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The ICCAs in review: Critical comms, shining stars

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The inaugural International Critical Communications Awards (ICCAs) were a night to remember for the company, the food, the beautiful venue, but above all for their celebration of the innovation happening in our industry 

The ICCAs took place at the Honourable Artillery Company, which leant the event a wonderfully warm and inviting atmosphere thanks to its beautiful wooden floors and a strong sense of history. The Company dates back to 1537 when it was founded by King Henry VIII, and this was very much apparent from the portraits of former members and the rows of medals on display, evoking past glories and hard sacrifices that have helped shape the world we know today. 

The decision to rebrand the event from the International TETRA Awards was not made lightly. Part of the rationale behind the decision comes from the cellular world, where it’s been clear for some time now that 5G will not be one single technology but rather a collection of technologies designed to work together, with each operating where it is most suited. As our sector becomes increasingly aligned with the wider communications industry thanks to greater use of broadband and 3GPP’s efforts this approach is likely to become more popular. We’ve seen many organisations use gateways to allow instant communication between users of TETRA and DMR handsets, and smartphones. 

As Jon Benson, managing director of MA Business & Leisure, pointed out in his speech, we are travelling in distinguished company given the decision of the TETRA Association to change its name to the TETRA and Critical Communications Association (TCCA) back in 2011. 

Our decision was well received by the industry, to the extent that the ICCAs broke new ground for the number of entries. The judges were impressed by the high quality of the submissions, which made the task of choosing the winners all the more challenging. The entries showcase products, applications and solutions of merit in both mission-critical and business-critical organisations. 

Terry Byrne hosted the evening with much aplomb – not surprising given the formidable challenges he’s overcome. Byrne had a long and successful military career, giving him a very strong appreciation for good critical comms in the field. In 2008, while acting as C Company’s lead section commander in Afghanistan, Byrne stepped on an IED and suffered a below-knee amputation of his right leg. To his credit, he saw these life-changing injuries as another challenge and was discharged from hospital in record time. Since then he has won two world records as part of the GB cycling team and successfully climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Elbrus with the Adaptive Grand Slam team. Byrne treated the audience to a look at the journeys made by the team and the challenges they have to overcome, no doubt aided by reliable communications. 

The night was also a fantastic opportunity for us to better get to know the industry’s key players. Siân Harrington, who will soon be taking over from Benson, very much enjoyed meeting so many warm and welcoming personalities. It also may spark a number of exciting excursions for our team to far-off lands, in part down to the night’s truly international feel. Many of the attendees travelled a long way to be with us, with a particularly strong showing from Latin America, which Land Mobile’s sister publication TETRA Today may be visiting shortly given the interesting public safety systems in Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. 

After the night’s proceedings had drawn to a close one of the judges commented that with the amount of activity and innovation in the industry and the transition towards broadband the event should go from strength to strength, and it’s hard to disagree. But who were the winners? Let’s take a look... 

Best Use of TETRA for Public Safety
Winner:
Frequentis, for its voice communication system used by the Bavarian Police 

The G7 Summit in June 2015 took place in Bavarian town Garmisch-Partenkirchen. In addition to the G7 leaders, it hosted participants from the European Union along with others from six countries in the Middle East and Africa, and members from five international economic institutions. Frequentis was responsible for providing the command and control centre voice communications system. 

The project’s scope was to support 18,000 relief units in their 24-hour/seven day a week operations with a modern, stable, reliable, easy-to-use and 100 per cent trustworthy communications system. Frequentis’ system also allowed transnational communication across the Austrian border. The company temporarily installed mobile base stations in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen area and located its main back-end system at a police headquarters in Rosenheim to ensure that no external influence at the Summit’s location could possibly disable the master communications platform. 

Frequentis designed a service-oriented architecture for maximum system reliability and deployed three virtualisation platforms to ensure redundancy. These platforms hosted all required applications and were configured to provide dispatcher and recording services. 

Two independent unified TETRA gateways were connected via redundant WAN connections to a separate DXT, one located in Munich and the other in Rosenheim. For bandwidth-efficient usage all available dispatcher positions were connected to the back-end system using the G.729 compressed audio codec, which minimised voice traffic bandwidth requirements and ensured prioritised data and voice connections were supported along with a geo-redundant fail-over solution. 

The provision of redundant connections between back-end and dispatcher systems proved challenging and required two independent connections from Rosenheim to Garmisch-Partenkirchen to be established with a minimum of delays for the voice traffic. The main ethernet connection went via cable and the back-up scenario via a radio link between the two main locations. 

The system merged operation of analogue radio and TETRA digital radio wired connections for the first time in Bavaria. 

During the two-week hot phase of the Summit 30,587 mobiles in the operation area were registered, a new European record that exceeded the number at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. During the same two-week period 340,000 group calls were supported without any major disruptions occurring. 

The judges applauded Frequentis for ensuring reliability during record TETRA traffic levels and described the project as: “An amazing example of the scaleability, flexibility and usability of the TETRA system in high- profile settings.” 

  • Finalists: 
  • Airwave, Airwave Direct (Highly Commended) 
  • APD, NATO Summit – Cortex
  • Riedel Communications, Wacken Open Air 2015
  • Rohill, critical communications for the Uruguay Ministry of Interior
  • State Secretary of Public Safety Rio de Janeiro, SIRCE 

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L–R: Alexander Domaschko, project manager at Frequentis; Anton Beierweck, head of state IT, Upper Bavaria Police HQ; Walter Degenhart, head of communication technology, Upper Bavaria Police HQ; and Robert Nitsch, director public safety at Frequentis collecting the award for Best Use of TETRA for Public Safety

Best Innovation Award 

Winner: 
Finmeccanica, for its PUMA T4-TLE (Dual Mode TETRA – LTE Enhanced) handheld 

Finmeccanica’s PUMA T4-TLE handheld device combines reliable and secure TETRA communications with LTE for broadband data. It provides security and the robustness of a traditional TETRA radio together with the advanced data features commonly available on smartphones. 

It is the first PMR handheld terminal based on an Android OS. A ruggedised smartphone-like platform housing the CPU, touchscreen display and additional devices (Wi-Fi, GPS/Glonass, Bluetooth, camera, accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer) is matched with a TETRA/TEDS/LTE radio modem. 

Finmeccanica has designed an add-on cradle accessory equipped with additional sensors for personal and vehicle identification, such as:

  • a Machine Readable Zone (MRZ) swipe reader for ID1, ID2 and ID3 format documents;
  • a fingerprint reader, Personal Identity Verification (PIV) certified;
  • an infrared camera, inclusive of infrared lighting, for licence-plate reading of stationary vehicles even in complete darkness; and
  • a thermal infrared camera for temperature measurement. 

It can be used to verify ID documents, provide access control for critical infrastructure, ANPR, and fingerprint- based identification. 

Our judges were amazed by the PUMA T4 and noted that the only thing “it doesn’t seem to do is make a cup of tea!”.They were impressed by the fact that it supports TETRA, TEDS, LTE, Wi-Fi and NFC and its range of smart sensors and accessories, which together “surely justify the maker’s claim that it’s more than a mere radio”. 

Finalists: 

  • Airwave, Pronto
  • CJG Associates, dynamic network optimiser (DNO)
  • Frequentis, Digitalfunkanbindung nicht-polizeilicher Leitstellen in NRW (DAnPoL NRW)
  • Huawei, Huawei eLTE solution
  • Maxxwave, Ambitalk
  • Syntech Systems, RENITA Luxembourg – quality of experience system 

 

Best Use of TETRA in Utilities 

Winner: 

CLP Power Hong Kong, for extending the data capability of an existing TETRA network 

CLP Power Hong Kong Limited (CLP) is the largest electricity company in Hong Kong with more than 2.4 million customers. It has been operating the first TETRA system in the Asia Pacific region since 2003; composed of 23 base stations, each with two to three carriers (depending on site topography and user density). 

The area’s geography means that many remote villages can only be supplied by overhead lines, with some extending beyond 10 to 20km. This makes them vulnerable to typhoons, lightning and other severe weather conditions, and faultfinding used to take hours of patrols. This has been prevented by the use of an automatic fault location system that runs over the TETRA network. The network also provides the connectivity for automatic meter reading (AMR), which substantially reduces the need to make on-site readings, thereby saving time and increasing staff safety. 

CLP also makes use of TETRA handsets with embedded GPS, allowing the location of repair crews to be monitored and making it easier to dispatch resources to them if required, further enhancing their safety. 

The TETRA network’s power distribution automation system was initially designed for low-speed data transfer at 9.6kbps, but this became insufficient because of the development of smart grid technology such as overhead line system self-healing, together with the demand for more pole-mounted switches to improve overhead line performance in rural areas. 

CLP addressed this issue by converting one of the timeslots assigned to voice to a secondary control channel, alleviating the load on the primary control channel. 

The company established a new TETRA system in 2013, purely for power system operations, and it provides data service coverage for Kowloon, New Territories, Lantau and outlying islands. It features two switching control stations operating in redundant mode and nine base stations. 

In contrast to the earlier system, it uses a decentralised approach and each base station is equipped with switching function. This eliminates single points of failure on the side of the system controller node infrastructure. 

The new system also uses IP technology for signalling, administration and communication, enhancing efficiency, reliability and support for new, powerful applications. CLP is focused on the continual improvement and development of its TETRA network and is looking to TETRA and “future integrated technologies” such as LTE to meet the needs of new smart-grid applications. CLP is evaluating and trialling the use of LTE. 

The ICCA judges were impressed by the growth of the CLP TETRA system, particularly the way in which it serves as an example of how to extend the data capability of a TETRA network for data-intensive applications. 

Finalists: 

  • EWR Netz, EWR TETRA network – refresh & functional extensions project 
  • Rohill, Meralco communications powered by Rohill TetraNode 

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Two ICCA judges, Robin Davis, the TCCA’s Transportation Group chairman; and Adrian Scrase, CTO at ETSI, reading the ICCA book of the night detailing all the winning entries  

Best Use of Control Room Systems 

Winner: 
State Secretary of Public Safety Rio de Janeiro, for its State Integrated Network for Critical Radiocommunications (SIRCE) 

The Centre for Integrated Command and Control, Rio de Janeiro (CICC-RJ) was the first building in Brazil to integrate the operations of public safety organisations at every level: federal, state and municipal. It is host to three different operating schemes: 

  • CIODS (Integrated Centre of Operations in Social Defence), which operates full time and carries out the daily security and government activities; 
  • The CIOC (Integrated Centre of Operations Co- ordination) is installed on demand, either for important and/or busy events (such as New Year’s Eve, carnival and elections) or for more significant operations that require co-ordination between many organisations; and 
  • The GGC (Crisis Management Office), which is installed only in unforeseen situations of great magnitude.

CICC-RJ features an emergency call centre, radio dispatch software that can emulate a TETRA radio, and sensors that can trace gunshots. It also has an integrated situation management platform, a video surveillance system and a geo-referenced map that feeds in location data from TETRA radios in the field. 

The judges recognise CICC-RJ as “an excellent example of integrated control room technology and systems”, and describe it as “quite a remarkable achievement”. 

Finalists: 

  • APD, North Yorkshire Police front counters – Aspire 
  • APD, NATO Summit – Cortex 

Green Technology Award 

Winner: 
Airwave, for reducing carbon emissions and waste through green technology 

For this category Airwave submitted its environmental programme, which has resulted in CO2 savings of four per cent in 2014-2015 on top of an impressive 8.1 per cent cut made in 2013-2014. 

These cuts have been achieved through increasing the efficiency of its cooling systems – which can account for 50 per cent of a switch site’s energy consumption – together with the introduction of advanced filtering systems to minimise heat generation. This year Airwave has developed two pilot adiabatic cooling systems that use a combination of forced fresh air and cooling by water evaporation using water sprayed onto a matrix material, which cools the air flowing through the system. 

Airwave also reduces energy consumption at its sites by choosing high-quality filters and making filter maintenance part of its site maintenance cycle. The company has recently trialled a new high-capacity filter on 20 base stations, which results in more efficient cooling. It has also developed its own secondary filter units and has rolled them out onto every site in its network, and these have reduced the fault rate of rectifiers by 30 per cent, reducing the need for site visits and thereby cutting CO2 emissions by 6.2 tonnes each year. 

Airwave has established a base site in Wales to evaluate the use of alternative energy that runs on 90 per cent wind and solar power. The company is also working to increase its use of renewable energy on other sites and it currently has 16 sites partially running on wind and solar power. 

Airwave has also been working to reduce waste: it produced almost 20,000 kg less waste in 2015 than in 2014 and reduced landfill waste by 12.7 per cent. This was achieved through a number of methods, including re- engineering its batteries so that they are compatible across base and switch sites. This allows the company to use nearly new batteries elsewhere on its network after they have been removed from the switch sites, and has so far prevented 200 tonnes of lead from entering its scrappage scheme. 

In addition, Airwave has been trialling nickel cadmium batteries on sites subject to extremes in temperature, as traditional lead acid batteries experience a high failure rate. This has reduced the churn of batteries in these parts of Airwave’s networks. 

The ICCA judges praised this submission for its attention to detail, excellent and efficient use of technology and its commitment to “an imaginative series of initiatives towards saving energy and resources and reducing waste and pollution”. 

Finalists: 

  • Rohill, TETRA network emulation
  • State Secretary of Public Safety Rio de Janeiro, SIRCE 

Best Use of TETRA for Transport 

Winner: 
Intelligence on Wheels, TETRA-based train collision avoidance system 

Intelligence on Wheels presented the judges with an innovative solution to a very practical problem: preventing train-on-train collisions, which occur roughly once or twice a day across Europe. Its answer is a train protection system that uses TETRA for direct train-to-train communication that functions without the need for on-track infrastructure. It selected TETRA as it has the most suitable frequency band for a number of key railway transport locations, such as train stations, shunting yards and regional networks. It is also able to withstand commonly encountered issues in the railway environment, including shadowing by terrain and vegetation.

The company based the system on TETRA’s DMO short data service (SDS) and this allows train-to-train communication in an ad-hoc, self-managed way, with a nominal communications range of more than five kilometres. Intelligence on Wheels validated the system by extensive measurements in several regions, e.g. on a 120 km regional railway line of Bayerische Oberlandbahn that covered several critical, typical railway environments such as urban and suburban stations, a tunnel, forests and hilly terrain. 

It has proven to be very robust against various kinds of interference and meets its performance requirements even in dense traffic areas (such as large train stations), through the use of smart protocols. 

The first contract for the delivery of this system was signed in 2013 and the customer, a central German regional operator, requested that Intelligence on Wheels equip its entire fleet of vehicles (more than 40) with the technology. 

Thomas Strang, Intelligence on Wheels’ CEO told TETRA Today during the ICCAs that his company’s system could have prevented the recent train crash in Bavaria. 

Our judges praised the way Intelligence on Wheels had applied proven TETRA technology to a new, safety critical use case. They also were impressed by the innovation’s world-wide applicability, and its ability to enhance railway safety in a cost-effective way without major investment in infrastructure. 

Finalists: 

  • Siemens Convergence Creators, public transport dispatching and communication system 
  • Suomen Virveverkko, replacement of existing GSM-R with TETRA (VIRVE) in Finland 

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Thomas Strang, CEO, and Andreas Lehner, CTO, of Intelligence on Wheels collecting their award for Best Use of TETRA for Transport 

Outstanding Single-site TETRA Installation 

Winner:
Hytera Mobilfunk, annual meetings of the boards of governors of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund 

The 2015 annual meetings of the boards of governors of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund took place on 5-12 October 2015, in Peru. For those seven days, more than 22,000 police officers from the National Peruvian Police (PNP) ensured the safety of more than 16,000 delegates and 3,000 international journalists. 

Secure and reliable communications were provided by Hytera Mobilfunk in the form of a single-site fully redundant DIB R5 advanced TETRA2 base station, four dispatchers, six SmartPatrol CCTV-communication consoles, six AVL consoles, a voice-recording system and an interoperability communication platform (TETRA to 2G/3G/4G/LTE). 

This equipment was deployed into the Command and Control Communication Centre located in the Lima Convention Centre where the meetings were held. First responders and event staff were equipped with PT580H handhelds and MT680 mobile terminals. 

More than 2,000 smartphone applications were installed into Android, iOS and Windows smartphones to facilitate communication between the Hytera TETRA mobile radio network and the application-rich world of mobile broadband networks, such as 3G HSDPA or 4G LTE services. 

The PNP’s existing TETRA network was successfully integrated with the new Hytera TETRA network for the event as an umbrella network through the use of ACCESSNET-T IP architecture. The TETRA system handled more than 350,000 calls during the event. 

Our judges praised the system’s integration with smartphones and the planning behind it, and described it as “a high-profile system where failure to communicate was not an option”. 

Finalists: 

  • Radlink Communications, Treasury Hotel and Casino in Brisbane 
  • Riedel Communications, Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games

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L-R: Markus Oltmanns, marketing director at Hytera Mobilfunk, and Luis Perez, head of Hytera Mobilfunk GmbH Sucursal del Perú, collecting the ICCA award for Outstanding Single-site TETRA Installation 

Best Evolution to Future Broadband 

Winner: 
The SALUS consortium, SALUS 

SALUS – Security And interoperabiLity in next generation PPDR commUnication infrastructureS – is a project with the goal of designing, implementing and evaluating a next-generation communication network concept for PPDR agencies, supported by network operators and industry, which will provide security, privacy, seamless mobility, QoS and reliability support for mission- critical PMR voice and broadband data services. 

The SALUS consortium is formed of PPDR end user representatives, research institutes, universities and industry. The end users are represented by the Public Safety Communications Europe forum, Pelastusopisto (Finnish public safety) and Airwave, the GB operator for public safety services. Airwave has led the gathering and analysis of user requirements and the definition of three generic PPDR operational scenarios: ‘city security’, ‘temporary protection’ and ‘disaster recovery’. 

The SALUS consortium members have proven that it is possible to establish voice and data calls across different PMR domains, enabling the migration of TETRA and TETRApol networks towards LTE networks. On Alcatel- Lucent’s private LTE network it has been proven that PTT-operated voice calls are working with the same level of speed and robustness compared to TETRA and TETRApol, also during periods of high video and data traffic, thanks to improved QoS Class Identifier (QCI) support with bandwidth reservation. 

As a next step the Group Communication System Enablers (GCSE) for LTE will be implemented to achieve more robust and scalable delivery of voice, video and data to multiple LTE devices. 

The Critical Voice and Data Protocol (CVDP) has been developed by Rohill as an interim solution to provide PMR-like voice, status, text and location messaging, as well as photo and video transport services enabled by broadband communications. The TeamLink client and server applications developed are compatible with current 4G as well as 3G and (meshed) Wi-Fi networks, and provide early PMR interoperability on existing operated cellular networks. 

The TeamLink application can already benefit from QCI improvements and multicast support in upcoming LTE core and base station releases, but will also support the first phase of mission-critical push-to-talk (MCPTT) that will be part of the global 3GPP Release 13 standard. 

While the TeamLink server and client software supports both CVDP and MCPTT, the solution is fully compliant with 3GPP standards, but also allows operation over LTE networks that do not support GCSE and MCPTT yet. 

The ICCA judges praised the project for the impact it will have on the evolution of technology specifications and the work it has done to quantify user demands and priorities, adding that it “fulfils a key requirement”. 

Finalists: 

  • Panorama Antennas, Great White 4G MiMo antenna 
  • Finmeccanica, MR4000 mobile router – a multi-technology broadband ecosystem
  • Huawei, Huawei eLTE solution
  • Hytera Mobilfunk, annual meetings of the boards of governors of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund 

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One of the coveted ICCA trophies – perhaps this time next year there’ll be one with your company’s name on it... 

Excellence in Radio Sites and Services 

Winner:
Maxxwave, Maxxwave site sharing 

It typically takes other site operators three to six months and around £3,000 in costs when allowing a third-party site sharer access to a transmitter site. 

Maxxwave has streamlined this process so it takes just one day and is completely free of charge. This has been achieved through it having up-to-date drawings of its masts and updating them for new installations in-house. It also uses generic contracts, removing the need to involve expensive legal departments. 

The company is a strong supporter of the FCS 1331 Code of Practice to improve radio site engineering and is one of the scheme’s founding members. When Ofcom recently carried out a full station inspection as a training exercise on one of Maxxwave’s larger transmitter sites, the Ofcom national training manager who was present commented: “This is perhaps the best example I have ever seen of how a radio site should technically be engineered.” 

Our judges were impressed by Maxxwave’s novel approach to radio sites. “Well planned and thought out, bringing benefits to many,” one of them commented. 

Finalists: 

  • Ministry of Interior – Republic of Macedonia, digital national TETRA system 
  • State Secretary of Public Safety, Rio de Janeiro, SIRCE 

Looking to the future 
Despite the night’s success we are already looking at how to make next year’s event even better, with the help of feedback from our staff, judges and attendees. You can expect clearer submission guidelines, more tightly-defined categories, and greater discussion between the judges to achieve a consensus and ensure maximum transparency. 

Given the recognition that our winners have received it’s never too early to be thinking about next year. Who knows – perhaps 2017 will be your time to be in the spotlight! 

The original and print versions of this feature incorrectly referred to the Puma T4-TLE as T4-LTE. This has been corrected in this version


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