Challenging times, but much cause for optimism


In this article, Mladen Vratonjić, chair of TCCA, predicts that the association will go from strength to strength, with new initiatives, new members and a new chief executive due to be appointed

TCCA chair, Mladen Vratonjić
TCCA chair, Mladen Vratonjić
The past 12 months have been challenging for everyone. TCCA, in common with everyone else, needed to adapt to ensure that our critical work continues. With everything going online, we have seen that communication truly is critical and the pandemic has also reminded us how fortunate we are to live in today’s connected world.

As a first initiative, to ensure we are keeping everyone aware of what is going on in the critical communications world, in May last year we introduced our very successful Critical Update webinars and these have proved extremely popular. They are free to access, so I would encourage anyone who wants a snapshot of the range of activities under way in our sector to take a look. Recordings of all past webinars are posted on our website for public viewing, and more are planned for this year.

Like almost every event in the past year, our Critical Communications World conference and exhibition had to be postponed. However, with every challenge comes an opportunity, and our first online conference and exhibition Critical Communications Week in November 2020 proved a huge success. There are (to date) more than 4500 registrations from 144 countries and a wide range of sectors, representing the full range of critical communications users.

Despite the constraints of both exhibiting and presenting remotely, the standard of activities across the week was extremely high. If you missed it live, content is still available and free of charge to access at

Our event management company Mark Allen Exhibitions have now fully analysed the statistics around the visitors to CCWeek and they are amazing in terms of the new audiences reached, with  

90 per cent of CCWeek delegate attendees having never attended our CCWorld event. That is an impressive achievement both in terms of marketing CCWeek and the quality of its delivery – my thanks to everyone involved.

With that in mind, we are very much looking forward to seeing how the new Bitesize series of online events for critical communications end users play out – the first one is scheduled for June. Watch out for more details!

For our members, we have worked hard to maintain levels of service and benefits, and collaboration - online of course - with our partners has continued uninterrupted. These range from contributions made to 3GPP as the Market Representation Partner for critical communications, through supporting the remote ETSI MCX Plugtests, as well as working with the GCF on the certification process for mission critical products.

The pace and momentum of TCCA’s work continues despite the challenges of the pandemic, and this work is guided by the strategic direction set by the Board. Supporting our members as much as we can is our priority, and we will endeavour to deliver as much value for the membership despite the current constraints.

We are working on updating TCCA’s strategic direction. This is a regular action, but this time it is particularly driven by the need to adapt to new the reality and the new circumstances that are changing our market as they are changing our world.

Projects under development include an increased focus on cybersecurity. This is a very important topic and more work is required within TCCA to help ensure the security of critical broadband networks. We are setting up a new Working Group with specific terms of reference and will be running an online workshop to establish commitment from our membership and the wider community to participate in this critical initiative.  

We are also creating a new Legal and Regulatory Working Group that will complement the extensive established projects that we have on the technical and standardisation side. This group will be chaired by Berit Isaksen from the legal department of Norway’s DSB, and we have expressions of interest and support from a further seven countries. Initially, the group will focus on the European legal and regulatory issues around the implementation of critical broadband networks, but the aim is to open up the group to operators worldwide.

All our Working Groups deliver value to the wider critical communications world, and I would like to take this opportunity to mark the 100th meeting of our Technical Forum (TF) which took place in February. For obvious reasons, an in-person celebration was not possible so we will save that for better times.

Since the first TF meeting 22 years ago, the group has achieved a huge amount, developing and running the world-leading TETRA Interoperability (IOP) Process. This shows the power of collaboration and co-operation even between competitors for the sake of a true multi-vendor market with benefits for the whole ecosystem. This has set the standard for testing and certification in our industry.

Our main annual event has always been Critical Communications World, and this will take place this year from 3-5 November in Madrid. I would like to thank all involved in creating and delivering the event, from the exhibitors and sponsors to the IFEMA venue and Mark Allen Exhibitions for their tremendous support as we all navigate through this difficult time.

We will be working to build the conference content over the coming weeks, and are hugely confident that that we can deliver a fully-fledged physical event with additional value from an online presence. Creating a hybrid annual event will bring together the best of two worlds: personal attendance to the conference and exhibition and the opportunity to participate remotely for those unable to travel.

To support the increasing activity around critical broadband, we have, through our Australasian Critical Communications Forum, launched a new series of live online training sessions. These are designed to provide fundamental supplier-independent knowledge about LTE technology and its specific features in mission critical communications and private LTE. Full details can be found here 

The biggest change for TCCA at the end of this year will be the appointment of a new chief executive to take over the work of Tony Gray, who is retiring in December. We expect to make an announcement soon.

Tony has done an immense amount to extend the impact and relevance of TCCA, collaborating with new partners in the ecosystem, welcoming new members and ensuring that we are either driving or participating in the key sector initiatives. The new chief executive will take over at a time when the impact of 5G is beginning to emerge and 6G already being discussed. At the same time, TETRA continues to be enhanced, and its expected interworking with critical broadband will become a reality as hybrid network projects progress around the world.

We are living through a challenging time but there is much cause for optimism, and it’s a great time to be part of the critical communications ecosystem. We are looking forward to a new era of innovation as critical broadband takes centre stage. Our members all know that we can achieve more together as a cohesive force, and I am proud to chair the association that coordinates that work.

Register your interest and join us at Critical Communications World 2021.

Media contact

Philip Mason
Managing Editor, Critical Communications Portfolio
Tel: +44 (0)20 3874 9216