Mission-Critical Voice and Broadband Upgrades in Saudi Arabia
Monday, October 31, 2016 | Comments
Dr. Fahad H. Mushayt became CEO of Bravo, the only licensed national operator of wireless push-to-talk (PTT) services in Saudi Arabia, early this year. He discusses Bravo’s recently announced plans to upgrade to TETRA and Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology.

What technology does the existing Bravo push-to-talk (PTT) network use? Bravo was established in 2002 to cater to PTT needs of government and enterprise users across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Bravo selected Motorola’s iDEN solution following its success in the American market where Nextel Communications had 20 million subscribers on its nationwide iDEN network. However, being a proprietary solution, it is no longer supported by its sole supplier, so for the future, we must look to standard mission-critical PTT solutions such as TETRA and the rapidly emerging mission-critical Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard developed by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), which allows for a much richer user experience.

What spectrum does the existing network use? Will the new TETRA and LTE technologies use the same spectrum? Bravo’s existing iDEN network works within the 800 MHz band across KSA. We have sufficient spectrum nationwide to provide service to 3,000 accounts and nearly 160,000 individual subscribers. We are looking to adopt mission-critical LTE services in the 800 MHz band 20, closely aligned with our existing spectrum assignments. The best spectrum for TETRA services in KSA is in the 400 MHz bands. We are exploring acquiring sufficient spectrum for TETRA in 400 MHz, although 800 MHz is also a commonly used band in parts of Asia Pacific and the Americas.

Why did you decide on TETRA? TETRA has proven itself to be the most robust and most widely deployed digital professional mobile radio (PMR) technology across the world during the past 14 years, and it continues to develop and evolve to satisfy a wide range of user needs. Many of our customers demand TETRA because of the features and services that it offers, and we believe that it will be an important step in the journey that Bravo is taking.

What applications will run on the LTE network? TETRA allows for mission-critical voice and some limited data applications, and LTE opens a new world of possibilities for our customers. It is being enhanced to provide the same group communications services as existing narrowband technologies, but will also allow mission-critical users to have access to video, situational awareness, mapping and advanced dispatch services, as well as serving as a platform for future services and applications tailored to each user’s needs. We also see the emergence of the internet of things (IoT), enabled by mission-critical LTE, bringing greater efficiencies, remote control and intelligence with unlimited growth potential for Bravo.

Will you price the TETRA and LTE service separately or as a combined offering? It is too early to present our pricing strategy for TETRA and LTE services. Mission-critical users tend to prefer predictable, transparent monthly pricing so that they can focus on their critical missions without worrying about hidden costs or complicated tariff structures. This will definitely be the case for mission-critical voice where Bravo must provide a guaranteed service to its customers. LTE allows a more diverse range of services and applications, so we expect more tailored tariffs for different customer segments depending on the particular services that they value the most.

Who are Bravo’s main customers? Bravo has more than 3,000 accounts across all vertical markets. We provide PTT services to all the major government and enterprise sectors. We play a key role during Hajj season every year, for example, connecting more than 4 million calls and 40 million dispatch calls during last year’s season, making Bravo an essential service during a time when commercial networks are routinely congested. We are also popular with the oil and gas sector.

As we develop our TETRA and mission-critical LTE services, we will be able to provide an even more compelling offering to the public-safety sector. As we look at the growth of the transportation sector, including significant investments in Riyadh Metro and bus services, new infrastructure is being deployed in the kingdom’s capital, and new opportunities are opening for our next-generation platforms. As we start focusing exclusively on mission-critical operations, our existing and future customers can trust Bravo to provide the highest possible services in terms of functionality, security and availability.

How do you hope to influence the TETRA + Critical Communications Association (TCCA) as a new member? TCCA is a highly respected, long-standing global association dedicated to mission-critical communications. Becoming a member of TCCA opens new opportunities for Bravo to cooperate with fellow members from around the world who share common goals and experiences. As a mission-critical operator setting out to build a next-generation critical communications platform, we believe that we also have a lot to offer TCCA. We therefore look forward to participating in its various working groups and attending its events to work together with the global community to influence future standards work. It is important to make sure that suppliers and system integrators understand the needs of network operators and our end users.

Is TETRA and public-safety LTE use increasing in the Middle East? TETRA remains a key technology across the Middle East region; it is the technology of choice for public safety, government and emergency services who value it above all other communications tools that users carry on a daily basis to keep them safe, connected and to help them protect citizens living in societies where security has become such a key issue. LTE is just beginning to be used for mission-critical and business critical operations. We expect public-safety LTE use to increase dramatically during the next three to five years as more advanced solutions become available and users are educated in all the enhanced data and video services that LTE can offer.

We look forward to being able to offer even better service, value for money and security to our customers as we work together to create a safer, stronger and richer kingdom. Bravo is definitely keen to contribute to the ambitious Saudi Vision 2030 that will transform our society and economy.

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