Back in 2009, Solaris Mobile was awarded 2x15MHz of S-Band radio spectrum (2GHz), which sits next to mobile operators’ UMTS 3G band. Its concept is to offer a combination of wide area satellite coverage across the whole of the EU and local area terrestrial mobile networks.
The idea is that the satellite provides the perfect way to rapidly download and broadcast data to large numbers of people, while a new terrestrial 4G network supplies an on-demand singular path of data for high capacity use.
When Wireless caught up with Solaris Mobile at Mobile World Congress in February 2012, the company was looking at consumer services, such as satellite digital radio and streaming video to vehicles, while exploring the options for providing services to the PPDR community.
Matt Child, CEO at Solaris Mobile, explained at the PMR Summit in September, that the company’s focus has shifted in the interim.
‘We are focusing more on PPDR in Europe now,’ says Child. ‘The more we engaged with the sector, the more we realised the problems it was having in finding spectrum to access mobile broadband. Sure, they can go to the commercial mobile operators, but they do not operate in a mission critical way. For them it is adding additional cost of robustness without a productivity gain.’
The other main option for the PPDR community is to wait until EU governments provide them with some additional spectrum. But as Child points out: ‘Governments won’t provide that spectrum cheaply and probably not in the frequencies the PPDR sector is after. They will also need additional money to buy all the new equipment.
‘What we offer, therefore, is a middle road,’ he says. ‘We have the frequencies. It’s unencumbered spectrum – no one will be cleared off it and it has the advantage of being harmonised across Europe.’
Solaris Mobile’s plan for PPDR is that the terrestrial networks should be deployed in the main urban areas where most of the need is for the emergency services, while the satellite network is used outside. ‘This will optimise the cost of deployment,’ observes Child.
Solaris Mobile now has to get its vision out to the EC, national governments, regulators, potential terrestrial partners and the PPDR community. ‘We are ready to invest in the satellite to support a direct data service,’ says Child, ‘but we need a distribution partner to invest in the terrestrial side and commit to deploying and distributing services to the end users. Their role is to aggregate the demand.’
Solaris Mobile is currently talking to national regulators about dedicating a portion of its spectrum to the PPDR sector: ‘We are taking part in discussions with the relevant European regulatory agencies, advising on the benefits of using 2GHz S-Band for the critical communications sector.’
Child emphasises that Solaris Mobile’s proposal is an add-on to existing TETRA and Tetrapol services in Europe and not a substitute. It is there to provide help with accessing broadband services. There is still some standards approval work that needs to be completed around 3GPP and satellite technology, but antennas and other products ‘are in the works’.
In the meantime, Solaris Mobile is talking to the EU and other funding partners to see if they can provide the equity part of the financing, while the company will raise the rest. Child says the concept should be service ready by early 2014.