CCBitesize interview – Nødnett

Ahead of next week’s Critical Communications Bitesize event focussing on narrowband from the user perspective, presenter Matilde Brown Megård from the Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection, discusses how TETRA needs to evolve for it to remain relevant

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Matilde Brown Megård

What would be the experience of rolling out TETRA now compared to 15 years ago, both politically and in terms of the technology?

In Norway, the nationwide TETRA roll-out started in June 2011. The Norwegian government made the decision to build a separate, national public safety network precisely ten years ago, give or take a few days. This was a huge investment, and the process leading up to the decision was long. The investment has paid off, and the network has been of great value for Norwegian preparedness, and for the emergency services handling local and national incidents and crises.

The acquired knowledge, experiences and learning points from the past years would make it easier to get a political decision to invest in a TETRA network today. On the other hand, I think that the lack of secure data capacity and the need of extended functionality would make it politically impossible to roll out a nationwide TETRA network today.

What do operators need to be particularly mindful of when rolling out a TETRA network (or indeed, any network)?

Good coverage and good devices in a well-functioning TETRA network have limited value if there are no common talk groups, no one capable of using the system, and no willingness to collaborate.

It is crucial to have adequate regulations, common guidelines, education and training in order to achieve cooperation. Nødnett would not have the same value if the users didn’t cooperate, if they didn’t share knowledge and knowhow, and if they didn’t attend training and exercises. [Operators should] include all major user groups from the start.

Two major changes since 2011 are the effects of climate change and developments within cyber security. As providers of critical communication, we have to consider the risks associated with [both of these]. For example, we have to ask ourselves how many base stations we need, to cope with extreme weather. Regarding security, there is a big difference in how we view and handle security issues today compared to ten years ago.

What’s the superior model for national public safety comms – solely TETRA, solely broadband, or a mixture?

TETRA has proven to be an excellent technology for secure and instant speech. User polls show that TETRA is considered a very good tool, and that speech is still the preferred functionality.

However, due to changing user needs, we need to provide additional functionality. Being able to share data is becoming more and more urgent for the emergency and rescue services.

Regardless of technology, it is important that public safety networks are of high quality and that they secure good coverage. Last but not least, it is crucial that networks support collaboration across organisations and across borders.

How does narrowband technology need to evolve to continue being relevant going into the future? Does it need to evolve?

For TETRA to remain relevant, the radio terminals must be upgraded. It is a huge disadvantage that TETRA handsets do not support wireless programming ‘over the air’. Also, the handsets have to be affordable, convenient to carry and easy to use. Indoor coverage needs to be affordable too.

‘Critical narrowband: The user perspective’ takes place 23 & 24 June 2021. For more information and to book your place, click here

Philip Mason

Managing Editor, Critical Communications Portfolio, Mark Allen Exhibitions

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