RIVM to investigate the possibilities of LTE450 at sea, and a Coast Guard ship is being fitted with measuring equipment to map the current coverage of 4 and 5G in the North Sea. to bring. Maritime broadband research into the possibilities of low-flying satellite constellations such as OneWeb and Starlink is also in the starting blocks.
2023: CFNS becomes DEI Workgroup
The fieldlab and the Digital Ecosystem Insitute (DEI) realized that all these developments and the mission of CFNS for the North Sea can benefit from an ecosystem approach. An assignment from RWS Innovation comprises the first phase of the DEI working method, in which it is determined by means of two exploratory (round table) meetings which interested parties can act as founding partners of the digital ecosystem to be developed sustainably. Simultaneously with this first step, a challenge is being prepared for and with the innovation network of the Smart Mobility Inno Hub (SMIH) and RDM-Next in Rotterdam in the field of connectivity and data sharing. To this end, the desire cherished by several parties to be able to make remotely operated (BVLoS = Beyond Visual Line of Sight) drone flights from the port area to the sea is being organized as a 'challenge', in order to link and enrich the innovation communities.
Parties that want to help develop Rijkswaterstaat's CFNS into a Digital Ecosystem can contact Mark Beermann.
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