Tom Quirke, VP and general manager, global TETRA product and solutions organisation, Motorola Solutions: "The round table was an opportunity for Motorola Solutions to discuss the future evolution of TETRA and mission critical communications with end users, operators and industry experts. It was great to share views on the issues faced today around mission critical data and how technologies such as TEDS could play a key role in addressing them. The roundtable also looked at the benefits of LTE that vendors such as Motorola are providing and the need to work together as an industry to ensure that suitable frequencies are allocated to enables it to be cost effectively deployed."
High-quality mobile broadband data services are now widely available. But the big question is: how to use it?
How should public safety organisations - and other industry verticals - access broadband services in conjunction with their existing TETRA or similar networks? And how can they do it in a way that is reliable, robust and resilient?
To provide answers, Wireless teamed up with Motorola Solutions, the TETRA Association and British APCO to host a round table discussion with a panel of experts to debate the possible future strategies for implementing additional data and broadband services.
James Atkinson: How critical is data or even broadband data in the current environment?
Phil Godfrey: Certainly within the TETRA Association we see the whole subject of data and in particular broadband data becoming a very hot topic. We have initiated a project within ETSI through Technical Committee TETRA to look at broadband solutions. Clearly existing technologies such as LTE and WiMAX would be the first port of call. Only if neither of those could be made suitable would we consider alternative solutions. For us – apart from spectrum – the biggest unknown quantity is the criticality of data. Clearly commercial services would provide the obvious route for non-critical data. For critical data you’ve either got TETRA as it stands or TEDS (TETRA Enhanced Data Service), then wideband data.
Stephen Northcott: Is broadband data critical now? No, because it is not deployed now. As technology moves on newer technologies evolve to replace the old, such as the fax machine. Some of the older working practices increasingly die out. As time goes on – one year, five years, 10 years – people get more reliant on data as it becomes mission critical. Going forward, TETRA TEDS will have an increasing role to play, potentially complimented by other bearers depending on the exact nature of data application.
Steve Shorey: The take up of mobile data in the police service in my time has stuttered. The take up of wideband solutions will depend on how we plumb them into our business processes. It is absolutely inevitable that those services will become available, but the challenge will come from discovering how to use them.
Euros Evans: We already do very low latency data on TETRA. That’s one example where you have narrowband data, but really low latency. My view is that not everything is broadband. Mission critical – everything I’ve heard so far has been very focused on the user’s needs. This has to be tempered by commercial reality. We live in austere times and part of the challenge is to deliver incremental benefit while potentially trying to reduce cost.
Duncan Swan: TETRA is excellent at supporting data. Broadband is what we are looking at and the criticality of data in particular. Is it something that is required locally or do you need to push the broadband data back to control rooms some distance away? Are we looking at wide area technologies? As you start to make broadband more available, people get reliant on it. An interesting anecdote about the recent BlackBerry outage – one government department claimed that the loss of usage had no impact throughout that three-day outage.
Sam Simpson: Certainly in London we’ve come into conflict during major incidents. Voice traffic has taken up so much capacity that it’s impacted data performance. In the recent past, the ambulance service has reverted to legacy systems. In terms of what the user wants – broadband or whatever – the users don’t really care, providing the system is sufficient in terms of speed. It also has to be efficient in terms of cost and effective in terms of accuracy. It has to be proven to be secure, too. We can’t lose these systems at times of crisis. We have scenarios when it isn’t a case of ‘business as usual’. Good examples here are 7/7, the Royal wedding, and presidential visits, which totally change business processes. At those times we struggle to find a suitable product to support those processes. We have to bear in mind cross-border operations too. In Europe we’re exploring ways of improving that common platform, but with different bearers. In terms of a user it is a challenge that we have to present to the technologists.
Euros Evans: With regard to Sam’s comment about the London ambulance service, they have been exclusively on Airwave and have had no issues whatsoever. The issues Sam raised aren’t about data per se, but capacity and how it is managed on a network. All things are finite. What we’ve put in place is co-ordination amongst all the bodies that respond to incidents. The issue is how we bring all those bodies together for both planned and unplanned events.
I believe the network has dealt with everything thrown at it without issue for any London users. I don’t believe the ambulance service has gone back to their analogue capabilities. We would have to face that challenge (of capacity) irrespective of the type of data network. We see that happening on the cellular networks when on New Year’s Eve you have zero chance of being able to do something.
Tom Quirke: I want to make the analogy of ‘nice-to-have’ with insurance. No-one likes paying for insurance. But when something happens you are very glad you had that insurance and it doesn’t come cheap. Until it (a new government) has its first crisis, it doesn’t quite appreciate what’s being done. Airwave has been tested and been called upon. But when we talk about data, then data hasn’t really had its trigger event. But voice has – over and over again. New Year’s Eve is going to be a trigger event. The question is, is data mission critical?
As people use the cellular networks, they’re going to get used to having data. That will change with the demographic of the people that use the systems. We’ve talked about TETRA data and broadband. In an emergency, when I’m using data, am I going to be looking at the device all the time or am I going to be looking at the incident? There are some subsets that aren’t service impacting that you can live without. That is the subset that can sit on the TETRA network. It’s not a trivial problem – there are back end systems to data. They are not easy to put in and institutionalise. Hopefully with foresight rather than a trigger event, we will discover which data applications are really necessary.
Tim Lane: It’s times of disaster that turn us from consumers into citizens. I’m the token non-TETRA user here. On the railways, like our Continental cousins, we use GSMR. Like TETRA, we’ve got low bandwidth, circuit switched networks, which are approaching the end of their life. We can see the need for IP migration but that doesn’t drive capacity increases. Let’s pick an application that is bandwidth hungry – CCTV for level crossings, suicides, etc. When the bearer is there, then they will become the must-haves of tomorrow. We could string on a low bandwidth service to do our operational comms, but delivering connectivity on a railway is very difficult. So is broadband data critical now? No. Will it be critical in the future, I believe so, yes.
Thomas Lynch: I agree with Phil Godfrey on how the user community defines its must-haves. IMS has carried out a survey in the US and we found out 70% of licence holders were indeed using data. The type of data does range (from low to high) and is being used and considered at present. Is broadband data a nice-to-have or a must-have? How willing are end users to pay for this must-have service? This is not about TETRA data, it’s about broadband. Data is being used, but the answer may be a hybrid or a number of different solutions.
James Atkinson: What steps might we make to bring in more data in the future? There have been suggestions that some of the existing spectrum could be refarmed, for example.
Sam Simpson: That’s not an easy question to answer. Visual is becoming more and more critical for command forces. It’s moved from nice-to-have to a must-have. There’s increasing frustration that the media are making much better use of images. People can be the eyes and ears of police forces, as we could make use of images not just from our own officers but the public as well. It’s a bit like Keystone Cops what we are getting over 3G – the live streaming we get from our 3G vans is not good. The only alternative is microwave, which is more stable but takes longer to put in. Trying to review all the video footage from the August riots is consuming as many man hours as the Wiltshire constabulary has in total.
Duncan Swan: Research work is currently stalled through uncertainly about spectrum. There’s a dilemma for manufacturers about where the R&D money goes. In the US they’re looking at using LTE for public safety and having a dedicated data channel.
Tom Quirke: The first time there was talk about broadband data for public safety in the US was in 2006. That’s still in debate as to whether it can be given to public safety for free or whether it can be auctioned. We (Motorola) have advocated that it should be free. Spectrum stays in place for 20-30 years. In Europe, do we need to think about harmonisation with the US?
Euros Evans: I may be wrong but I don’t think there’s plans for state-wide LTE public safety data networks. So that leaves you with public data hotspots which might be great for London but what about elsewhere? Even suburban London. Enfield had the riots. Would you have paid to put broadband data in Enfield? I don’t know the answer to that. Where do you draw the line?
Phil Godfrey: I want to clarify something because I think there will be a lot of comparisons with the US. In the US they have achieved dedicated public safety bandwidth for voice at 700MHz. They have allocated 2 x 5MHz for data. What they’re looking at for the D-Block is an additional 2 x 5MHz, because they say that 2 x 5MHz isn’t enough – they need 2 x 10MHz. They’re a long way ahead of us in terms of the spectrum because in Europe we don’t have anything allocated.
Tom Quirke: One of the things that happened with Hurricane Katrina was that the emergency services were using CNN news feeds and didn’t realise the TV station was repeating them so they were sending resources to the wrong spot.
Tim Lane: Can I take us back to talking about roaming onto other networks in rural areas? I’m not sure that it works. If a public operator can’t afford to roll out in rural areas and you force a public safety obligation onto them, then they’re going to bid a lot less for the licence.
Tom Quirke: There’s an element of customisation that is required and it’s a big element. The people around this room are driving a lot of the R&D and helped to create the TETRA standard, which is driven predominantly by public safety. I’d like to know what your experiences are with GSMR where you’re hooked up to a standard, which has perhaps two or three billion people using it. How much influence do you have on GSMR?
Tim Lane: We have a lot of influence on GSMR but we don’t have much influence on GSM. In terms of longevity our saving grace is probably Africa. That technology will migrate to developing economies which will keep GSM alive. The GSMR equipment vendors are giving us a commitment to support the standard till 2025 – maybe even longer.
Tom Quirke: TETRA is only just being rolled out in Germany, for instance. China is just on the cusp of a TETRA rollout. TETRA is growing. It’s a very vibrant technology. It’s rolled out slower than GSM, so that’s why it’s in a very different cycle with a rollout in Asia Pacific and other areas that are taking on TETRA.
James Atkinson: It’s very clear that some kind of hybrid network is needed but nobody likes the idea of putting data services on commercial networks. What are the next steps that we can take to get dedicated broadband?
Phil Godfrey: I think that we will put data onto commercial networks. The question is really what are the mission critical services that will become absolutely essential and have to have their own dedicated network? I suspect that once you get used to having a live video feed back into the control room of a major incident, and you flip a switch and turn it off, then they’ll go running around saying get that back on, I need it.
Tim Lane: Does it need to be a dedicated network? Provided you’ve got a guaranteed level of service, any bearer fit for purpose would be sufficient.
Tom Quirke: Think about being a commercial network. Can you say to other people, ‘I’m not giving the bandwidth to you, I already guaranteed it to public safety?’ If four out of five of the commercial networks went down, I could guarantee to you that people remembered the fifth network that stayed up and that would have a big impact on people’s memories.
Euros Evans: In the US, some of the commercial services take public safety traffic.
Tom Quirke: That’s because public safety has spectrum, so they have leverage, but over here we have no such leverage.
Euros Evans: If you do make public safety a priority then by default somebody has to have a lower one. There could be an issue with a member of the public calling to say, ‘I’m being attacked’, but they’ve been placed at a lower priority. All things are finite and you have to make sure you’ve got enough room to deal with all these different categories. The commercial networks are just as important or equally important as the public safety ones.
Stephen Northcott: The Met Police are actually using GPRS – not 3G, but because of the rise of smartphones and the fact that people are increasingly using social media such as Twitter and downloading videos from YouTube. So as soon as you add more broadband capability it gets gobbled up. So actually the older GPRS system is better and more resilient.
Sam Simpson: You’re right. We are using GPRS, but it’s not the only data service we’re using.
Tim Lane: But surely that’s just a case of not having the prioritisation on the networks? If you have a technology such as LTE that is capable of giving that priority, then it can be used.
Tom Quirke: I think the whole question of priority is a grey area. What we’d consider a priority is different from someone on a standards body or someone on a cellular network.
Steve Shorey: This is a perennial discussion. There’s a lack of understanding for our wireless requirements in the broadest sense. Everyone else’s perception of what we need is quite different. But we’re only about 1% of the users, so who’s going to listen?
James Atkinson: Listening to this I’m not sure I know what the ideal roadmap is. There are obviously a lot of issues that have to be dealt with at a government level. What are your views on what should be happening in the future?
Thomas Lynch: In the short-term it’s potentially TEDS. Mid-term it’s TEDS and WiMAX maybe. In the long-term it’s got to be an LTE solution.
Tim Lane: None of us are efficient users of spectrum. I’m not convinced of the benefits of total self-provision. Our respective networks can be part of a bigger solution. The Government has either got to provide the spectrum or acknowledge the need for public service provisions.
Tom Quirke: Short-term it’s data on TEDS. It works and it is here today. Mid-term it’s obviously LTE. Long-term, but it’s got to start now, is spectrum harmonisation. Otherwise you’ll end up with a Balkanised technology, which means expensive devices. We’ve talked about devices that have four of five frequency ranges. That’s fine if you do millions of them, but you need economies of scale. There’s nothing on the horizon that’s going to replace TETRA for voice. TETRA offers what you need it to do – work when everything else fails.
Sam Simpson: The one key thing is that we really do need a strong voice to ensure that we have spectrum available for public safety.
Duncan Swan: The key message for me is, as we move forward, it’s an evolutionary not revolutionary process. The whole industry has got different strengths to build hybrid solutions. There’s an awful lot of money being poured into R&D, not just next year but the next few years. Spectrum holds the key.
Euros Evans: TETRA already does data and some of our customers have shown how they can derive real business benefits from it. I think that it will bring clarity around applications. I would urge that whatever we do has a commercial reality and a sensible cost. There may be other communities such as the military, utilities and rail authorities, which can be pulled together to address the commercial challenges. The two big dependencies are the spectrum that we end up with and whether or not we manage to develop a TETRA-like capability on an alternative IP bearer. Both are possible.
Steve Shorey: PSRCP, which became TETRA, was the first time all the public safety communities got together to harmonise their requirement. I’m not sure whether there’s one single voice driving public safety requirements. It seems to be a requirement to get some view of those public safety requirements for data, be they CCTV or despatch, across the main public safety users. I don’t know where that voice is – whether it’s BAPCO, as the NPIA is fading away. If the regulators don’t hear about it then there’s confusion. We’ve got to get the one voice.
Stephen Northcott: In the short-term it’s TETRA and increasingly - TEDS. TETRA’s not just about pure data rates. You have to look at all of its other capabilities such as security. In my mind TETRA is the most advanced service of its kind and it’s got a role to play for many years to come. From a European point of view, harmonised spectrum is the promised land and there’s a lot of work to be done getting LTE harmonised. It’s got to be the right amount of spectrum as well. We’re learning from the US and Middle East deployments, which are shaping exactly where the public safety broadband debate will bring real added value. In the short-term, TEDS is starting to come increasingly forward.
Phil Godfrey: We see absolutely nothing on the horizon that’s going to replace TETRA for mission critical voice. Yes, you can demonstrate voice over LTE but that’s not real public safety/mission critical stuff. We’re also convinced that TEDS is the only solution available in the short to medium-term for mission critical data. The future is so heavily dependent on spectrum, that’s the key issue. We need particularly to educate government. And because the meetings are in the UK the worst of the regulators is Ofcom. I said it before at a spectrum meeting in Europe! The danger is that we all know the spectrum issues are long-term. The reason that it’s possible to implement LTE systems in the Middle East is because they have the spectrum. Motorola has been organising some lobbying and it’s starting to bear fruit. We’ve got PPDR into the radio spectrum policy programme. It’s part of the European Parliament’s decision making process, but it’s the national regulators that actually issue licenses for spectrum. It’s education and lobbying that I think are the two most important things that we have to do now.
Euros Evans: Is it true that if you want to deploys TEDS you will need more spectrum? So you can just deploy TEDS and get some benefit?
Phil Godfrey: Yes. And if you want to solve the capacity problems on the existing voice networks then spectrum is needed.
Tom Quirke: You have to repeat time and time again why you need public safety because lots of people don’t get it. You’ve got to bully the military to get the spectrum – although you’ve probably picked the wrong people to bully!
Phil Godfrey: What we really need to do is to work together, so that we go to the regulators with a single voice.
James Atkinson: To summarise: what’s important is building one voice and include end users outside of public safety in that voice. Finding additional spectrum is obviously the key, and in practical terms we need to be looking at evolution rather than revolution – a step by step process that will probably involve hybrid solutions.