An Overview of the Work of TCCA’s Critical Communications Broadband Group
Wednesday, April 20, 2022 | Comments
Few people not directly involved in the technical complexities understand quite how much work goes on behind the scenes to ensure the seamless operation of mission-critical networks. While today’s narrowband networks running on TETRA, P25 and others are well-established self-contained entities, the emerging critical broadband services over 4G LTE and 5G networks create massive complexity in terms of interconnection, security and a host of other areas.

It is a huge task to ensure that critical users have uninterrupted services as operators transition to either hybrid narrowband/broadband networks or roll out new critical broadband services on private and public networks. That task is led primarily by TCCA’s Critical Communications Broadband Group (CCBG), the largest of TCCA’s Working Groups.

Formed in 2012, the CCBG is chaired by Tero Pesonen, who is also vice-chair of TCCA’s Board, sponsored by Finnish operator Erillisverkot. CCBG follows Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standardization, influences the processes there on behalf of TCCA as the market representation partner for critical communications, and calls for and coordinates community views and support on forthcoming issues. CCBG plenaries are held twice a year and provide, among other topics, an overview of what is happening globally in critical broadband and the status of ongoing projects. CCBG plenaries provide the opportunity for information gathering and sharing on pivotal topics; the April plenary will deliver a report on power supply redundancy and related international regulation.

There are many activities in progress within CCBG, all carried out by volunteers, which makes the output and achievements all the more impressive. Organized as taskforces, each is formed to achieve one or more specific aims in the form of a limited collaborative project. In addition, CCBG frequently arranges public workshops on designated topics — the latest one addressed open mobile operating systems — to gain understanding and identify needs for future taskforces.

Here’s an overview of the current activity.

Broadband Callout Taskforce
Callout is a two-way paging service that is used to alert public-safety personnel about an incident. It enables control room operators to ensure that incident handling is properly and timely staffed. Callout for TETRA is defined by TCCA as a service over the TETRA air interface. A corresponding service for broadband mission-critical networks is missing. Callout is an essential service in several TETRA networks today and must be carried forward when transitioning to broadband.

The Broadband Callout Taskforce, chaired by Hans Petter Naper of the Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection (DSB), was established to address this and aims to describe and define an interoperable callout service fit for the broadband future. Where TETRA callout is closely related with group voice and the short data service, broadband callout will be integrated with mission critical push to talk (MCPTT), mission-critical data (MCData) and mission-critical video (MCVideo) services, collectively known as MCX.

Device Integration API Taskforce
The Device Integration API Taskforce was set up to create awareness of the integration issues that vendors and operators need to consider as part of their device lifecycle and procurement strategies and the benefits that application programming interfaces (APIs) bring. Interoperability is a key requirement to ensure a thriving market where end users can choose the equipment that suits their needs best, combined with their preferred mission-critical application. The introduction of broadband products based on more standardized hardware platforms and common operating systems drives this opportunity and creates a need for portability across devices at a device level.

This means that vendors can supply and maintain products across multiple different devices in a cost-effective way without regular bespoke integration exercises. Network operators are able to limit the need of testing to just the impacted side of the API instead of having to perform full testing with every update. A stable family of APIs that meets mission-critical purposes is needed. Led by Kit Kilgour from Sepura, this taskforce has participation from across the industry spectrum and is expecting to release a white paper describing the key issues and solution approaches before mid-year.

Massive Mission Critical Video Taskforce
The Massive Mission Critical Video Taskforce was formed to help the critical communications community with the effective planning, design, deployment and/or operation of massive mission-critical video services over 3GPP 4G LTE/5G networks. The taskforce aims to identify key questions, gaps or issues and establish priority areas for focus, based on feedback from the community, such as how to handle video feed prioritization in case of congestion.

A kick-off workshop was held earlier this year, and correspondence with mission-critical organizations and end users to seek further feedback and identify relevant experts with experience is in progress. It is expected that the taskforce will have completed evaluation of priority areas in the next few weeks and will present a recommended course at Critical Communications World 2022 in June. The taskforce is led by Jason Johur, a TCCA board member and vice chair of TCCA’s Broadband Industry Group, sponsored by Ericsson, and Sanne Stijve from Ericsson.

Mission Critical Broadband Applications Taskforce
The new TCCA white paper ‘Mission Critical Broadband Applications’ is the outcome of the work of the Mission Critical Broadband Applications Taskforce, led by Tim Clark from Motorola Solutions. The taskforce, which comprises members from national public-safety organizations and mission-critical communications suppliers, created the white paper to provide guidance to operators and users as they define their strategies for deploying and managing mission-critical applications over broadband systems.

Among other conclusions, the white paper states that a standards-based strategy is essential to ensure interoperability and multivendor choice, a robust and trusted ecosystem must be in place to deliver true mission critical applications that meet the 3GPP specifications, operators must clearly understand users’ requirements and the risks they are prepared to accept, and application developers must design their solutions for the demanding environments in which users operate.

Non-Terrestrial Networks for Critical Communications
The Non-Terrestrial Networks for Critical Communications Taskforce intends to provide an analysis on the added value of 3GPP-defined non-terrestrial networks for the support of critical communications use cases and related requirements. This analysis will cover network solutions providing either direct (e.g. access) or indirect (e.g. backhaul) connectivity to end-user devices.

A joint endeavour between CCBG and the satellite industry, this taskforce is led by Renaud Mellies from the French Ministry of Interior, supported by Nicolas Chuberre from Thales Alenia Space. It aims to identify business/mission-critical services requirements (functional, performance, operational, terminal form factor, security...) to be supported by satellite/high altitude platform networks. The taskforce also aims to identify, if any, the added value of 3GPP-defined non-terrestrial network solutions for the support of critical communications compared to non 3GPP- defined satellite network solutions.

TETRA Interworking Broadband Taskforce
Led by Michel Duits from the Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection (DSB) with support from Harald Ludwig, the TCCA technical forum chair, the TETRA Interworking Broadband Taskforce is following up on the development of the interworking functionality (IWF) between TETRA and broadband service, with standardization within the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) almost finalized. The taskforce includes members from operators, end users, TETRA and MCX vendors across the globe, who collaborate on making the interworking happen. It is foreseen that the IWF is a bridge to make the transition from narrowband to broadband.

Besides the technical development, the taskforce has a focus on themes related to this near future transition and also considers topics related to migration, scalability and service maintenance. A vendor survey has captured more detail from operators in the taskforce to define IWF. The next step is to have a detailed look on the roadmap and incorporation from the vendors to bring the IWF a step closer to reality.

World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 Taskforce
A group of spectrum experts and spectrum-interested members in TCCA has been working towards a common TCCA position on the World Radio Conference 2023 (WRC-23) since the end of 2021. Possible regulatory measures in the UHF band in 470 – 694 MHz are under discussion under Agenda Item 1.5 of the WRC-23 for ITU Region 1 (Europe, Africa, the former Soviet Union, Mongolia, and the Middle East west of the Persian Gulf, including Iraq). The band is currently allocated to broadcast and programme making and special events (PMSE). However, if an allocation to the mobile service succeeds in the WRC-23, this band would be a unique opportunity for public protection and disaster relief (PPDR) to get the additional spectrum it requires. This spectrum, at least in Europe, would become available after 2030.

This taskforce gathers the views of TCCA’s members to achieve a common understanding of the future spectrum needs and requirements of critical communications in the UHF band. With a common position, TCCA members can raise awareness and bring the spectrum requirements of a united critical communication sector in the policymaking processes increasing their chances of success. The taskforce is led by led by Luz Fernández del Rosal from the German Federal Agency for Public Safety Digital Radio (BDBOS), supported by Noel Kirkaldy from Nokia.

All this work is essential to ensure that the new generation of mission critical systems meets the operational requirements of today and tomorrow. Any organizations, operators, end-users – anyone with an interest in ensuring excellence in critical communications – are strongly encouraged to participate. TCCA Working Groups are open to all TCCA members. Find out more at

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