When called out on an emergency, public safety vehicles don’t hang around – police cars, ambulances and fire engines race to the scene and everybody gets out of the way to help them do their job.
But it’s not only public safety that nowadays is time-critical. Metro companies, mines, airports, and energy companies also need to have the ability to respond quickly.
All these professionals need mission-critical communications, which have to meet the following three requirements:
1 - Efficient group communications
Group calls are the backbone for professional communications. Group communication is how teams keep each other on top of the situation.
Different organisations have different needs for their group communications. For a system to be considered mission-critical, it has to recognize different kinds of groups. For example:
- Geographic talk groups. These groups are based on location. They allow people within a certain area to communicate.
- Functional talk groups. These are created for a specific purpose, and they should be available anywhere in the network – wherever the team members are.
- Fit-to-purpose talk groups. Applying both principles results in talk groups that are for a specific task within a certain area.
During years of development together with users, many crucial features have been developed into truly mission-critical systems. These features might be missing in new standards and systems.
2 - A fast and reliable connection
The people communicating with their team need a group call, and it has to be fast and reliable. For example, everyone needs to get connected into the group call faster than the blink of an eye.
Communications must also be reliable – available also when other systems fail or when parts of the network damaged. For example, radio-to-radio communications (or Direct Mode) must be possible.
3 - The right priorities
Versatile priorities help make sure that the right people can always get through quickly when they need to. For example, an emergency call has to have the highest priority – it must not go unheeded, so as soon as the emergency call button is pressed, it has to get through.
A mission-critical communication system must also let you prioritize talk groups. After all, some teams are more critical than others so their communications should be prioritized.
What’s more, the system must make sure that its users will hear the higher priority calls first - even when there's traffic on a lower priority group.
TIP! This is called active priority scanning in TETRA systems, and if you aren’t using it, you're missing a key benefit.
These are not the only requirements
Without efficient group communications that are fast and reliable, and without versatile priorisation schemes, a system just is not mission-critical. Meeting these three basic requirements is a must. In addition, many special features and functions are needed, so that time-critical teams can get to their tasks quickly and complete them rapidly.
Time is critical for police, fire and rescue, and emergency medical teams, but also for mining teams, metro drivers, airport personnel, and teams responsible for oil pipelines or electricity grids. They all need to communicate within the team and with their colleagues on a mission-critical level.
They will also need the communications to be reliable and available – even in extreme circumstances. They will need shock-proof networks such as the ones described in a recent whitepaper: