TCCA interview: ready for a big year

Philip Mason talks to chair of TCCA’s Critical Communications Broadband Group, Tero Pesonen, about his hopes for mission critical 4G and 5G in 2022.

2021 was a productive year for the Critical Communications Broadband Group (CCBG). Could you give an overview of what was achieved? What would you say is the most impactful area of work?

There are many activities taking place in the critical broadband communication scene. In particular, I would like to highlight two published white papers - one for mission critical 5G, and another for broadband device procurement. Both are great examples of the quality and commitment of TCCA members’ volunteer contribution to the worldwide critical communications community. We all should recognise the amount of work required to produce these, and the value of the content.

Beyond that, several other task forces have been and are working on common themes. One which has already been concluded looked at broadband capabilities and operation in the 400 MHz area. Task forces on Mission Critical Application Programming Interface (API) and mission critical broadband applications are just finalising their work. Plenty of work for future task forces has taken place as well, including workshops on cybersecurity, satellite communication and spectrum topics.

Probably the single biggest topic was the work for 3GPP Release 18 content in terms of various meetings and discussions. Overall however, the most impactful area of work has been the information sharing and open discussion we have conducted globally, building common understanding amongst stakeholders.

Are you satisfied with Release 18? In your recent CCBG report, you mentioned ‘painful content reductions’…

Standardisation is about finding a common path for common good. 3GPP is a place where the needs and expectations of consumers, mobile operators, device vendors and a multitude of different verticals come together.

Representatives from all stakeholders had brought forward about 150 per cent-worth of valid well-thought proposals, so content reductions were required to achieve consensus. If we in critical communications were 100 per cent happy with the outcome, we would not have been pushing our future forward very strongly.

Having said this, we can be quite content, as the majority of work items forming 3GPP Release 18 – 5G Advanced – bring benefits for our sector and society as a whole. Our key requirement pillars are coverage, capacity and fit for purpose. All of these will be further enhanced in Release 18. At the same time, there remains important work to be done in Release 19 and beyond.

In your recent report, you also mention pushing forward understanding on 5G for the sector. What does that mean in real terms, and what are the implications of this going forward?

The white paper mentioned earlier - ‘What role will 5G play for Critical Communications users?’ - is an important step on this path. The last couple of 3GPP Releases have been about 5G.

Commercial networks are being rolled-out, devices are coming to market, and private 5G networks, such as for Industry 4.0, are being taken into use. 5G including NR [New Radio] is part of the 3GPP continuum we are committed to. It has to be taken into account in all broadband related planning, decisions and procurement.

The potential of the technology will not be overlooked, whilst recognising that it is not a one-size-fits-for-all solution. Cooperation is essential in order to share issues, ensure feedback is taken into consideration, and that standards enhance appropriately.

What do you anticipate the group will accomplish in 2022?

Plenty, and we have had an active start to the year. The spectrum related task force has already managed to consolidate and submit TCCA’s response to an open consultation of the European Commission Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG). The workshop on TETRA/Broadband Interworking Function (IWF) took place in January and several new task forces are also being started.

The mission critical broadband callout task force has already had its first session. A task force focusing on critical communications requirements for non-terrestrial networks kicked-off at the beginning of February, and mission critical video as well as cybersecurity will follow shortly. There is a great commitment in the membership to work on these important topics, but also a lot of work to be done.

I would like to use this opportunity to invite all stakeholders in the critical communications sector to join and contribute. We need support from everyone, whether for a longer or shorter duration, smaller or larger task; a senior to share from experience or a junior bringing new, out-of-the-box insight.

Could you provide an update on TCCA’s work in the realm of cybersecurity?

TCCA Security and Fraud Prevention Group (SFPG) led by Trevor Evans continues its highly valuable work on security and encryption-related topics, such as how to implement mission critical systems securely. To address cybersecurity outside the SFPG scope, TCCA CCBG is initiating a new task force in the coming weeks.

I would expect the first deliverable to be a guide on the key cybersecurity concerns in mission critical broadband and what information is readily available under different forums to address those.

What are your hopes for the sector over the course of the rest of this year?

In the community, the forerunners are entering the transition to critical broadband. Therefore, in the roadmap, we need to begin to properly look beyond that. At the same time, new issues are and will be identified throughout, in relation to the technology, the environment, as well as in the user domain.

In 2022, preparations for the World Radio Conference in 2023 need to take place, in order to support the spectrum needs of the critical communications sector. Further, 2022 would be rather successful if the first MCX-related official certification can take place. MCS-TaaSting and work in the GCF mission critical stream have progressed well, but there is yet a lot to be done.

Critical Communications World 2022 in June is just at the midway. Thus that will be a good checkpoint, as well as an occasion to mutually share and agree on further steps for the community.

To continue the conversation join us at Critical Communications Network - the new online community for the sector