CCW 2024 debrief: the journey continues

With the direction of the sector becoming increasingly clear – even as the world becomes ever more complicated - Peter Clemons presents his observations from this year’s Critical Communications World

Quixoticity-EU and ENENSYS Technologies' Peter Clemons

Having held the final TETRA World Congress in Dubai in 2012 and then several editions of Critical Communications Middle East there from 2014 until 2018, it was good to see our annual event returning to the region for 2024, at an important moment for our industry sector. This was also the first time the event had left Europe for five years: a lot has happened in the world since we all met in Kuala Lumpur in 2019.

Our community continues its steady march towards a broadband future, but there now appears to be a greater understanding of the reality of the enormity of this transition. There will be no big bang switch from one solution to another, but a gradual incorporation of the new mission-critical services (MCX) into the existing operational framework as more networks, devices and applications are enabled.

So-called hybrid approach

This means we will have to put up with a so-called hybrid approach for both critical networks and devices.

On the network side, we will see existing TETRA/P25 capabilities maintained for some time, while a growing number of organisations are awarded a limited amount of dedicated spectrum for public safety LTE/5G with non-critical traffic offloaded onto commercial networks.

No single network can guarantee 100 per cent availability, so satellite solutions, interworking functions, device-to-device (sidelink) will all extend coverage and resilience, while eMBMS/multicast also enables efficient delivery of critical communications at scale.

On the device side: low-cost ‘single technology’ TETRA handhelds and ruggedised, MCX-enabled smartphones will operate side by side. While the business case for hybrid TETRA/broadband devices from traditional suppliers such as Sepura, Motorola and Hytera has improved over the past year or two as it has become increasingly clear to everyone that the transition will take at least as long as one more device refresh cycle.

The sidelink functionality mentioned above will gradually be incorporated into devices, as well as eMBMS/multicast middleware for large, synchronised group calls, especially as real-time mission-critical video, drone deployment, body-worn cameras and so on become a reality during the second half of the decade.

Last year’s Success in Cooperation tagline was complemented this year with Connection is the Lifeline. Over 20 nations were present in the compact Government Agencies Global Village, demonstrating that global cooperation is still alive and well, with many sessions including presentations from across the world.

Just as an example, I welcomed representatives from Belgium, Canada, Australia, USA and France on my Global Village conference session on the Wednesday afternoon.

Following in the FirstNet’s footsteps, many agencies are looking at coverage extension solutions such as rapid deployable units that can either act as stand-alone networks or feed into existing ones.

Wearables, sensors and other specialised form factors are beginning to proliferate in the public safety and critical comms space. This moves us beyond the traditional handheld and in-vehicle environment, providing greater choice but also, undoubtedly adding complexity to network planning and procurement processes.

Personally, this year’s CCW didn’t feel like it was the largest ever, but the quality to be found both in the conference sessions and across the exhibition area has probably never been matched on previous occasions. Having attended all 25 global events so far, I’m probably best placed to reach such a conclusion!

The balance between public safety and other critical sectors, old and new people, organisations and technology! The increasing separation of hardware and software; basic services such as voice and data being complemented and enhanced by emerging services such as AI, AR/VR (without the hype of other technology events), meant that there was something for everyone at this year’s event.

So, in spite of a certain perception of frustratingly slow progress in a traditionally conservative sector, when we look backwards or forwards over a 12-month cycle from one CCW to the next, it is also clear that progress is being made.

The ambitious – perhaps even reckless – timelines from the mid-2010s presented by our good friends at UK Home Office’s ESMCP/ESN programme have now made way to more realistic step-by-step, incremental processes. As well as greater collaboration across a much wider spectrum of suppliers, operators, regulators, standards-makers, integrators, experts and end-users on a truly global scale. We head into the second half of a decade where a majority of actors are likely to converge around a relatively modest number of real-world models based on global standards and best practices.

This article was first published on Critical Communications Network.


By the time of next year’s event in Brussels, the critical communications landscape should continue to become clearer. I will particularly be interested to see how the BroadEU Net programme has progressed and how the dream of a pan-European framework is shaping up to become a reality by the end of the decade.


The world is becoming ever more complex and dangerous. It is imperative for us to continue working together to provide the very best solutions possible for our first responders. It was clear in Dubai that we have come a very long way, but there’s still some way to go.