CCW 2023: setting the agenda

Chair of the TCCA Board, Mladen Vratonjic, discusses key topics at Critical Communications World 2023 in Helsinki

The critical communications sector is crucial to ensuring the safety and security of citizens, property and infrastructure around the world. Yet we are a small community, in the context of consumer communications.

With the stability of society being threatened in some countries, and others being thrown into chaos by extreme weather – as well as the ever-present threat of terrorist attacks – it is even more essential that our critical communications community works together for the benefit of all.

Our theme for the Critical Communications World (CCW) 2022 event in Vienna earlier this year was ‘Evolving the Ecosystem’. This was a call to further build and strengthen the foundation upon which the critical communications of the future will be developed and delivered.

Our theme for 2023, meanwhile, is a further step in consolidating this evolution. It is based on us being a stronger and more effective sector when we combine our relevant expertise; when all the elements of our ecosystem come together to form a cohesive force to drive our industry forward. Next year therefore our theme is ‘Success in Co-operation’. It comes from the successful Critical Communications Finland initiative and is highly topical and relevant, as CCW 2023 will be held in Helsinki.

So under this banner of co-operation, what can we expect in CCW’s 23 conference sessions, panel sessions and focus forums?

As critical broadband networks continue to develop, the importance of open standards is underlined. There are myriad moving parts to a broadband network, and ensuring compatibility is essential to seamless operation. How do we secure critical broadband networks? What are the cybersecurity challenges and solutions, and what are the steps being taken to ensure critical users’ access to networks and services is not compromised?

We’ll also be looking at the ongoing strength of TETRA and other narrowband network technologies as critical voice remains the bedrock of instant communications in a crisis. Hybrid networks will be essential to maintaining that service to critical users while broadband networks come into use for an innovative range of data applications. Therefore, interoperability, interworking and MCX are key topics.

Next – with timelines being reset, and spectrum availability remaining uncertain in some countries – we are looking to the mobile network operators (MNOs) for perspectives on how they view the development of the critical broadband market. How can they best support critical users and operations across not only public safety but the vertical industries such as transportation, power and utilities? How can they bring technology innovations for the network – edge and cloud computing, AI and more – to the table?

The rapid rise of the IoT will also be a key area for discussion, as it is brought into play for an increasing number of smart applications. It is estimated that today several tens of billions of IoT-connected devices are in operation in the world. How do we ensure that critical IoT is robust and resilient across its operation? It is already delivering huge benefits in areas such as healthcare. We now need to work together to ensure that, as people become reliant on connected care, it doesn’t let them down. Likewise manufacturing, with Industry 4.0 transforming many areas, requiring that networks are stable and reliable.

There is also much in the news about non-terrestrial networks, with consumer smartphones now being launched with satellite connectivity. Our panels on communications from space in previous events have proved hugely popular, and at CCW 2023 we will be exploring new developments and their potential impact on the delivery of critical communications services.

The most important of all, however, is the user aspect. Superior technology cannot solve problems if it is not fully subordinated to the needs of the users. Therefore during the event, we will deal with ways of extracting and using useful information from the sea of data.

We will also look at how technology can help achieve full situational awareness, and discuss how the evolution of command and control centres can efficiently meet operational demands. We will also look at why mutual trust, lasting partnership and the joint work of industry and users is crucial in ensuring effective critical communications.

Integral to all activity is the need for sustainability and efficient energy management. As a sector we must work together to reduce our impact on the environment and innovate to ensure the re-use and recycling of as many network elements as possible. We look forward to hearing from those leading the way in addressing climate change.

From control rooms to the cloud, from situational awareness to the use of social media, Communications World 2023 in Helsinki will be setting the agenda for the future of our sector. The topics mentioned here are just a taste of what to expect from our conference next year.

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