Frequencies for the next generation emergency communication systems

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Frequencies for the next generation emergency communication systems

The owners of the Public Safety Radio networks in Sweden, Norway and Finland emphasize the importance of dedicated frequencies in the 700 MHz-band for emergency communications in a joint white paper.

Broadband data is the key word in the white paper addressed the Radio Spectrum Committee, signed by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, Finnish State Security Networks Ltd and the Norwegian Directorate for Emergency Communication.  

 

The three Nordic countries’ operational personnel in Public Protection and Disaster Relief organisations ("PPDR") all use TETRA technology for their emergency communication systems - respectively Rakel in Sweden, Virve in Finland and Nødnett in Norway. The Radio Spectrum Committee (RSC) works to ensure harmonised conditions across Europe for the availability and efficient use of radio spectrum.

 

Increased use of broadband data

Today the TETRA radio systems operate in the 380-400-MHz range. They are excellent for voice communication, have extensive radio coverage, are well protected against eavesdropping and operate independent of commercial mobile networks. However, the frequencies are insufficient to meet PPDR organisations’ increased need for secure and robust broadband data.

 

The 700-MHz band has so far been allocated for broadcasting purposes, but the frequencies will eventually be allocated for broadband communications in the Nordic countries. The three Nordic critical communications network owners recommend that part of the 700-MHz frequency band should be dedicated for use by PPDR organisations. Without dedicated frequencies, the next generation emergency communications systems must be built exclusively on commercial operators' networks. Presently it is being questioned whether they can offer functionality and sufficient technical quality, robustness and security for PPDR use. And there will be no guarantee that the commercial operators will be willing to meet the needs of PPDR.  

 

Dedicated networks will undoubtedly provide the best security and data safety and greater possibilities for sending large volumes of important and mission critical data.

 

Common technological solutions across national borders

The 700 MHz-band is pointed to as the only realistic alternative to achieve a harmonised solution for future emergency communication systems in Europe. This band is well suited for achieving high percentage area coverage and good indoor coverage without having to invest in unrealistic, extensive, and expensive infrastructures.

 

The white paper points out that a harmonized approach is important considering that radio equipment is to operate across national borders. Norway and Sweden is already well underway with this work. The two countries’ TETRA networks will be interconnected by fall 2016.

 

The white paper also underlines that a larger market also provides better conditions for further development of services and functionality. Even if PPDR to some extent require specialised handsets, the key components should be the same to avoid becoming a niche market. Both USA, Canada and France have selected the 700-MHz frequency band and LTE technology for their PPDR mobile broadband.

 

A description of future communication needs

By assignment from the Swedish government, the Swedish Civil Contingencies in collaboration with law enforcement, the Swedish Armed Forces, and the Swedish Post and Telecom Agency, will describe the needs and requirements to secure, resilient mobile and IP-based communications for the Swedish PPDR organisations.