French Ministry of Interior requests information for future public safety communications network

The French Ministry of Interior has launched a request for information (RFI) to help it identify and resolve the remaining technical and organisational barriers to the creation of the Radio Network of the Future (RRF), which is intended to provide all of the country's emergency services personnel with access to modern and secure means of communication.

This first RFI is for air-to-ground communications with LTE and licensed shared access (LSA) to allow tactical networks to use commercial spectrum as and when required. The deadline for submissions is 17:00 (Paris time) 14 November and the RFI and its supporting documents can be viewed here.

The Ministry of the Interior wishes to establish the architecture, functional set up and economic models that will be successful in setting up the RRF. It envisages using an architecture capable of reusing already existing information transport infrastructures: commercial networks and their mission-critical counterparts. It adds that securing resources for the RRF remains a hot topic. Regarding the 2X10MHz dedicated spectrum requested by the Ministry, it wishes to heavily rely on the professional mobile telecommunications markets, targeting the development of 5G.

The Ministry of the Interior is seeking to:

  • define the operation of the RRF with its future users, to enable the creation of and/or changes to the evolution of its functionality.
  • define realistic and viable business models for each module of the system allowing for competitive bidding on a standard model every four years to control and minimise costs;
  • secure the resources to be used on an operator network so that if it becomes overloaded by commercial traffic there is no impact on mission-critical operations while still ensuring that the service can be offered in a viable way by the operators;
  • ensure the availability of sufficient spectral resources for tactical bubbles at the moment when the forces need them.
  • provide control rooms with broadband services;
  • present a global, end-to-end vision of critical mode communications, from the detection of the incident to the end of the intervention, to encourage manufacturers to adapt their approach in line with global standards;
  • define the appropriate ecosystem for the purchase of air-ground communications services;
  • anticipate the services that will be available by 2023-2025, including those that will use 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The radio networks (INPT & RUBIS) that are currently managed by the Ministry of Interior are based on proprietary narrowband Tetrapol technology and Airbus, the equipment supplier has announced that it cease maintaining it in 2035 and 2020 for certain areas, including the Paris network. However, shortly afterwards a number of major events will take place in the Paris region, including the Rugby World Cup in 2023, along with the Olympic Games and the opening of a new line on the Grand Paris Express in 2024.

The RRF is expected to be LTE-based, provide 95 per cent geographical coverage, offer bandwidth of around 10Mbps, use spectrum in the 700MHz band for its dedicated components, and support an estimated 300,000 users, including customs officers, prison wardens and decentralised services (including municipal police forces).

The Ministry of Interior has recently awarded contracts for its PCSTORM public safety broadband project, which will provide SWAT teams with resilient broadband radio communications using tactical networks. Orange, the French mobile network operator will provide the radio access network (RAN) with priority and pre-emption and ensure that other French commercial mobile networks can be used as a back-up. Streamwide was awarded the lot four applications and security contract in June and will provide its Team On Mission MCPTT solution. The company participated in the second ETSI MCPTT Plugtests event in Texas earlier this year. Gemalto will provide the SIM cards for the devices.