Stretching the boundaries of innovation around 5G – Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication (URLLC) is an innovative feature of 5G that will be used for mission critical communications due to its very low end-to-end latency, making it a potential enabler of a vast set of mission critical applications and delivering huge value for the telecoms ecosystems.
Mladen Vratonjić, Chair of the Board, TCCA interacts with Zia Askari from TelecomDrive.com about the key priorities of TCCA and how does the organisation look at emerging opportunities around 5G rollouts.
What are the big priorities that TCCA has today?
TCCA is focused on activities that benefit our members. We are the Mission Critical Market Representation Partner for 3GPP, and work with 3GPP in the development of standards for critical broadband. We work closely with ETSI to maintain and enhance the TETRA standard. We build relationships and partnerships with other key industry organisations such as the Global Certification Forum, who will be certifying end user devices for mission critical use.
Our Working Groups are focused on specific areas such as Smart Cities, Transportation, Critical Broadband and Security and Fraud Prevention; our Broadband Industry Group and TETRA Industry Group bring together manufacturers to ensure progress that will benefit operators and end users, and our Technical Forum takes the lead in interoperability, and is also TCCA’s representative in the Mission Critical Open Platform (MCOP) project.
All these activities serve to progress the mission critical market and support our members, who together comprise the critical communications ecosystem.
What are the most important geographies that you see when it comes to deployment of critical comms?
Critical communications are an essential requirement in all parts of the world, and it is an ever-evolving market. There is obviously much interest in new broadband developments such as FirstNet in the US and SafeNet in Korea, and also in the new and upgraded narrowband networks that continue to be deployed worldwide. The largest TETRA network in the world has recently been completed in Germany, and TETRA continues to make significant progress around the world – including in the US despite only being available since 2012.
Whilst In the rest of the world, the broadband critical communications will largely be realised through commercial operator networks, in the Middle East region we are seeing the emergence of data only dedicated private broadband networks, with the operators showing a strong commitment to applying 3GPP standardised solutions once they become available.
Mladen Vratonjić, Chair of the Board, TCCA
The majority of the new critical broadband networks that are being deployed will be working in concert with existing narrowband services, and there are many examples of this around the world. So although choice, progress and market opportunities differ depending on the region, the need for efficient and effective critical communications is global.
How does the organization look at the emerging opportunities and trends around 5G rollouts? What are some of the innovations that we can expect in a 5G era?
Critical communications is the one area of telecommunications that needs to cope with various different requests, services, speeds and unpredictability of required capacity. As 5G is all about providing next level flexibility, coverage, capacity, security, data rate and low latency it is the ideal network to deliver a wide variety of services across different environments in a highly efficient and robust way. For example, 5G networks will use context-aware mapping of services to technologies and will be able to make dynamic decisions on which resources to use to deliver each service, guaranteeing the appropriate level of service quality needed in the most efficient way possible.
In relation to Machine-Type Communications (MTC), the main difference between 5G and the previous generations of mobile wireless systems is that 5G is principally addressing two generic modes of MTC: massive MTC (mMTC), which provides connectivity for large numbers of low-cost and low-energy devices in the context of the Internet of Things, and Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication (URLLC).
This is the more innovative feature of 5G that will be used for mission critical communications due to its very low end-to-end latency, making it a potential enabler of a vast set of mission critical applications, some of which we have yet to imagine.
In relation to ongoing standardisation of critical communications features of 4G networks, 5G networks are not going to replace but rather to incorporate existing networks and LTE technology thus making current work completely future proof.
How is this space of critical communications evolving to deliver better quality and sufficient capacity for the telecoms community?
Currently the highest quality critical communications networks are those that are specifically designed for the purpose, such as TETRA. However, in terms of capacity, narrowband networks are limited, which is why TCCA and industry partners are working towards a common standard for critical broadband. 3G/4G/LTE networks are used today by operators to carry data for critical communications users, but not at mission-critical levels. Those networks do not at the moment meet the levels of quality, reliability and resilience required by critical users, so we see the proven narrowband networks will continue to carry critical voice for the foreseeable future. Industry analysts IHS Markit support this view, stating: “… the critical communications industry will move towards a mix of broadband-capable network solutions such as private LTE or the various operating models possible with commercial and private LTE. It is unlikely that users will adopt broadband solutions to the exclusion of existing LMR/PMR, but adoption will be along the lines of a complementary service that allows users to communicate across LMR/PMR and cellular networks, depending on specific operational requirements.”
What more can be done to help operators further strengthen their critical communications infrastructure?
Today different parts of the world use equipment of different standards for narrowband critical communications, including TETRA, P25 and DMR. The common denominator for all is that they have been built as dedicated standards for critical communications and they include variety of specific features and security elements. However, they all run on different infrastructures and utilize different end user equipment.
In order to secure the interoperability of equipment between different TETRA manufacturers, TCCA has developed the Interoperability testing process, which is of great value for all who intend to purchase, build and maintain a TETRA network.
Future broadband critical communications will be based on global, mainstream standards which incorporate specific features necessary for critical communications. This means that there will be many more suppliers of infrastructure, equipment and applications. Bear in mind that producing according to standards is not always a straightforward process, there will be a lot of need for testing and approvals, including conformance and interoperability tests. ETSI conducts MCX Plugtests™ already today, with TCCA support, and we are working on developing interoperability testing processes in order to assure compatibility and interworking of various elements of future critical communications broadband networks.
What is TCCA doing to increase the envelope of countries and operators to adopt better critical communications solutions?
In addition to the initiatives already mentioned, the most visible activity is our Critical Communications Series of events. These have been running for 20 years, and the most successful event ever was Critical Communications World (CCW) earlier this year in Berlin, so this is clearly a buoyant and dynamic market. We have just held another successful Critical Communications Middle East and North Africa (CCMENA) in Dubai, and planning for CCW 19 in Kuala Lumpur is well under way.
We also run a number of events targeted at specific topics – so for instance we have an annual Operators’ Meeting to bring critical communications network operators together to discuss ideas and share knowledge. Our Working Groups hold regular meetings, and all TCCA members are encouraged to participate.
All TCCA events are designed to enable the ecosystem to interact and learn from each other – this is a niche but critically important market and we all need to work together for the benefit of all.