CCW 2021 will focus on how current critical communications solutions can be maintained and enhanced, while at the same time exploring what’s next. What needs to be ‘protected’, and what advances would you like to see in the field?
The existing national public safety radio systems, in Europe mainly TETRA-systems, need to be protected until they are no longer in use. For some this will take some more years, for others it will be longer.
The pandemic, extreme weather conditions and natural disasters have reminded us of how much we depend on our first responders. We expect them to be there when we need them and have adequate tools to communicate and coordinate. The public safety radio networks are the backbone of each nation's first response system. At the same time, the procedures, knowledge, and culture of cooperation is also important and must be protected.
That said, an adequate tool to communicate and coordinate must from now on offer more than speech services. First responders must be able to take advantage of ongoing technology development - technology revolutions, as we also could say. This use of data, for instance, live video, sensors, drones, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, robots and so on will also become mission critical. Secure mobile broadband services with coverage and availability that meet the user's needs are a prerequisite for this to happen.
What will be the big opportunities and challenges for the sector over the next five years?
There are huge opportunities and possibilities in the new technology. There is however a duality in our sector. The development in commercial products and services is taking place at high speed, and five years is a long time. However, critical communications is a comparatively small market. Money often comes through lengthy state budget processes where five years is not a long time at all.
The big opportunities lay in the fact that mission critical communications is now I ncluded in the 3GPP-standard, and there are several vendors of MCX-products. This allows governments to establish or purchase standardised mission critical broadband services and become ready for further and future development.
But, we need to make sure that mission critical requirements continue to be included in relevant standardisation processes and development. We are not done.
The transition from legacy systems like TETRA to broadband technology will require a lot of focus and work from users and operators. This might slow down focus on innovation and new services.
What will be the most transformative technology in the coming years, in your opinion? How is the market likely to develop because of that technology?
The users depend on the availability of standardised, secure and reliable products for mission critical use. In the coming years we will see more remote controlled (or autonomous) mission critical vehicles, drones and robots used on sites during incidents, disasters and crises.
We will also see more data driven decision processes and algorithms, and more cross-organisations and cross-borders collaborations. The roll out of 5G could become the enabler of this development, and cyber security and information security will be focus areas.
What big changes would you like to see in the world of critical communications? What would make the sector more efficient and effective?
You could say that, overall, our sector is in a period of transition from dedicated, voice-centric systems and services, to data rich services and commercial technology. It will be a culture change for everyone coming from the narrow band world, as well as the broadband market players.
What I would like to see is the major commercial network operators driving mission critical requirements in the 3GPP standardisation process and beyond. A good start for them would be to join TCCA. Common standards are crucial to ‘increase the cake’, rather than fight for a larger piece of the same, small cake.
What key take home-points would you like people to get from your session?
Critical communications is niche compared to the mainstream commercial market. The existence of open standards is therefore extremely important in our industry.
These standards then have to be included in affordable products and services, through the lifetime of the product as well as the whole value chain. Testing and certification becomes crucial, and it is everyone’s responsibility - and in everyone’s interest - to make this work.
At the same time, purchasers and users have an important role to play. At the end of the day, it is their requirements - and their money - that drive development. I would like people to reflect on their own role in this landscape.
Which CCW conference sessions or masterclasses are you most looking forward to attending?
To be honest, it is impossible to highlight just a few sessions among all the interesting topics that are on the agenda for CCW 21. I am also looking forward to the exhibition, and to finally meet international colleagues.
Nina will be taking part in the 'Beyond standardisation' panel at this year's Critical Communications World.
CCW will take place 3-5 November 2021, at the IFEMA in Madrid, Spain. For more information, click here.