Vedran Gornik, Head of GDC C2PS Critical Communications Croatia at Atos, looks at new opportunities and challenges for telco operators and vendors
Globally, breakthrough technologies and usages are emerging in what some call a Fourth Industrial Revolution – and the critical communications world is no exception. As World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab wrote in 2016, this transformational trend is “characterized by a fusion of technologies, …[and] the possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge…”.
One of the key aspects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is the development of new technology platforms. In addition to bringing product, service or cost improvements to existing markets, these technologies can sometimes be used to obtain access to entirely new markets. This is the case when traditional telecom operators are able to develop new revenue streams by addressing business customers in critical communication industries – a field that previously was not profitably addressable by telcos due to specific, and much stricter, security and reliability standards, together with comparably small, highly professional target groups.
Telecommunications plays an essential role in mission-critical business, but has been operated almost entirely separately and independently from the traditional telecommunications network up to now. The introduction of 4G and 5G technologies, as well as the Internet of Things, now makes classic telecommunications services more attractive for critical communication channels.
But how can we integrate telecommunications technologies into the secure, highly safety-relevant, mission-critical world?
Support from companies already positioned at the juxtaposition of the telecom industry and the mission-/business-critical world is crucial for a rapid learning curve and to avoid typical pitfalls.
Such partners fully understand mission-critical requirements, while being keenly aware of the challenges from the telecom domain perspective. Specific know-how from both converging domains allows for a framework that satisfies all relevant aspects connected with mission-critical services and solutions. The MCPTT (Mission-Critical Push-To-Talk) application, people- and asset-tracking capabilities, and the protection of staff and data are just some of the key features that need to be addressed.
Industries relying on mission-critical communication assets include, but are not limited to, Public Safety & Security, Transportation, Energy, and Defense. Their business-critical infrastructures, such as on- and offshore wind parks, railways and airports, share similar demands in terms of system reliability, redundancy, Health & Safety aspects, robust hardware, security demands, and work efficiency.
A few years after new communication technologies were established in traditional telco markets, the demand from mission-critical industries to boost their traditional PMR (Professional Mobile Radio) communication with this proven technology typically increased as well. For example, enhancing broadband capability by introducing 4G and 5G technology has enabled new industry use cases like video connectivity for emergency personnel and action forces. Before new technologies can be put into action, their testing and standardization to meet strict mission-critical requirements is a key necessity. In this regard, the convergence partners’ deep industry know-how acts once again as an enabler and facilitator to lower the entry barrier for traditional telcos even further.
Mission-critical industries are at a crossroads: they need to consider more than just the benefits and opportunities enabled by new technologies. At the same time, they must analyze new business models precisely for challenges and threats. Critical communication operators need to weigh the potential impact on their critical operations carefully when handing over part of their control to a telecom operator. In fact, it will be essential so that specific QoS (Quality of Service) levels can be strictly guaranteed. A short drop in availability or even in the data rate simply will not do when lives literally depend on an uninterrupted, high-bandwidth connection – a rather typical situation in mission-critical deployments. The outcome of these considerations, together with the telecom domain’s ability to address key concerns, will define the future development of critical communications industries.
For more information on telecommunications infrastructure testing, standardisation and certification, as well as contact options, visit Atos’ Test and Integration Laboratory webpage.