Thales announced the commercial launch of NEXIUM Wireless, a new LTE network solution for the PMR industry, at Critical Communications World in Paris last week (21-24 May 2013).
The solution is designed to provide very high data rate communication services to civil security forces, as well as military units deployed in peacekeeping and civil defence roles. NEXIUM Wireless includes TeSquad, a ruggedised push-to-talk Android smartphone (pictured).
In Thales’s view, professional mobile radio (PMR) users now require more effective, high-bandwidth multimedia capabilities to share information in the field (database look-up, real-time video, situational awareness, image transfer, geo-location, etc.).
The new NEXIUM Wireless solution brings professional users the benefits of 4th generation (4G) LTE technology, building on Thales's expertise in mission-critical communications to provide the resilience and security levels needed to meet the specific operational requirements of its customers.
How NEXIUM Wireless works
Jean-Michel Lagarde, Deputy SVP in charge of Secure Communications and Information Systems activities at Thales, said: ‘NEXIUM Wireless is the first LTE solution adapted to civil and military security forces mission critical applications.’ He summarised the key capabilities of the solution as:
- Dedicated security solution – Thales TEOPAD mobile security (reused from global mobile devices application)
- PMR services over LTE
- Ruggedised push-to-talk smartphone
- Standard technology – LTE
- Edge-centric LTE core network solution
- Integration of third party applications (Android, for example)
Lagarde said the design of the network is the system’s key differentiator. ‘Most of our competitors work inside a centralised LTE architecture, which is perfect for networks with millions of subscribers. But they are not mission critical networks. They are vulnerable to congestion, cyber attacks and they may have to be shut off to avoid being used as a trigger for an attack and so on.’
The Thales solution features an edge-centric, decentralised system, which keeps communications at a lower level. If a city’s mobile phone network is disconnected, police can still communicate, as the base stations have all the necessary functionality distributed to them. The key features decentralised to radio sites for resiliency and availability include:
- Cost effective – all in one box
- Scalable architecture
- Interoperability with IP-based TETRA solution
- Multi-vendors for eNodeB
- Networks can be rolled-out on a small scale and co-exist with TETRA networks and gradually be migrated over time and cost effectively.
An important aspect of the design was to deploy all the necessary network functionality into a much smaller base station. Thales worked with Cisco to achieve this and with Nokia Siemens Networks on the LTE eNodeB, but other LTE equipment vendors can be used too.
‘Cisco helped us develop everything in one box,’ said Lagarde. ‘We use Cisco basic LTE functions, such as standard routers and put LTE applications in the one box, so the base station can work even if cut off from the network. Our system is the first edge-centric LTE solution to be certified in the USA.’
TeSquad ruggedised smartphone
In conjunction with the launch of NEXIUM Wireless, Thales also unveiled TeSquad, a ruggedised push-to-talk smartphone, which is designed to provide civil security and military forces with both conventional PMR services (group calls, conference calls, emergency calls, etc.) and new 4G capabilities such as live video streaming.
TeSquad users can connect to their organisation's information system on the move, gaining remote access to databases as part of a full-functioned mobile information system. It can be used as a standard smartphone.
Lagarde said the aim was to converge all services into a single device by combine TETRA and 3G/4G with a push-to-talk button and an emergency button to provide a fully ruggedised LTE mission critical smartphone. Key aspects of the design include:
- Professional Design: Ruggedised; PTT and emergency button
- Mission Critical Voice: full suite of PMR services over LTE - point to multi-point communications – group calls
- Priority and Pre-emption: these features have not been standardised for LTE yet by 3GPP, so Thales has to work in advance of the standard here, but Lagarde said it will be easy enough to adapt to the standard when it is agreed
- Roaming onto commercial networks: 2G/3G/4G are all available
- Multimedia Applications: geo-localised information; group data and video, including group broadcast of data
- Security: Thales’s TEOPAD solution delivers secure application environment on the move. Thales has defined a sandbox on the terminal for professional applications; and a personal area. The sandbox is not an application, but is integrated into the terminal and connected to dedicated servers run by the company or organisation. If a terminal is lost, no one can access the professional applications/area.
Lagarde said the aim was to use something already developed. Managers in the police, for example, can decide which applications are held where, or which users get access to particular applications. A lot of applications already exist in Android and these can be re-used. Dedicated software from Thales provides the customer with the ability to send apps over the air to the user’s terminal.
Lagarde added: ‘Users receive calls the same way on TETRA or cellular. We decided to use gateways between the two networks and not implement TETRA onto the terminal, as that would be a very expensive solution.’
See also - CCW 2013: Thales to deploy LTE pilot on Jordanian TETRA system