Four Models for PPDR Broadband Networks
By Harald Wium Lie and Amund Kvalbein
Thursday, August 02, 2018 | Comments

Emergency services depend on robust and secure communications services to perform their all-important tasks of saving lives and protecting society. Most European countries have established dedicated communication networks based on TETRA technology to meet the special needs of the public protection and disaster relief (PPDR) community. These narrowband networks are built for efficient voice communication in groups but have limited data capabilities.

As broadband data access rapidly becomes a necessity for PPDR users, governments in many countries are faced with the challenge of how to establish emergency communications for the coming decades and how to make best use of the economies of scale and scope that are available in commercial mobile technologies and networks.

National governments are seeking to implement robust and secure networks that are required by emergency services. Governments should carefully consider robustness, functionality, competition and cost when selecting an operational model for next-generation networks for emergency services.

The Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) family of standards specified new features sought by the PPDR community, including mission-critical push to talk, (MCPTT) mission-critical video, device-to-device communications and several others. This opens the path toward next-generation PPDR networks built with standard mobile network equipment, with associated benefits related to costs, availability and innovation. Authorities in many countries are now looking at how a PPDR network based on 3GPP technology can most efficiently be implemented, taking the special requirements for coverage, availability and security into account.

Some countries, notably Sweden, are considering whether a dedicated, state-owned PPDR mobile network should be established, citing security and government control as the main motivation for this approach. Other countries are looking at models that use existing commercial mobile networks as a basis for a PPDR service. This normally involves strengthening the robustness and security of these networks and implementing new functionality required by emergency services. Norway, the United Kingdom’s Emergency Services Network (ESN) and the U.S. First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) are examples of countries that have chosen this approach. The commercial models, and the level of government involvement, vary significantly between these countries.

The following four operating models can guide a discussion around next-generation PPDR networks in most countries. When selecting a PPDR network model, most authorities will start from the functional and quality-related requirements of the users. A PPDR network must be robust, secure and have the coverage and capacity to provide mission-critical broadband services, such as real-time video communications, when and where they are needed.

However, PPDR authorities must also consider a range of other questions and priorities, related to cost, level of government control, competition and accountability. Analysys Mason identified four different generic operating models, which form a good starting point for a discussion around next-generation PPDR networks in many countries.

The four models are:
1. State-owned network with commercial fallback — state mobile network operator (MNO). The state establishes and owns a dedicated PPDR network and signs one or more roaming agreements with commercial networks for added coverage and robustness.
2. Single commercial network — one radio access network (RAN). The state buys access to PPDR services from a single commercial operator only and relies on the coverage and reliability of that network. ESN and FirstNet both fall into this category, albeit with quite different contractual arrangements.
3. Primary network with fallback — primary RAN. One commercial operator is the main PPDR supplier, but a second mobile network is used as backup when the primary network is not available.
3. Multiple equal networks — equal RAN. The PPDR network is based on two or more commercial mobile networks that have the same role in the solution design

The generic models vary in terms of robustness, operational complexity and impact on competition. Models that use several networks to implement PPDR services can potentially be more robust than the single commercial network model, which uses only a single mobile network.

Analysys Mason has worked on cost-benefit analyses of different models in several markets. As a general observation, a PPDR network based on commercial mobile networks can achieve at least the same quality, security and robustness as a dedicated network. However, the four models vary in terms of cost. We estimate that a state network will be several times more expensive than commercial alternatives depending on requirements for robustness and security. In addition to the high cost of establishing a new radio network, a state-owned network will require significant financial and human resources to maintain PPDR services at a level that matches user expectations.

Driven by competition and a larger customer base, commercial operators invest large sums in new functionality and improved quality in their networks every year. Experience from several countries shows that it is hard to maintain the same investment level over time in a network that relies on public funding.

We have estimated the lifetime costs for the four alternatives based on parameters from a Nordic market (see Figure 1). We indexed the cost estimates so that the state MNO alternative with a high ambition level is set to 100. The high ambition level includes significant investment in increased robustness and security compared to commercial Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks. The extra costs for the high ambition level are represented in the area with the dotted line. Overall, the commercial alternatives have significantly lower costs than the state MNO alternative.

When we exclude the high ambition costs, the lifetime cost of a state MNO alternative is almost four times higher than that of the commercial alternatives. When high ambition costs are included, the state MNO alternative is more than twice as expensive. In addition, revenue from frequency auctions will be lower in the state MNO alternative because frequencies must be reserved for PPDR use.

The best model for a next generation emergency network will depend on specific requirements and the mobile market situation in the specific country. Given the large cost differences illustrated in the chart, governments and MNOs should develop a clear strategy for how existing mobile networks can best be used to develop a robust and sustainable solution that will serve its ultimate purpose — to support the security and well-being of the population.

Governments should start preparations for selecting the most appropriate model for their country.

The original article appeared here.

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Harald Wium Lie is a partner at Analysys Mason. He helps investors, companies and regulatory authorities to identify and implement better broadband strategies. As one of Norway’s leading advisors, Wium Lie brings fresh perspectives combined with 20 years of telecoms experience.

Amund Kvalbein is a principal with Analysys Mason and is based in Oslo, Norway. He has more than 15 years of research and consulting experience in communication systems. Kvalbein joined Nexia Management Consulting in 2014, and Nexia Management Consulting became part of Analysys Mason in 2017.

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On 8/7/18, Dr Rajan Chadha said:
Connectivity at all times is essential.
The article assumes that mobile infrastructure is the only infrastructure solution that is suitable for protection and disaster relief. This is wrong. As we know during fires and high wind, the mobile infrastructures are either blown off or base stations lost as towers collapsed losing connectivity.
A friend of mine during the Houston disaster could not connect using existing mobile devices via any of the current access infrastructures. Base stations were blown off, optical fibre was under water and satellite feeds for the ground stations were displaced. Note data based on FCC. Unfortunately he could not connect for help when he needed the most and telehealth care didn't work. Businesses were disrupted — no internet, Amazon, Google, Facebook or iPhone connection. This suggests a need for an alternate infrastructure.
We have invented and patented in the U.S. a low-cost alternate infrastructure that is independent of current access technologies providing city and countrywide coverage without the need for expensive towers for base stations, drones or balloons. This infrastructure can address the above issues. Moreover, the patented digital solution can assist in reducing opportunity gaps between urban and rural remote areas, bringing economic social health and security benefits.

On 8/7/18, user-106192 said:
Ideally the mobile network operator (MNO) is a telco that will provide mission-critical push to talk (MCPTT) as a service and should offer roaming services between one other or multiple telcos for extended geographical coverage and network fall back and reliability in favor of building their control and monopoly around the MCPTT future business, particularly in countries where PPDR services have large geographical areas to cover. Trust 3GPP releases will address these MCPTT interoperability and roaming issues in the near future.

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