Groups Work to Ensure Certification for Mission-Critical Broadband Equipment
Wednesday, July 22, 2020 | Comments

TCCA and the Global Certification Forum (GCF) formed a new group to continue work on the development of mission-critical certification for broadband equipment. The group plans to begin certifying mission-critical devices with pre-integrated MCX client apps in the first phase.

Features tested in the first phase will be mainly tied to on-network mission-critical push to talk (MCPTT) calls, with a few mission-critical data (MCData) features tested as well. Field trials on a live network and/or network test bed environment will be conducted during the first phase. In later phases, once commercial test equipment becomes available, it is expected that lab-based conformance testing over an IP and/or LTE simulated network will be introduced.

To date, ETSI has run a series of Plugtests events for the mission-critical industry. This helps manufacturers assess the interoperability of their product against selected other manufacturers’ products. Manufacturers then use the information obtained to further improve the interoperability of their products. However, this approach, while invaluable to developing and launching a new suite of standards such as MCX, does not scale. To address this, TCCA and GCF, the global certification body for mobile cellular devices, are working together on a certification process for broadband equipment in the critical communications sector. The certification will be based upon GCF’s existing scalable certification processes that have served the cellular mobile industry for more than 20 years.

GCF’s new ‘Mission-Critical Agreement Group’ (MCAG) will take over work from the GCF-TCCA Joint Task Force, formed in January, which held eight meetings with around 40 delegates per meeting and 85 representatives from 39 organizations. The task force’s objective was to develop a staged approach to the development of mission-critical certification based on prioritizing industry requirements. The task force worked to determine certification scope and processes and to determine the future management and governance model.

The task force developed an MCX gap analysis that prioritized the certification scope. The living document tracks deployments and bands, along with MCX core and test specification standards evolution and MCX features. The document will continue to be used to prioritize future phases of MCX certification.

“The initial certification tests will focus on Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Release 15 standards, but MCAG plans to prioritize a certification process for future 3GPP releases and MCX features,” said Chris Hogg, program manager, GCF. “The first phase will have device certification only and a limited MCX feature set that focuses on key features in use today.”

To certify a mission critical LTE device, the LTE portion of the device will be assessed for compliance using a mix of conformance, interoperability and live network field trials in line with normal GCF practices.

The integrated MCX app will be tested in field trials. GCF and TCCA are working with the GSM Association (GSMA) field trial development group to define field trial test cases for MCX phase one GCF certification.

Future phases of MCX certification will be tailored towards industry demand; however they are likely to include the addition of conformance testing for the MCX client, certification of Stand-alone MCX clients and certification of MCX servers, including assessing interworking to legacy systems such as TETRA and Project 25 (P25).

“Certifying mission-critical equipment is important because lives depend on it,” said Harald Ludwig, chairman of TCCA’s Technical Forum. “Devices, applications and servers need to interoperate with each other and be multivendor, multioperator and multiservice provider. Certification of compliance to standards is a key way of achieving interoperability by reducing deployment costs and time to market.”

For more on the planned certification process, watch a webinar on the topic here.

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