Airwave has joined forces with the UK’s largest mobile operator EE via Transatel, one of its MVNE/A's, to launch an MVNO to provide cellular mobile communication services to the emergency services and public sector agencies. The product is designed to complement the TETRA two-way radio voice and data service Airwave operates on behalf of the emergency services in the UK.
The service, known as Airwave Smart Mobile, was unveiled today (11 March 2014) at Critical Communications Europe 2014 in Amsterdam. Transatel is a mobile virtual network enabler/aggregator, which is connected to 8 major mobile operators in Europe (Bouygues Telecom and Orange France in France, Orange Switzerland, EE in the UK, Base and Mobistar in Belgium, Telfort in the Netherlands and Tango in Luxembourg.
Airwave Smart Mobile is a mobile communications service designed specifically to meet the current and future needs of public service organisations. Operating as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), it provides access to one the UK’s largest mobile networks and enables the possibility of interaction with Airwave’s Emergency Services Network (ESN).
'We have designed Airwave Smart Mobile to help the public service community meet the challenges they face today around operational resource management, cost control, efficiency and effectiveness, while coping with ever decreasing budgets. It will also allow more users to access and benefit from the Airwave Service,' said Richard Bobbett, chief operating officer, Airwave.
For the first time ever there will also be the ability to connect from a smartphone to a talkgroup on Airwave’s ESN. This is made possible by its new push-to-talk (PTT) application, Enhance, and is controlled by the customer. Through the PTT application, users can give permission to extend their talkgroup communication beyond existing Airwave Service Users.
'There’s no need for groups like these to hold a TEA2 (TETRA Encryption Algorithm 2) licence or implement additional infrastructure to use the Airwave Smart Mobile service. Enabling groups such as these to interoperate with the emergency services when necessary means incidents, actions and responses can be far better coordinated and managed,' said Bobbett.
Going forward, Airwave said it will continue to provide mission-critical and non-mission critical services to the emergency services, as well as to the wider public service community. Airwave Smart Mobile is an intrinsic element of a broader set of capabilities and services that Airwave continues to bring to market.
'We will continue delivering new capabilities that enable our customers to benefit from developments in technology. As we speak there are more applications and services in the pipeline addressing the challenges in the mobilisation of command and control, duty of care for both employee and employer, to name but a few,' said Bobbett.
Speaking to Wireless today, Euros Evans, CTO, Airwave, said: 'Airwave Smart Mobile is complementary to the Airwave TETRA network, it is not an instead of. We see that there is a greater demand for data among public safety providers, so Smart Mobile addresses that.’
Evans explained that the service brings new functionality to mobile devices, including PTT, which will be available to any user. ‘They can also connect via PTT to the TETRA network, but that does require security clearance, accredited devices and the TETRA users agreeing to it. So, it is part of the solution, but limited to those users we want to allow access to the TETRA network.’
End-to-end encrypted telephone calls are also part of the service for those who have subscribed to it, which uses the MIKEY-SAKKE identity-based authenticated key exchange encryption method. These services will join other existing ones, such as the recently launched location tracking service Collaborate and 4GMax high speed data service.
Evans emphasised that the services is designed to purely make use of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment, such as consumer smartphones.
'The service complements gives public safety organisation a data capability they wouldn’t have had previously. A commander may not have a TETRA radio but now he can take part in Airwave talk groups using a smart mobile device. First responders can enter data in the field and access secure telephony and PTT, so it combines the best of Airwave capability and mobile smart device world,' said Evans.
Airwave manages the MNO airtime, sets the tariffs and arranges the billing, as it does with its TETRA service. Evans said: 'We have a long list of things we aim to do to offer and enhance existing services. There is a lot more to come.'