Critical communication solutions for public safety and remote businesses

A major project PRIORITY will research, develop and trial critical communication solutions for authorities and remote businesses. A key target will be to complement existing mission critical voice and messaging services with broadband data capability, using commercial 4G and 5G wireless networks.

The objective of the project is to improve the competitiveness of Finnish ecosystem of critical communications and situational awareness solutions. Research topics will concentrate on four areas:

1) Broadband service in extremely remote locations

2) Quality of Service differentiation and provisioning for diverse needs

3) Communication security

4) Interworking of dedicated and commercial networks.

There are several expected outcomes, says the two-year long project´s coordinator Harri Posti from the University of Oulu. The total budget of the project consortium is 7.3 million euros, of which the share of academic research is 2.7 million. Roughly 50% of the funding comes from the Business Finland.

— The most significant outcomes are technical solutions to be further developed into products, new and evolved ecosystems in the area of critical communication, resulting in growing international business for the participants and the next capability level in public authorities’ communication.

Critical Communications for Digital Trusted Society

The significance of critical communication lies on one hand in the divergence of societal threats: for instance cyberattacks, asymmetrical warfare and terrorism, as well as the climate change. On the other hand, developments in ICT technology, such as artificial intelligence, internet of things and 5G communication, create opportunities for completely new solutions, businesses and ecosystems in the field of critical communication.

–We are witnessing a major global paradigm shift in public safety communications and operations. Mobile broadband communications and mainstream ICT technologies are the key enablers of the change. Additionally, new threats such as terrorism, environmental issues, organized crime and even civil conflicts are challenging the safety and security of societies, says Harri Posti.

So far public safety communications have been based on dedicated purpose-fit narrowband technologies, such as TETRA and Tetrapol. In the future, 5G mobile technologies will complement and replace them. This is not only a change of the wireless technology underneath but also a renewal of the whole ecosystem.

–All topical ICT technologies will be involved in the transition consisting of smart devices and apps, analytics and AI, IoT, drones and many others. As we know, 5G will change societies more than the two previous-generation networks combined. Public Safety users such as police, fire and rescue have special requirements, which are beyond the requirements of consumers or enterprises, Posti clarifies.

These include high availability, reliability of services and uncompromised security, including protection against cyber security threats. Even though the solutions for public safety communications will be based on mainstream technologies, as such these are not enough due to very demanding requirements of reliability, security and high availability. The cooperative nature of the PRIORITY project will create new critical communication business ecosystems and support existing ones.

— Priority will study future solutions for radio communication services that are critical for public safety and situational awareness. These put an emphasis on reliability and availability of the communication networks, in cities as well as in remote locations. Traficom will provide authority support and insights to the project. We will also participate in studies related to the reliability and robustness of 5G and other 5G spectrum matters, says Marjo Uusi-Pantti, Traficom project manager of 5G Momentum ecosystem.

PRIORITY consortium consists of 4 research partners as well as 13 companies and authorities. The research parties include the University of Oulu, Centria University of Applied Sciences, Turku University of Applied Sciences and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Five companies of the consortium -Airbus, Bittium, Digita, Exfo, Keysight- have their own parallel industry projects ongoing. Other partners are the Finnish Transport and Communications Authority Traficom, Finnish Defence Forces, Rescue services in Finland, Elisa, Erillisverkot, Fairspectrum, Verkotan and Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners of Finland. The companies will communicate their respective goals and project contents separately.

Project runs in co-operation with the 5G Test Network Ecosystem. It also serves the 6G Flagship programme through providing input and requirements in the area of critical communication.

During its two-year duration, the project will focus on three application scenarios:

1) Search and capture

2) Smart rural business

3) Emergency response

The solutions will be trialed in live network deployments, by applying the 5G-Force platform and scenario-specific technology blocks.

5G Force is a horizontal project whose goal is to create a nation-wide research platform for test networks available in Finland. The platform would involve 5G research but also provide a shared platform for the needs of various vertical projects. 5GTN is a stable network, developed since 2014 specifically for scientific research and product development. It is controlled and monitored by 5GTN expert team, which means tests can run in extreme conditions on the edge of the network. It also offers an isolated test environment to enable advanced testing. PRIORITY is a good example of vertical project, meaning application research. Earlier launched 5G VIIMA is similar kind of vertical project that benefits from the existing test network and shapes its development.