The Industry Needs a Global Critical Alliance
Monday, March 14, 2016 | Comments
In the course of one human generation, our society, economy and daily lives have been transformed beyond all recognition by mobile communications. There is a technological gulf stretching out in time from the single, tethered, family telephone of our youth to the all-dancing, all-singing smartphone and connected tablets that we are now tethered to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are still far from certain of the full range of future consequences of such a dramatic, sudden change in the tools we use at work and at home for our minds and the environment in which we move and interact — but they will be many, profound and far reaching.

A world in which almost everyone living in a city, or even in the most remote village, will be connected to a global society and economy opens up new, exciting possibilities for the human race, but also challenges our status quo, received wisdom and natural comfort zones in new ways that we might find both threatening and overwhelming. Human life is not a smooth straight line from birth to ripe old age. Accidents happen. Conflicts arise. Storms approach. Bombs explode. Trains, planes and cars crash. Networked systems crash. The networks we increasingly depend on become prime targets for those people living in the shadows who are not yet ready to embrace an open society.

Millions of first responders, volunteers and brave members of institutions, organizations and the public have answered the call to keep us safe and protect the values we hold dear. They expect to have the right tools to do their job, monitor critical infrastructure, predict disruptive weather patterns, access building plans before entering a blazing inferno, and view a photo or a short video of a suspect or an unfolding incident. They expect to be able to communicate with each other and the public in real time with the relevant information to produce the best possible outcome. How can we have an open society if our systems remain closed and fragmented?

All the necessary technological breakthroughs of the recent past — Internet; mobile communications; cloud computing; big data; blockchain and sophisticated encryption tools for privacy and security; augmented and virtual reality; and high-speed, high-bandwidth, low-latency and high-volume, highly reliable connections — are all coming together to create a technological tsunami, the so-called 5G era. 5G is predicted to unfold during the 2020s and 2030s, washing away outdated, obsolete, flawed processes and practices and fundamentally redefining our global society, economy and even what it means to be human. This is an inevitable consequence of generational change, and it is speeding up.

We have witnessed an increasing gulf emerging between the solutions on offer within the commercial mobile space and within the professional two-way radio community. While global players spend billions of dollars on the latest games, apps and mass-market features to keep the masses entertained, government budgets are being slashed, and emergency services personnel are struggling to keep up with the workload and heightened expectations of a demanding public. This situation is unsustainable and highly pernicious for the open society that such emergency services are supposed to be protecting.

There have been promising responses to this dilemma in recent years with the creation of such initiatives as the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) in the United States, the U.K. Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP), SafeNet in South Korea and others, as the fragmented public-safety community has started to engage with global standards bodies and global suppliers and service providers to find a way of getting their most urgent needs for safe, secure, private, reliable communications incorporated into the latest Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) releases.

However, there is still a lack of high-quality, authoritative information available to decision-makers. There is still a lack of adequate funding for such a critical sector of our society and economies. There is still the danger that the most important features will not be incorporated into next-generation critical communications solutions, and that our industry will continue to lag behind the rest of society, leading to thousands of first responders and potentially millions of ordinary citizens losing their lives or having to put up with unbearable suffering, because of our confused priorities.

For this reason, Quixoticity is leading the call to set up a Global Critical Alliance that brings together all the main industry players, or as many as possible that are willing and able under independent, noncorruptible, unflinching leadership to focus on global, long-term solutions to critical communications needs all the way from protecting the current investment in robust, resilient voice and short data solutions such as TETRA and Project 25 (P25) to the final goal of putting critical communications needs at the heart of the emerging 5G requirements.

We will need to listen to everyone, be flexible and willing to change our approach and beliefs if necessary. We need to be inclusive of all sectors and all nationalities. We need to be bold, loud and focused. We need to be above individual, national or even regional biases. We must focus on real substance and substantial results, rather than the banal, self-defeating hype and marketing that defines our time.

Time is against us, so we will have to work quickly, but resolutely, while maintaining the basic principles of security and privacy by design, and public safety as the bedrock of a future, advanced, open society. We have a long way to go, but building a Global Critical Alliance must be done one brick at a time. We will build on all the good ideas and practices that have been handed down over the years. We will not invent the wheel. We will not stop until we have achieved our objectives.

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Peter Clemons is founder of Quixoticity, a next-generation consulting company. He has been reporting on the global LMR industry since 1996. Clemons has worked with a number of two-way radio vendors over the years, and written and presented extensively in major events around the world. Contact Clemons at

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