Mission critical for the Kingdom

Telecoms operator Bravo is building a dedicated mission-critical network to deliver next generation communications capabilities to government organisations who need the highest standards of connectivity

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Mission critical for the Kingdom Dr Fahad Mushayt, CEO, Bravo
By  Mark Sutton Published  November 22, 2016

For many arms of government there are times when communications just cannot fail. In areas such as emergency services, mission critical communication is vital to the success of operations.

To bring the power of next generation mission critical communications to government and enterprise in Saudi Arabia, Bravo is building a dedicated network which will give secure connectivity for organisations across the Kingdom, enabling them to stay in contact when it matters most. Dr Fahad Mushayt, CEO, Bravo, explained how Bravo plans to harness the new technology and capabilities that are becoming available for mission critical communications.

What is Bravo offering to government customers in Saudi Arabia?

Bravo currently offers PTT (Push-To-Talk) and one-to-one voice communications to government users over a nationwide iDEN network. Our plans are to migrate our government customers to standard mission-critical network solutions based on the main two global standards today: TETRA for narrowband, and mission-critical LTE for broadband and more advanced data and video services.

Who are the users of Bravo’s services?

Bravo currently has a wide range of users from government, to oil & gas companies, to enterprises needing to communicate in groups. Our focus in the future will be mission-critical and business-critical users. We are building a nationwide next-generation mission-critical platform that will provide the highest possible levels of security, availability and functionality to the most demanding customers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, allowing public safety, national security and critical national infrastructure agencies to focus on their mission, while Bravo takes care of their communications needs.

How do you work with customers to understand their needs?

As we mentioned above, Bravo is deploying a combination of TETRA and mission-critical LTE services optimised for government users. We are working very closely with these customers to make sure they understand all the capabilities that such advanced technologies can offer. We will listen very carefully to our customers to make sure we deliver coverage, capacity and the best possible portfolio of services that fit their needs. This will require extensive testing of all equipment together with our most valuable customers.

Please explain Bravo’s plans for next-generation network, the technology it will use, and what sort of investment is going into the next generation mission critical communications network?

Bravo is committed to providing a TETRA solution for specific customers who require the most secure and advanced mission-critical solution currently available. However, our longer term goal is to provide a nationwide mission-critical broadband (LTE) network that will be able to service all Government, public safety and critical national infrastructure customers, including all new rail, Metro and industrial projects. This will require considerable investment over the next five years or so. TETRA will be launched in the Western Region at the beginning of 2017, whereas LTE will be rolled out nationwide, beginning full service in the Eastern Region before the end of 2017.

How is Bravo helping develop standards for next generation mission critical?

Bravo has recently joined TCCA, a global organisation that focuses on mission-critical communications. TCCA is a 3GPP partner organisation involved in developing international standards. 3GPP is the global standards body developing advanced 4G solutions for public safety & other vertical markets of interest to Bravo. We have signed a number of agreements with vendors from both the TETRA space (ie. Airbus Defence & Space, and Motorola Solutions) and LTE – global vendors such as Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei are all collaborating with us; and we are open to discussions with any vendor who is able to fit our requirements and the needs of our customers over the coming months and years as we move forward with our ambitious plans.

What capabilities will next generation mission critical offer to users?

Next-generation mission-critical solutions based on the latest Releases of LTE (Releases 12, 13 and 14), which together make up LTE Advanced Pro according to 3GPP, will allow our users to have access to more advanced services beyond the traditional mission-critical PTT, voice and short data capabilities. New smarter devices will be incorporated into the network from 2017 onwards, including highly-secure smartphones, vehicles, drones and sensors. High-resolution video and higher quantities of data will now be at the fingertips of our customers allowing them to be more efficient, deliver better services to the general public and have greater situational awareness during major incidents.

There has been some controversy over the roll out of some new emergency communications systems, are you confident that the technology available will be ready and fit for purpose?

We are following developments around the world very closely to make sure that we follow best practice and learn the lessons from other similar programmes. We will build out TETRA coverage where necessary because TETRA is a well-known, tried-and -tested solution that is used by millions of critical users today. However, we are also confident in the continuing standards process for mission-critical communications and will incorporate broadband solutions based on LTE as they become available and are thoroughly tested to guarantee they satisfy our customers’ needs.

How does mission critical over LTE networks stay open for emergency users during critical incidents? If they share the same networks as private users, aren’t they at risk of the network being overloaded?

We do not believe in shared networks. The operational requirements for commercial networks are very different to mission-critical networks, even if the underlying technology might be the same. Our customers require always-available communications when they matter the most, so we do not believe that such solutions can be provided over commercial networks. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia already has a number of LTE networks such as Saudi Telecom’s (STC’s) that serve their customers very well. Bravo is building a mission-critical LTE network customised to our customers’ needs. This is the only way we can guarantee that our network will remain available during critical incidents.

Are you offering any endpoint/ handset solutions? Can you trust mission critical communications to a consumer handset, or will organisations need to use specials handsets or other solutions?

Bravo will of course be evaluating end-point devices very carefully to make sure they comply with mission-critical standards. Those users who carry out front-line services will probably require special handsets that are rugged and incorporate the very highest levels of security. However, some users may not require the same level, so we will tailor our offerings to the specific needs of each user. This is why we have chosen a global standard like LTE which gives us the flexibility to build a mission-critical platform that can be adapted to a wide range of users and uses, prioritising the most demanding mission-critical users, but also allowing a wider range of customers to profit from the special characteristics of a truly mission-critical environment.

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