Past, Present and Future of Mission-Critical Broadband Device Procurement
26.11.2021 / Author: Jarno Majava, Sales Director, EMEA, Bittium
Bittium is a proud member of TCCA “The Critical Communications Association” who leads the global development and promotion of standardized critical communications solutions for professional users.
We regularly participate in TCCA events, the biggest one being the Critical Communications World, which this year was held in Madrid, and next year in Vienna. We also take part in ETSI plug-tests, coordinated by TCCA, which provides an excellent venue for interoperability testing between mission-critical networks, devices and applications.
TCCA’s work is highly valuable as it allows building open, interoperable solutions and multivendor ecosystems, which means lower costs, more user choice and other tangible benefits.
Another important aspect of TCCA is that it provides a forum for governments, regulators, manufacturers, operators and end users to discuss their future needs and requirements. In order to build consensus and common view, TCCA arranges master-classes, work groups and publishes reports and white papers on current “hot” topics.
One of these topics in late 2020 was Mission-Critical Broadband Device Procurement, and the CCBG (broadband group of TCCA) board decided to set up a taskforce. The target was to create guidelines for efficient device procurement, considering the rapid 3GPP development and (relatively) short device lifecycles. Secondary target was to achieve a balanced and holistic view on this topic, by involving all actors in the critical communications value-chain.
Author of this blog was invited by TCCA to chair the taskforce, which I happily accepted, after witnessing the problems in recent procurements. Invitation to participate in the taskforce was sent to TCCA members, and we quickly received a list of over 40 experts from 23 different organizations. These included ministries, public safety agencies, operators and device vendors from New Zealand to the USA.
Bittium created the initial document outline and scope, in order to help forming the taskforce, project plan and define the working procedures. This outline was refined in the kick-off meeting, where we also identified key questions to be addressed in the white paper.
These key questions ranged from technical requirements (e.g. PPDR spectrum, QCI classes, ProSe) and standards to operational topics like testing, training, support and maintenance. They also included organizational issues like roles and responsibilities, procurement models, device lifecycle management and many others. In all cases we tried to remember the key question: What is the impact on device procurement itself?
In order to have more efficient teamwork, the taskforce was split into 5 work groups, according to white paper chapters (and people’s interests):
1. Technical and operational requirements
2. Testing, certification and security requirements
3. Lifecycle management, procurement timelines, device ecosystem
4. Device rollout, transition, portfolio evolution
5. Procurement models and processes, economic & legal considerations
We also selected a leader for each work group, who organized the weekly meetings, and made sure the agreed tasks were done in schedule. My role as a chairman was to coordinate the overall work, provide common tools and processes, and of course participate and guide the discussions.
Each work group started by describing the status quo, i.e. TETRA and other narrowband device procurements, as well as learnings from the first broadband projects (ESN, Firstnet). After this we discussed how to improve the process. Target was simple: provide guidance and recommendations for future procurements.
The white paper was written and re-written in several iterations, both at work group and task force levels. There were lots of decisions on what to include/leave out, in order to keep the document compact enough. We also used tools like SWOT analysis to compare different procurement models. And of course, there were the editorial changes, i.e. providing structure, flow and common “language” in all the chapters.
Final draft of the white paper was sent to CCBG peer review in June, and we received some comments, most of which were readily accepted and included in the paper. In July we held the “CCBG resolution meeting”, which is intended to agree and find consensus on any conflicting views. Luckily there were not many of them!
After this meeting I asked the Dutch Police, who was leading one of the work groups, to write the conclusions and key findings for the white paper. I thought it’d be best if this part would come from the actual mission-critical user, rather than industry. After this I drafted the executive summary and acknowledgements, and the document was sent to CCBG board approval.
The TCCA Mission-Critical Broadband Device Procurement white paper is now published, and is available here: https://mysecuritymarketplace.com/v2-whitepapers/mission-critical-broadband-device-procurement/
The paper was also widely discussed at the CCW “Critical Communications World” event in Madrid, and the feedback has been very positive. I am happy that the paper turned out so well, and I hope it is useful for future procurements.
As the paper shows, it is still a very complex topic, and one challenge was to encapsulate the taskforce’s hundreds of years of “silent knowledge” and practical experience in less than 30 pages. I am also quite sure that the paper has to be revised or updated in 2-3 years.
The mission-critical device market is currently developing and moving at clock-speed. After initial transition from TETRA and other narrowband technologies to 4G there will be gradual introduction of standalone mission-critical networks, and hence need for new devices. This rapid development means new innovations, new user benefits, and it also makes the job exciting for “old dogs” of the mobile industry like me.