As the world’s complex labyrinth of national, regional and global social, political and economic systems continue to come under severe strain from multiple escalating natural and man-made disasters caused by climate change, growing inequalities, injustice and often just plain bad luck, the communications tools used by those public, private and hybrid organisations charged with maintaining law and order and keeping us safe clearly need to evolve in step with the immense challenges we face.
Just over a decade or so ago, the global critical communications community began the search for worthy replacement solutions to the workhorse networks based on TETRA, P25, Tetrapol and related LMR technologies that have formed the basis of increasingly complex, intricate communications procedures during the early digital age of the 2000s:
Regarding standards, most of us have focused our efforts within 3GPP, beginning with key enablers developed during Release 12, with more complete mission-critical voice, data and video solutions worked on during Releases 13 and 14 — following the formal creation and early meetings of Working Group SA6 during early 2015.
Sufficient harmonised spectrum to implement modern mission-critical broadband services has also been sought within globally available sub 1 GHz bands with varying levels of success.
As we look around the world, America’s FirstNet and Korea’s Safe Net programs are testament to the steady progress made in recent times, but also demonstrate just how long it is taking us to achieve tried and tested solutions ready to replace well-established voice/PTT solutions.
Critical Communications World 2022, held this year in June in the breathtakingly beautiful city of Vienna, with attendance fortunately back up very close to pre-pandemic levels, was the perfect opportunity for the global community to come together again for high-level discussions. One of the highlights of the event — both exhibition and conference — was the Government Authorities Global Village (GAGV) populated by 18 government authorities from around the world, sharing experiences with each other and all other organisations, suppliers and experts seeking better future tools for first responders.
Although perhaps unsurprisingly, most authorities were from Europe — many also contributing to the European Commission-funded BroadWay program now reaching its successful conclusion before progressing towards the final pan-European BroadNet deployment stage — it was also pleasing to see representatives from Canada (including the newly formed Public Safety Broadband Innovation Alliance — PIA), Australia (NSW Telco Authority), Saudi Arabia (CITC) and, of course, Korea (SafeNet). Regional and global cooperation during these challenging times remains absolutely vital if we are to develop fully functional, interworking systems within a reasonable timeframe during this decade.
These are exciting, but also daunting, times for our industry and communities as we move away from old ways of working towards more advanced practices attuned to the new reality of the 2020s and 2030s. No single technology, network or solution can provide all the answers we are searching for as we navigate our way across treacherous waters between these Old and New Worlds. Interworking has become a major issue for the industry, requiring cooperation and imaginative, shorter-term, end-to-end solutions that will give emergency services the confidence to embark on this new journey.
If we start now, it should be possible to complete such a journey by the end of this decade. I personally remain optimistic that, in spite of all the enormous challenges in front of us, our community can help create that better, smarter, safer, greener, fairer world lying just beyond the horizon, but I am also aware that it will most definitely not be plain sailing.
About Peter Clemons
Peter Clemons has been involved in the global critical communications industry since 1996. Peter is a former director and board member of TCCA, working closely together with all key industry and community players to promote critical communications technology standards across the world. Peter is President of France-based consulting firm Quixoticity-EU, founded in 2021, which replaced UK-based firm Quixoticity Ltd (2012–2021); a member of ETSI, 3GPP and TCCA; and now VP, Standards, EUWENA (European Users Wireless Enterprise Network Association) supporting harmonised spectrum and global standards for private networks across Europe. He now spends most of his time studying, developing and implementing secure, end-to-end, full 4G/5G mission-critical solutions, having moved to France during 2020.