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Dr. Carl Smith, Producer for Critical Communications Europe interviews Nicole Lecca, Head of Secure Land Communications at Airbus Defence and Space (formerly Cassidian).
IIR: Cassidian is a name that is recognised as a leader in Critical Communications solutions all around the world. What prompted the consolidation to Airbus Defence and Space?
Nicole Lecca: Cassidian entered a new era in January 2014 when it joined forces with Airbus Military and Astrium to form Airbus Defence and Space, one of the three Divisions of Airbus Group. The Division strengthens the individual businesses, generating some € 14 billion in annual sales and with a workforce of around 40,000 people.
Professional Mobile Radio (PMR) will certainly continue to be a core activity of the Airbus Defence and Space Division, which is the largest PMR vendor in Europe. In the new set-up, in fact, we will be able to compete more efficiently on the global stage. Besides its key commercial aerospace activities, Airbus Group is proud to be one of the leading space, defence and security players worldwide.
IIR: Will the restructure affect the kind of service your clients can expect from you?
Nicole Lecca: Of course, security is a top priority for our customers. This means it remains one of our major priorities. Secure PMR solutions have been a major market for Cassidian and they will remain so for Airbus Defence and Space, which has prioritised cyber security.
Airbus Defence and Space will help customers deal with the full range of cyber security challenges. This also includes training to raise awareness and improving ‘cyber behaviour’, which is another vital aspect of making a company ‘cyber safe’.
Airbus Group’s goal is to strengthen its commitment towards its space, defence and security customers. The company is committed to remaining a trusted and reliable partner of choice. The consolidation of Airbus Military, Astrium and Cassidian into Airbus Defence and Space is a prerequisite for enhanced competitiveness, profitability and future growth. It will enhance the company’s ability to produce new, innovative solutions, to expand in new markets and to enlarge the economies of scale to customers across the world.
IIR: There is a popular view that vendors are trying to drive the demand for Mobile Broadband for Critical Communications. While some users are ready to fully embrace the possibilities made possible by Mission Critical applications. In your opinion, how do you think Mobile Broadband will benefit public safety users?
Nicole Lecca: It’s obvious that we will not sell Broadband solutions if there is no perceived value for using such technology to improve efficiency. It’s the reason why we are supporting our customers to perform operational trials with such technology.
In general, there is a clear social demand for more security but security has a cost and that’s what will drive/force Critical Communications users to be innovative in the use of information and technology.
Public safety authorities are looking for new mobile data applications to improve the efficiency and safety of their operations and to enhance situational awareness. Mobile data applications can support field command, provide remote diagnostics, and bring to life the mobile office for people who work while on the move. But to put mobile data applications to use our customers need help to manage their big volume of data and turn it into actionable information for field users using tablets and smartphone-like devices.
IIR: One solution to enabling data applications for blue light services is through the MVNO model. This is something that is growing increasingly popular in the eyes of the users. Airbus Defence and Space is going into some depth on the MVNO service at Critical Communications Europe. Why do you think the MVNO model has gained such support from both users and operators?
Nicole Lecca: It is important that end users can get started to use broadband as soon as possible in a safe and manageable way.
Airbus Defence and Space’s Secure MVNO (Secure Mobile Virtual Network Operator) solution, including both cutting-edge products and value-add services, is a vehicle for our customers to better utilise the offering of commercial broadband networks. In particular, public safety users need solutions that provide them with high service availability, security and better integration with existing narrowband networks than commercial networks alone can offer.
Airbus Defence and Space’s Secure MVNO solution complements existing public safety radio networks by using commercial broadband mobile networks. It is in particular of interest, as it can offer a cost efficient access to broadband services. Instead of each organisation making a separate deal with a mobile operator, the PMR
In addition to that, Airbus Defence and Space is able to provide resilient satellite connections and manage access to commercial networks to further complement data services. We have recently been awarded the first Secure MVNO customer contract in Sweden. The merger of Cassidian, with our former sister division Astrium, allows us now to converge our two offers in this domain.
IIR: Right now we are in a pivotal point in Critical Communication history. As Mission Critical Mobile Broadband is quickly becoming a reality, users will quickly find themselves with a lot more options open to them. Following the belief that TETRA will still be the prevalent PMR standard until 2020, how do you see Critical Communications changing over the next 10 years?
Nicole Lecca: Bringing resilience into an LTE network is likely to require more intelligence to be distributed at each radio site and will therefore have a cost implication for operators – the level of cost being driven by the number of sites which need to be upgraded. This will probably drive a hybrid model between dedicated networks focusing on crisis management only with limited sites and use of commercial services to off-load routine applications.
The network layer is just an IP pipe – it doesn’t carry any intrinsic applications. Voice effectively becomes an application running on this pipe – you don’t get it unless you create the application for it – and you certainly won’t get mission critical group calling voice applications. The group calling applications need to run over the pipe – and these need to be standardised too. Group calling applications are not only a piece of software in a server, they run on devices used by end users and they interface with command and control rooms applications. The same applications can be used, regardless of the frequency of the underlying LTE network. Airbus Defence and Space’s group calling application offerings are frequency independent.
IIR: Looking ahead to March, what should attendees at Critical Communications Europe be most excited about when they plan their visit to the Airbus Defence and Space, stand?
Nicole Lecca: Airbus DS will focus at CC Europe on mobile applications today and in the future. We will show how they can be easily put to use thanks to our Secure MVNO.
And CC Europe visitors will see at our stand our innovative radio portfolio including TH1n, the world’s smallest terminal and other new innovative products like our two way Tetra pager, P8GR.