Until recently, there was only one technology for mission-critical communication: handheld transceivers like TETRA. This was also used for C2000, the communications network for emergency services. But now critical voice communication – and therefore also data – can make use of 4G mobile and in the near future 5G. Richard Marijs of T-Mobile and Marja Dieben of PrioCom explain the ins and outs.
Mission critical means that a person’s safety or the direct continuity of a business process depends on the ability to communicate directly and effectively with another person or group. The public mobile Internet service is often inadequate for such communication, simply because there is not enough control for the user. There are situations for example when a lot of people use mobile internet at the same time (in a stadium, at an event, etc.). “You have to ensure that a mobile network is capable of distinguishing a critical communication service within the same mobile internet network,” says Richard Marijs. A few years ago he thought out how the new 4G network from T-Mobile should be set up to provide such a service. A network that German researchers at P3 have now found to be the best mobile network in the Netherlands four times in a row.
Virtual network slice
“Our network has a high data capacity and is very innovative,” Richard continues. “What we have implemented together with PrioCom is a virtual network slice, in which we have set up both the radio network and the core network for mission-critical communication for both data and speech.” But why didn’t T-Mobile opt to do this itself? Marijs: “As you know, at T-Mobile we strongly support working with partners. We recognised the potential and customer demand, but we did not regard it as a market where we should operate directly. At the request of our management, I started looking for business partners who could take this on. So instead of developing it ourselves and competing with these parties, we prefer to make this technology available to them. And grow together!
This took him to Flash Private Mobile Networks, the market leader in mission-critical communication, particularly in the chemical and industrial sectors. This company immediately saw the potential in relation to market developments. “Looking at the total sales opportunities in the market, the various market segments and required investments, it was decided that a special MVNO would be created for this,” Marijs continues. “A special mobile virtual network operator for critical communication that offers the necessary Quality of Service with priority on the T-Mobile network and that makes it possible for multiple business partners, not just Flash Private Mobile Networks, to offer critical communication services. And that’s why PrioCom was founded in 2018.”
Only through business partners
The conversation then shifts to Marja Dieben, sales manager at PrioCom. “We are not going to market the service directly as PrioCom. We work exclusively through business partners. This is a conscious choice. These business partners possess the sector-specific customer knowledge and their services are tailored to suit their business partners. You need this in order to properly implement such a service in the business process of these customers. We now work together with a number of selected partners in different domains and we want to grow in this. We are not concerned with ‘as many as possible’ business partners, we are looking for specific partners who have knowledge of the various verticals; in construction, transport, care, industry, hospitality, utilities, enforcement, etc.” PrioCom is currently working with business partners Flash Private Mobile Networks, 2WAY, Selcom, BTC and Detron.
The PrioCom team consists of employees with considerable knowledge and expertise in the field of mission-critical communication and Push-to-Talk (PtT). PrioCom shares this knowledge with its business partners and supports them in marketing and sales processes to help them successfully market the new end-to-end PtT service. To do this PrioCom likes to sit down and talk with partners and potential customers. “When necessary, we also involve our connectivity partner T-Mobile, for example with regard to coverage measurements and coverage and capacity expansions for the customer”, Dieben informs us. “This often provides interesting insights. For example, in a joint customer conversation with a healthcare institution it was discovered that – in a different procurement process – a decision had been made to switch to T-Mobile for mobile telephony (and indoor coverage). When it became apparent that the mission-critical PtT solution from PrioCom also works on the T-Mobile network, it was clear that the solution could be easily implemented in this organization.”
The Push-to-Talk service can be integrated in existing systems
Richard Marijs responds, “On the customer side, these are often still separate purchasing processes. It is often looked at how the indoor coverage can be improved, but nobody realizes that there is also an immediate provision for mission-critical communication. This saves the customer a substantial extra investment in a separate network for the PtT devices.”
Marja Dieben continues: “The entire ecosystem of mobile critical communication offers considerable opportunities in a wide variety of applications. For example, the PrioCom Push-to-Talk service comes with a range of robust Android devices with a high-quality radio look & feel, both in Atex and non-Atex variants validated by PrioCom. These devices can be expanded with company and branch specific accessories such as surveillance headsets, remote speakers, desk chargers and multi-chargers so that devices can be used in numerous work environments and shift work. Optional dispatcher software can also be used in the control room. Mobile Device Management ensures the reliable use of the Push-to-Talk service and additional business applications on the device.” The Push-to-Talk service can be integrated in existing systems, for example if a company chooses to use both new Push-to-Talk devices and the existing two-way radios. The use of PrioCom Push-to-Talk in combination with an alarm application is also possible.
The PrioCom PtT service is developed to the industry standard 3GPP, precisely to enable optimum integration with systems and business applications. PrioCom is working with T-Mobile on further developing the service based on new releases of the 3GPP standards for mission-critical communication. “Together with T-Mobile we will implement the desired specific adjustments on the mobile 4G and the upcoming 5G network. this will include the installation of extra channels and the expansion of functionality.” The mobile network can also be provided with additional (local) emergency power supplies in cooperation with the customer.
[This article was previously published in Channel Connect Telecom & VoIP Dossier 2019]