Europe’s CEPT Moves Forward with Broadband Spectrum, Future Needs
Tuesday, December 06, 2016 | Comments

Public protection and disaster relief (PPDR) took center stage at a joint European Telecommunications Standards Institute-European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (ETSI-CEPT) workshop in September. CEPT is also involved in cross-border coordination, future railway communications and PMR/LTE synergies.

The CEPT’s Electronic Communications Committee (ECC) held the joint workshop, “PPDR — Regulatory Changes and New Opportunities for Broadband PPDR (BB-PPDR)” 29 September at ETSI’s headquarters in France, where about 100 people attended.

The first seeds for the workshop were sown in October 2015 when the ECC adopted Report 218. The report addresses spectrum options for implementing BB-PPDR networks and services in CEPT countries in the 400 and 700 MHz frequency ranges. CEPT identified spectrum of 2 x 10 megahertz (uplink/downlink). The report proposed the concept of flexible harmonization to enable an efficient implementation of BB-PPDR within the CEPT area.

ECC Decision (16)02, published in June, addresses technical conditions and frequency bands for the implementation of BB-PPDR systems in the 450 – 470 and 700 MHz ranges. Project Team FM49 in the CEPT/ECC worked the decision, with Laurent Bodusseau from the French CEPT administration ANFR leading the project team in CEPT/ECC. The ECC decision provides options for the introduction of BB-PPDR on national levels.

Attendees received information on the existing standardization activities and agreed standards and specifications, as well as already agreed work items in support of the CEPT initiative in the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) and ETSI. In addition, standard conformance and interoperability were noted to be important for BB-PPDR. This is especially the case when seen under the flexible harmonization concept for BB-PPDR as decided by CEPT/ECC.

ETSI outlined the support and tools available in the ETSI Centre for Testing and Interoperability. Work in this area for BB-PPDR protocol conformance and interoperability specifications is ongoing and will include plug testing in the future. A the workshop, several countries indicated that they see the need for standardized solutions supported by multiple vendors.

Other issues of interest included a discussion around the feasibility of linking the BB-PPDR network to government IT networks and BB-PPDR terminals roaming on commercial mobile networks.

Status reports and national case studies from various countries — France, Nordic countries and United Kingdom — were also presented. Roadmaps and the main expected challenges offered an overview of what can be expected for national implementation of BB-PPDR networks:
• In France, a national framework is in place for the rollout of BB-PPDR in the 700 MHz range (2 x 3 and 2 x 5 megahertz). In addition, France confirmed its interest in 450 – 470 MHz;
• In the United Kingdom, BB-PPDR services will be provided by a commercial operator;
• For all countries, migration concepts are needed for moving toward BB-PPDR. For early BB-PPDR adopters, this may even include using pre-standards before some publicly available specifications become available;
• Some countries will not auction parts of the 700 MHz spectrum for public mobile networks but use the spectrum for BB-PPDR. At the same time, some countries will consider using commercial hardened networks for BB-PPDR services;
• There are considerations for synergies with other mission-critical communications networks in the energy and transport sectors.

The workshop also saw industry and stakeholder associations provide their perspectives, allowing reflection on the CEPT spectrum harmonization approach and standardization activities. The workshop identified the following challenges still to be solved:
• The uplink block 698 –703 MHz is challenging because of the limit for the protection of the terrestrial broadcasting. Filtering may solve this challenge, while power reduction or bandwidth reduction would impact the coverage — seen as a key issue at the workshop — of the BB-PPDR service;
• Increasing power for some BB-PPDR user equipment such as gateways or within commercial mobile network operations would require new studies for European harmonized solutions;
• Standardization activities in 3GPP will follow the demand, and the optional arrangements for BB-PPDR in 450 – 470 MHz still need to materialize;
• Future technologies such as 5G could be of interest for PPDR applications and may also be used for some applications under alternative frequency arrangements — for example, narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT) with 200 kilohertz for surveillance applications;
• Additional investigations for air-ground-air (AGA) and direct mode operations (DMO) may be needed in the future.

Attendees agreed that technical conditions must be adequately covered and specified in detail in the future ETSI harmonized European standard. A work item for such an ETSI harmonized European standard was established.

Further ETSI standards and specifications to achieve interoperability and cross-border communications are also planned. The work includes the clear identification of the areas for which solutions are still outstanding or need to progress. Solutions under progress concern some frequency arrangements and associated technical conditions set out in ECC Decision (16)02, which may need inclusion or reflection of the technical conditions in the respective 3GPP specifications.

Attendees received insights into the options for the national choice of the most suitable implementation model and the selection of the relevant frequency ranges based on the existing European regulatory framework provided by ECC Decision (16)02 for BB-PPDR. The outcome of the workshop will support the ongoing activities in the area of standardization within ETSI 3GPP.

New and Ongoing Actions
In support of BB-PPDR, another new ECC Recommendation (16)03 on cross-border coordination for BB-PPDR systems at 698 – 791 MHz was published in October. In addition, another amendment of the ECC Recommendation (11)06 that includes Long Term Evolution (LTE) base station emission mask compliance measurements within the 700 MHz range was approved for publication.

Work on improved cross-border coordination possibilities for broadband systems including BB-PPDR in the 400 MHz ranges is ongoing in CEPT. This supports in particular European countries with plans to use 450 – 470 MHz for BB-PPDR. Other considerations include studies into whether 410 – 430 MHz is also a future additional alternative for BB-PPDR in Europe, although this band is not included in the original ECC Decision (16)02).

The Working Group on Frequency Management (WG FM) within the CEPT/ECC decided in principle in October to open a new project team for future railway mobile communications after arrival of the ETSI system reference document TR 103 333 on future GSM-R network evolution. WG FM is also aware of the early considerations in the coexistence and migration studies commissioned by the European Union Agency for Railways, and the project launched by the International Railway Union (UIC) — an ECC partner — to define the successor system to GSM-R.

Investigations are likely to include the aspect of synergies with other mission-critical networks such as for BB-PPDR and the related flexible harmonization concept; or high-voltage smart grids under professional mobile radio (PMR) regulation in the 400 MHz range, interoperability needs, and use of common technology such as LTE and evolutions of it. For PMR/public access mobile radio (PAMR), there are LTE-related coexistence studies ongoing for 410 – 430 MHz and 450 – 470 MHz in CEPT. The ETSI SRdoc TR 102 628 already identified a theoretical possibility for synergies.

This aspect could possibly be compared to similar synergies reported recently by state authorities in South Korea which confirmed that future LTE-R will also be linked with public-safety LTE, a high-speed communications network for public securities to help streamline the nation’s safety control tower and its operations and provide a common network for future railway communications and BB-PPDR.

Thomas Weber is with the European Communications Office (ECO) of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) — Spectrum Management. Email for feedback or visit this page.

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