CCW: A Glimpse into the Future of Critical Communications
Monday, June 20, 2016 | Comments
Amsterdam, with its diverse and progressive culture, was the perfect city to host the 18th annual Critical Communications World (CCW). With new technology tracks covering control rooms and data apps to cyber security and emerging technologies, CCW demonstrated that it has successfully evolved from a European TETRA event to a global, comprehensive critical communications conference that is diverse and progressive. This year’s show boasted 61 new exhibiting companies. It was the largest CCW to date, with more than 150 exhibitors and nearly 4,000 attendees. There were so many sessions it was difficult to choose which ones to attend.

The opening reception at CCW was well attended with champagne flowing at the Critical Communications Finland booth. The user-driven pavilion celebrated 14 companies coming together in cooperation for the benefit of Finland’s citizens and was a real-life example of how open standards can work to improve operations. Exhibitors unveiled new smaller radio terminals, hybrid devices that incorporated Long Term Evolution (LTE) and new apps.

A recurring theme was that TETRA is not dead and should be around for at least 10 – 15 years. For the first time, however, LTE was not a taboo word in the TETRA community. It was readily acknowledged that LTE would be used to stream broadband, and the future would include hybrid networks for several years to come. According to David Lund, president, Public Safety Communications Europe (PSCE), when northern U.K. flooded recently, all the LTE networks were down, yet the TETRA system worked.

Many users will continue to use their TETRA networks for the foreseeable future because they’ve invested a lot of money, and it simply costs too much to run two systems. According to Tor Helge Lyngstol, director general of DNK Norway, “Users should not be concerned about technology. They need to focus on the services they need.” The adoption of LTE for public safety varies greatly by country. In a small country with an aging system, LTE might be the answer, as it was in Kenya. In a mature TETRA market, it could take many years to transition to LTE. It takes spectrum and more money than many countries can afford. Society, however, is getting more dependent on broadband, and many politicians don’t understand how the technology works in a public-safety environment. There are tremendous security and backup issues, just to name a few.

Gordon Shipley, program director, U.K. Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP), was steadfast in his timeline for UK’s new public-safety LTE network. The goal is to complete the system and begin the transition phase by the fourth quarter of 2017. It’s a daunting task to say the least. When Motorola Solutions bought Airwave, the U.K. public-safety network, many people questioned the decision. The acquisition will likely turn out to be a smart move. It is highly unlikely that the transition to LTE will happen overnight, so Motorola will continue to see the benefits of recurring revenue. Plus, the company will also benefit from first-hand experience with a major public-safety LMR-to-LTE transition.

Even if a country has secured both adequate spectrum and the funds to replace its existing professional mobile radio (PMR) system or augment it with LTE, the next big hurdle to overcome is security. Commercial LTE systems are not public-safety grade, and building a physical and cyber secure LTE system from the ground up is expensive.

If the network is not built securely from the onset, the cost to fix it will be even greater. Not only does the network need to be secure, but every app and connected device must also be secure. There needs to be end-to-end encryption because a system is only as secure as each of its parts. According to the cyber security panel, the overconfident company is the one most likely to be hacked. Although standards are important, the ability to be agile and to keep up with the quick-paced internet industry could prove difficult for systems bogged down by legislation.

Each country must also consider privacy. Some societies that value safety over privacy may agree to have sensors and cameras at every street corner, while nations that value privacy more than security will be limited in their use of such devices. For years, Motorola has been showing the “connected” officer, who basically has eyes in the back of his head and data streaming both in and out of his gear in real time. Perhaps an officer in China might agree to this, but I doubt any public safety official in the free world would concede.

CCW was more than educational sessions; it was also the perfect setting to network with industry decision makers and see the latest product offerings on the market. To top it off, who could pass on a favorite beer at the Heineken Event or Rohill’s fresh-made Stroopwafles. When in Amsterdam …

Next year’s CCW will return to Hong Kong.

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On 6/21/16, Marian Marin said:
The events from Brussels and Paris when there were terrorist attacks show the limits of TETRA and GSM/Long Term Evolution (LTE).
But in the future it is necesary to have TETRA, LTE, Wi-Fi together to assure broadband operation and secure networks.

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