Challenges on Deployment of Mission-Critical Broadband Communication Systems

07 March 2023

Implementing a new 4G/5G mission-critical broadband system typically takes several years, and the success of such programmes is based around a number of key factors and challenges.

With over 50 years’ experience in delivering mission-critical systems, Leonardo’s Campaign Manager for Emergency Services Network (ESN), Nigel Lidster, discusses how close collaboration is key to any programme success.

The deployment of a new mission-critical network is so complex that no single company can provide the whole solution. Instead, the solution requires an “ecosystem of companies” to be formed who are specialists in their own specific fields but work collaboratively to ensure the ecosystem solution is one seamless system. This typically requires a culture change not only from the ecosystem members, but also from the contracting authorities.

A foundation of trust

Gaining the trust of the emergency services operators that the system will work, is critical. The end-users must have the confidence that when they press that button for assistance, they know that message will get through every single time without fail.

Projects should therefore include early and continuous engagement with the end-users who need to be involved throughout the whole programme lifecycle. They should have input on the requirements specification, selection of delivery partners, transition planning, migration and support.

The transition and migration from any existing communication system such as a TETRA network (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) must be seamless and cause no interruptions of service. There is no doubt that for this to be effective, both the original and replacement systems will have to run in parallel during the transition period. The interoperability between the TETRA and 4G/5G systems is a key factor.

Providing a standard

In order to facilitate such working relationships, the Institute of Collaborative Working’s ISO 44001: Collaborative Business Relationships Standard focuses on behaviours, organisational culture and management processes, providing a common platform to underpin sustainable business relationships and harness the benefits of collaborative working.

In addition, the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) international standard for Mission-Critical Communications (MCX) – which covers applications such as MCPTT, MCVideo and MCData – provides a set of standards for interworking. As the 3GPP standard has evolved over the last few years, a key element of its acceptance, success and adoption, has been the regular “plug and play” tests. These provide opportunities for any manufacturer to demonstrate clearly their interoperability with other equipment manufacturers who will be part of any ecosystem that delivers a mission-critical system, thereby giving the end-user confidence the system will deliver the capability required.

There are no shortcuts

Any deployment of MCX systems will not be a quick journey, and the fact that it is mission- critical, requires every change and enhancement to be vigorously tested to ensure that no part of the integration breaks at any stage. Therefore, the longevity of ecosystem suppliers, the test and assurance plan, compliance to standards and willingness to work collaboratively all have to be considered to ensure a successful programme.

Having designed, implemented and supported numerous MCX networks around the world, Leonardo understands the importance of successful seamless integration of these networks and end-user requirements.

Leonardo has the technology to deliver the next generation MCX Network for the UK Emergency Services, and will be attending BAPCO 2023 where we will demonstrate our MCX application in real-time with TETRA interworking.