Designed for the 6Cs? Evaluating your Mission Critical Communications Author: Ricardo Gonzalez
Today, mission critical communication plays a vital role in enabling emergency personnel to stay connected and protect communities around the world. Organisations and agencies – including police, fire, emergency medical services and military – have long depended on narrowband, two-way radio for their mission critical communication needs. Land mobile radio networks such as TETRA continue to deliver proven, reliable voice communication in life-and-death situations.
Now public safety communication needs are evolving as mobile broadband technology offers additional services, which can augment mission critical voice by giving access to data that can be turned into intelligence to support informed decisions in real time.
Motorola Solutions has supported customers with mission critical communications for decades and this experience gives us a unique insight into how solutions need to evolve to deliver the model that most suits customers and users needs.
As public safety agencies around the world explore different ways to address their needs for reliable communications. There is currently some debate in the industry as to whether LMR or mobile broadband is the best solution for public safety.
At this point in technology development, many organisations are choosing to leverage both LMR and mobile broadband. These serve as complementary technologies – with LMR providing essential mission critical voice communications and mobile broadband providing additional data-driven capabilities. Together, they create a system that is able to respond effectively and efficiently to today’s public safety communication needs. By bridging both technologies, your organisation is able to take advantage of the robust offerings provided by LMR and mobile broadband. This synergy between voice and data is the future of mission critical communications.
Motorola Solutions has been providing mission critical solutions for generations, and more than 20 years ago, we recognised the need for an efficient, easy-to-understand benchmark for evaluating technology choices. In response, we introduced the five Cs of critical communication – coverage, capacity, cost, control and capability. Today’s environment requires you to consider a sixth C – cybersecurity.
Together, these six Cs play an important role in effectively assessing mission critical communications. You want to make sure you make the best decisions for the people on the front line, so however you choose to move forward make sure your follow these basic principles.
- Capacity: Are your communications systems capable of supporting everything and everyone they need to during times of crisis? Will calls be prioritised so the most important information gets through first? Even with the best analytics, no one can predict precisely where the next incident will occur. Capacity will always have to be managed and when incidents happen it becomes even more important. Priority setting is vital on both networks so that the most important communications are always allowed through. The robustness of our TETRA network in the UK was proven during the August 2011 riots in London. During the riots, the number of voice calls handled by the London switch doubled from 2 million to 4 million.
- Coverage: Does your system meet your unique geographical and performance requirements? No one can predict where the next incident will occur. You need a robust communication system with superior coverage across your entire operational area and sufficient back-up and redundancies to prevent communication gaps and losses. Infrastructure should be easily supported and serviced to ensure your network stays up and running when it’s needed the most. The resiliency of the P25 networks in Florida and Texas was proven during recent events – including Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey – where the systems continued to operate with minimal disruption of coverage. Because LMR devices transmit with more power, LMR networks require less infrastructure, making them easier to support. In addition, LMR devices will also work in local fall-back-mode if the network does goes down. And ultimately, when outside network coverage, Direct Mode Operation (DMO) allows them to communicate device-to-device.
- Control: How much control do you want over system requirements, design, features and operations? Is it important for your organisation that your system is configured for a specific use case? Many public safety agencies want a high degree of authority over their systems. They want to control who has access to the system, monitor what changes need to be made and when, and track the status of all users. In addition, these controlled networks streamline management and provide network health visibility at all times.
- Costs: How would your return on investment improve if your system supported both voice and data? Your agency doesn’t want to have to compromise mission critical features because of budgetary concerns. Analysing the cost of both LMR and mobile broadband services highlights two very unique, divergent financial structures. Traditionally, implementing an LMR network requires a larger one-time initial financial output to develop infrastructure, followed by ongoing, set monthly fees for upkeep and services. Conversely, subscribing to a commercial mobile broadband network is less expensive at the outset, but recurring airtime fees and other data charges can be unpredictable. Determining if the expense scales appropriately with the size of you fleet will be an exercise to plan for. In addition, mobile broadband requires more bandwidth than narrowband LMR systems, meaning additional sites may be needed to provide the required level of capacity. Building a plan based on a balance and convergence of LMR and mobile broadband can provide your organisation access to the most up-to-date communications technology while reducing operation costs.
- Capability: Voice is critical, but does your organisation also need data capabilities? Through multiple generations of development and user experiences, LMR systems provide a number of functions essential to mission critical operations. Push-to-talk, intuitive design, rugged construction, unique ergonomics, advanced noise cancellation and high-capacity batteries are all features that have been incorporated into LMR devices with the customer’s environment in mind. Robust priority and pre-emption, dynamic grouping, even low-latency call setup are all inherent to LMR technology, ensuring that a critical call gets through. In addition, LMR technology is decentralised and built for resilience – if part of a network goes down or is disconnected from the rest, LMR service continues to be available. Multiple levels of redundancy and fallback modes are built into the networks to minimise service disruptions under even the harshest of conditions. With a design philosophy born in delivering mission critical audio, LMR is however unable to support the wide diversity of data-driven applications provided by mobile broadband. Today, 82 percent of agencies across EMEA believe access to real-time date in the field is ‘critical or very important’(1). Mobile broadband continues to open up the world of video streaming and data applications, providing emergency personnel with access to real-time surveillance video, high-resolution photos, bi-directional vehicular video, and dynamic mapping and routing. This, in turn, is improving operational efficiency and promoting intelligent decision making. With LMR and mobile broadband providing their own set of unique capabilities, choosing between the two can be a challenge. By bridging both technologies, your organisation is able to take advantage of the robust offerings provided by LMR and mobile broadband. This synergy between voice and data is the future of mission critical communications.
- Cybersecurity: Are your mission critical communications secure? Globally, the number of cybersecurity breaches has increased by nearly 30 percent annually (2). It is clear that security is a real concern for public safety agencies. As communication evolves to include voice, data and video capabilities, the risk of cyber attacks for both LMR and mobile broadband networks is expanding. Mobile broadbands’ variety of applications and internet connectivity introduces new opportunities for breaches. With LMR voice communications already highly secure, the movement toward IP-based broadband connectivity is increasing network “attack surfaces.” Fortunately, both LMR and mobile broadband networks continue to adapt to emerging cyber threats, including additional security measures, continued updates and innovative encryption services. Looking ahead, those networks that utilise security best practices and open standards will be positioned well to protect against cyber attacks.
When it comes to mission critical communications, having the right technology for the right operations is key. As data continues to proliferate and networks become increasingly complex, bridging LMR and mobile broadband enables your organisation to combine their unique strengths into a blended network that best meets the complex demands of public safety. Leveraging the best of both LMR and mobile broadband ensures your organisation has all of the six Cs of mission critical communications – coverage, capacity, cost, control, capabilities and cybersecurity.
By working with Motorola Solutions you will be able to take advantage of decades of delivering mission critical communications solutions that will make your organisation more efficient, keep your personnel safe and enable effective evolution to next generation solutions.
Check out our latest video too - Why is Land Mobile Radio Mission Critical?
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Ricardo Gonzalez is MSSSI VP EMEA Strategy and Marketing at Motorola Solutions
Connect with Ricardo on LinkedIn
1 – Public Safety Communications –Trends, Priorities, New Technologies - Motorola Solutions, 2017.
2 - Cost of Cyber Crime Study,” Ponemon Institute and Accenture, 2017.
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