TCCA Looks Back at Critical Communications in 2020, Forward to 2021
By Tony Gray
Monday, November 30, 2020 | Comments
Writing this after the conclusion of our first online Critical Communications Week (CCWeek), I have seen the spotlight shine brightly on just how much work is being undertaken throughout our sector to ensure communications are truly mission critical for our first responders and other critical users. The sheer variety of content in the event, the exhibition, the level of engagement, the debates and discussions all highlighted the expertise, knowledge and commitment of all those dedicated to delivering excellence.

It is, as we are all too aware, a strange time for everyone, so I am extremely proud of the way TCCA, our members and partners have continued to support the enhancement and development of critical communications. The progress of key projects has continued uninterrupted thanks to a smooth transition to online working. Some of these are highlighted in our hugely successful series of Critical Update webinars. All TCCA’s Working Groups and other meetings have transitioned to a virtual platform, and this has created opportunities for many more people in different time zones to attend, so we will be continuing to offer this option once, hopefully, the world returns to normal. The support of our members is critical to this work, so I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of them, as well as welcoming the new members who have continued to join us despite the austerity imposed by the pandemic.

The ongoing development of critical communications standards continues, and we fully support the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) on the enhancement of the TETRA standard and the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) in the critical broadband work, as market representation partner for critical communications. Despite the revolutionary character of broadband technology for critical communications, we see the transition to broadband more as an evolutionary process. In that sense, I expect that professional mobile radio (PMR) systems, primarily TETRA and P25, will work in parallel with broadband systems for many years. The development of an interface standard between the two technologies, essentially supported by TCCA, is therefore crucial, and 3GPP and ETSI are working hard to complete it as soon as possible.

There are inevitably delays as not everything can be delivered so efficiently virtually, but the commitment of everyone involved – largely volunteers – is remarkable. Despite the constrictions of COVID-19, the Fifth ETSI MCX Plugtests were held online and successfully concluded in October. Great progress is also being made by the MCS-TaaSting project in which TCCA is a partner, with the announcement of the first MCPTT test case being successfully evaluated. In terms of conformance testing and certification for mission-critical devices, we are working with the Global Certification Forum (GCF) in its new Mission-Critical Agreement Group, formed to continue the work of our joint six-month task force which was finished in June.

So despite the pandemic, all this work is ongoing and is critical to the development of truly global mission-critical broadband systems that will enable critical communications users to communicate seamlessly in the same way that 3G/4G/5G-based networks, devices and services work across vendors, operators and international borders.

As can be seen by the level of interest and interaction in CCWeek, there are many trends to watch in our sector. 5G and cybersecurity are both hot topics, as is the range of challenges that nations are facing as they look to roll out critical broadband. But, CCWeek also demonstrated that narrowband remains crucial to critical users, and we remain committed to supporting and promoting the ongoing refresh and adoption of TETRA around the world as the de facto voice and narrowband data standard for mission-critical users who do not require broadband.

In common with everyone else, we hope that 2021 will be a very different year, with the return of actual face-to-face meetings and events. While the online platforms and services are working seamlessly in most cases, there is really no substitute for meeting people in person. Whatever shape the next year takes however, we will continue to develop and enhance services for our members, and we will continue to deliver our Critical Update webinars to ensure the progress of the various projects and initiatives is recognized and reported.

Our CCWeek event enabled participants to showcase their work in the best way possible. We have heard what the industry plans and what the users intend, and we have also seen how stakeholders see the future not only of critical communications but of technological development in general. The message is that only through long-term partnerships with an understanding of mutual needs, is it possible to reach a solution that will provide reliable, secure, efficient, full-featured mission- and business-critical communications. All this work is underpinned by TCCA’s central commitment to ensuring the use of open global standards for critical communications to the benefit of our members, the wider ecosystem and all who rely on critical communications worldwide. Would you like to comment on this story? Find our comments system below.

Tony Gray is the chief executive of TCCA.

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On 12/1/20, Mujtaba Junaidy said:
CCweek was really helpful to understand industry direction and priorities. Thanks to TCCA.
We need to push more on interworking standard.


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