What’s the current state of play in the critical communications industry?

TETRA is still going strong - the ETSI TETRA standard dominates critical PMR provision worldwide. Although some refer to TETRA as an ‘old’ technology, its 20 years of trusted operation, and the fact that national operators are renewing their TETRA networks today, mean that a better description would be a ‘bedrock’ technology. TETRA will continue to provide the foundation for mission critical communications for many years to come, with ‘newer’ technologies developed using the principles that underpin the TETRA standard.

After two decades, there is still no viable standardised alternative that can provide the same levels of secure, reliable, resilient and nationwide voice and data services. Most critical communications users today are using PMR for critical voice communications, and will supplement those services with LTE broadband systems (public or dedicated) for non critical data transmission.

LTE Advanced Pro technology is expected to satisfy all the bandwidth and key broadband user requirements defined by the ETSI “Mission Critical Broadband Communications Requirements – ETR 102 022-1” specification. The 3GPP standardisation process is progressing well with Release 14 (the first Release that includes MC Data and MC Video) being completed, and work ongoing with Release 15.

What are the main changes that you’ve noticed within the industry in 2017?

In 2017, after the initial LTE hype, there developed a general awareness that there will be no quick transitions from PMR to broadband. Some space in the critical communications industry was created for ‘cost optimised technologies’ mainly represented by DMR products and systems that were chosen in some markets moving from analogue to digital systems. The industry consolidated around 3GPP standardisation work, and in the provision of different intermediate and transitional solutions.

We are already seeing joint PMR/broadband networks, but the delivery of a pure broadband network that carries mission-critical voice to the standard of PMR networks, as well as mission-critical data, is some years away.

Are there any major developments that the wider industry needs to be made aware of?

Developments in broadband standardisation for critical communications will eventually enable critical communications to be part of mainstream 4G and 5G standards, and many countries will use the public operator networks to deliver critical communications services.

Communication solutions will merge with IT, and applications will proliferate. There will be a place for many new players: LTE equipment providers, IT providers etc. Regardless how niche the critical communications market is perceived to be, I am confident that many manufacturers, as well as public operators, are developing strong business cases to take part in this market.

TCCA provides a forum for these stakeholders already through two of its many Working Groups: BIG (Broadband Industry Group) which brings together key manufacturers, and through the work of CCBG (Critical Communications Broadband Group) which drives the process of common global critical mobile broadband technology development. This includes enhancing broadband standards to meet the critical community needs, and development of applications and other solutions on top of the air interface standards/technology to provide the added value for the end user.

It should also be stated that the TETRA standard continues to be developed to ensure it supports the changing needs of its worldwide market.

There is a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes, much of it undertaken by volunteers, to ensure the stability of critical communications, and that should be recognised.

What challenges do you think need to be tackled in today’s climate?

Critical communications are vital to the everyday lives of citizens. Not only are they important for the security sector, but without them, planes cannot fly, electricity and gas cannot be produced, public transport cannot safely operate. However small this market is perceived to be, it is essential. The challenge is to ensure we continue to all work together to maintain and further build a strong and stable market, and avoid the proliferation of proprietary or unproven ‘solutions’ irrespective of whether they have an attractive price tag.

Only adherence to open standards guarantees a competitive multi-vendor environment, constant improvements and quality and reliable products. Standardised solutions are future proof solutions. With major events, both planned and unplanned, it has been demonstrated time and time again that only purpose-designed and robust technologies can support our first responders in their critical roles.

What would be your key piece of advice for any organisations looking to invest in critical communications in 2018 and beyond? And why might they want to attend Critical Communications World 2018?

Regardless of the need and desire to have broadband critical communications today, users and operators should avoid entering a dead-end street by electing to purchase non-standard systems and solutions, at least without a firm assurance that standardised technology will be implemented once it becomes available.

Attendees at CCW will benefit from seeing first hand at the exhibition how the ecosystem around open standards critical communications is evolving, and will be able to learn from the high quality presentations and masterclasses during the conference. CCW is the main event for anyone involved in critical communications to catch up with ongoing trends, network with peers, and get fully involved in this market to appreciate its importance and its potential.

This year we have the new event partner, MA Exhibitions and together with them we will deliver the best and most attractive event to date.

Register now at http://bit.ly/2Gcn0sF for Critical Communications World 2018 in Berlin. The central pillar around which our industry can create mutually beneficial initiatives, promote technology advances, share experiences and ideas, and demonstrate the power of teamwork.

About the organisers

This will be the first TCCA event delivered by the Mark Allen Group, and we look forward to a Critical Communications World that will be inspired by intuition, risk, challenge, vision and a deep knowledge of our industry. http://www.critical-communications-world.com/about-us