The conference section of Critical Communications World 2014 in Singapore (20-22 May 2014) delivered some of the best examples of critical communications excellence from around the world.
Delegates heard how Selex secured the Sochi Winter Olympics, how the Royal Brunei Police planned for the ASEAN Summit in 2013, how Airbus Defence & Space played a role in Nelson Mandela’s memorial ceremony, while Motorola Solutions shared key trends in TETRA that will impact the next 10 years.
The future of TETRA was discussed as Thomas Lynch, of IHS, who took charge of a panel featuring Norway’s DNK, Hong Kong Police, TTG, TCCA and Germany’s BDBOS. As operators need to see a significant return on investment from current TETRA deployments, it is safe to say that TETRA will not suddenly be replaced by LTE overnight, the panel asserted.
The key factor here is in what users understand as ‘mission-critical’ communications. Public safety users, demand resilient and reliable voice communication above all else. And it is hard to dispute TETRA’s position as the superior technology for this was the conclusion.
However, in a survey conducted by Motorola, 89% of public safety users view data as critical. In particular, Jolly Wong, of Hong Kong Police, described video as a ‘killer app’ that is now absolutely necessary. It was felt that the important thing now, is to understand how best to integrate LTE into a TETRA network. LTE should not be seen as a replacement for TETRA. Right now, it is a complimentary technology to TETRA, and one that will continue to be developed.
Technology can continue to develop, but without well organised users, the technology is irrelevant. The importance of strong user operations is something that was mentioned frequently in all of the plenary presentations. And it is these users who will play an important part in shaping the future applications for mission critical mobile broadband.
As the plenary session came to a close, the final two talks took the discussions beyond TETRA and LTE and introduced the audience to the Internet of Things and the Smart Cities concept. Deborah Weiss, of Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority, described how far behind public safety is in embracing effective use of data. This was followed by Huawei’s presentation on its work in transforming Nanjing in China into a Smart City.
As more and more of our lives become increasingly connected, critical communications is bound to change. The depth and richness of data, will be used to help give unprecedented levels of support to officers and move us closer to faster and smarter public safety decisions.
The Internet of Things concept will only add to the volume of data available, while adding extra layers of possible detail available to skilled data scientists. The feeling is that we have barely scratched the surface of what might be possible in a hyper-connected world, that is already becoming a reality.
So, while users continue to celebrate and develop TETRA as the enabling technology for truly mission critical communications, they will refine their approach towards LTE to supplement and improve on what they are capable of. Key messages from the plenary session were:
- TETRA is still the optimal technology for mission critical communications
- LTE may be inevitable, but it is a complimentary technology, rather than a replacement, for the next decade at least
- We are sitting on an impressive wealth of data. It’s time to really put it to work.