Critical Communications Middle East, takes place next month, 15 – 17 September 2013 at the JW Marriott Marquis, Dubai, UAE
Event Director, Hanna Jackson recently interviewed Tony Gray, Chairman Critical Communications Broadband Group, TETRA & Critical Communications Association on the international status of adoption of Mission Critical Broadband
Q: What’s the international status of adoption of Mission Critical Mobile Broadband – and how does the Middle East/Gulf compare?
A: A number of regions worldwide have already expressed interest in the development and adoption of mobile broadband for critical users, such as the public safety and security services, transportation and utilities, and so on. In particular of course the passing of a law and assignment of spectrum and budget establishing ‘FirstNet’ as a nationwide public safety mobile broadband service throughout the USA has been a significant catalyst. Plus many other regions including in Europe, Australasia, China and so on are also in the vanguard of these new developments. However some countries in the Middle East have really been leading the way, for example Qatar which already has a fully functional public safety LTE network established, and also the UAE where the regulator has announced spectrum assignments for public safety broadband in the 700 MHz band.
A: I think the Qatar and UAE developments individually highlight what are for me two key learning points for the rest of the world. So firstly: as in Qatar, authorities need to be bold in planning, budgeting and actually getting stuck in to projects which can deliver real operational benefits for the end users of critical mobile broadband. And secondly: as in the UAE, regulators of the world must recognise that critical users have urgent needs for adequate assigned spectrum in suitable bands in which to operate critical mobile broadband in future. With both aspects in play, we could really see some significant socio-economic benefits flow from the global adoption of critical mobile broadband.
Q: What kind of Mission Critical Mobile Broadband Services will be adopted first?
A: The “Killer App.” is, as always, the Holy Grail sought with all new developments like this! However we are hearing from users around the globe that there are a wide range of applications that they aspire to for critical mobile broadband. For example, situational awareness through live video feeds from incident and other key locations, medical and team-tracking telemetry, real time access to rich media and other databases and so on. All of these and more are potentially vital and life-saving in their own right, so which is likely to be adopted first is anyone’s guess. However a good place to start looking and asking is right here in the Middle East, where as we’ve said, some world-leading progress is already underway.
Q: What are the key challenges in driving forward the adoption of Mission Critical LTE and what can Mission Critical Radio Users do to ensure that they can access the required services?
A: To my mind there are two fundamental areas that are being addressed and need to continue being driven if we are to be successful in making critical mobile broadband a reality.
Firstly, standards. “LTE presents a unique opportunity as the future single, global standard for critical mobile broadband.“ There is a lot of good and hard work going on as we speak with Standards Development Organisations globally, including 3GPP and ETSI, aimed at driving the development of common, global technology standards, based on LTE and supporting the kinds of services, features and facilities that critical users fundamentally must have. Not least amongst these of course are group working and direct mode (or ’back-to-back‘, walky-talky style operation). Neither is currently a feature of LTE, or for that matter any other commercial mobile standard. There are also enhanced aspects of security and resilience that will need to be supported by LTE for critical use.
We need to keep up the momentum on this work and pull together as a global critical communications user community to pool resources and drive standards work to a successful conclusion for all.
Secondly, spectrum. Again there is good work going on, for example in the run up to the World Radio Conference in 2015, to held convince regulators around the world to set aside portions of the valuable and finite resource called spectrum for critical mobile broadband applications. This is a huge uphill struggle, not least because of the pressure on national exchequers to maximise their income from spectrum auctions to commercial mobile operators and the like. However without spectrum in which to operate, despite all the good work and aspirations in the standards bodies, critical mobile broadband will be still-born in many parts of the world.
So in summary, what can users do? Lobby, pressurise, campaign and convince! Make sure their voices are heard by the authorities, budget holders and regulators who hold the keys to the future of critical mobile broadband
Tony Gray will be co-presenting the Pre-conference morning seminar,Planning for the Future of Critical Communications Broadband Serviceson Sunday 15th September from 09:00 – 12:30. He will also be presenting,Identifying and addressing the new communication needs of mission critical communications users in a mobile broadband environment on Tuesday 17th September from 09.00 – 09:25.