Secure land communications / Intelligence Shared

    Creating the future of critical communications

    Sitting round the same table to create the future of critical communications


    Juho Luoma, Business Development Manager at State Security Networks Group Finland

    “Today’s new security and safety services are vital for society globally. With good cooperation based on trust, we can build safe and secure places for families. We need trusted partners and safe solutions in the future.”


    How do changes in society affect the future role of your organization?

    Political turbulence, environmental changes and the huge and rapid development of technology will increase customers’ demands on us. The global situation is changing all the time. There are big geopolitical shifts and this all affects Finland as a part of the global environment and impacts how we serve our security customers and the safety authorities. The role of the State Security Networks Group can only grow and we will need new skillsets and new resources.

    Future network solutions will require new supportive laws, huge investments e.g. in coverage and resilience in such a partially populated country like Finland. We have already started negotiations with the government to obtain the extra finance needed to make those huge investments in networks. This is one of the first big challenges we must meet. 

    What are the main challenges in the area of future critical communications?

    Migrating from narrowband to broadband solutions is a huge challenge and it will take years to complete the change. The huge investments required will need to be financed and solid roadmap plan is needed.

    New competences will be needed in the future because future operational model will be quite different. Commercial operator will offer the needed broadband radio access, but core network will be operated by ourselves. Also new devices and e.g. mission critical apps, will require completely new kind of skillsets. The cloud, particularly the need to put a private cloud in place will also need to be handled somehow.

    Currently, our group operates the TETRA network (called VIRVE 1.0) and we are expert in this narrowband technology. But in the future, we need to take on a service operator role focused more on the core, application and terminal side. We are moving from a hardware world to a software world and this is quite a challenge for us. Software development is a different ball game. The skills we need are rare but out there, we just need to track them down and capture them.

    There is also a new pressure from the customer side. While group communications will remain vital, exciting new solutions like body-worn cameras and drones that stream real-time video to operations centres are very interesting to users. New possibilities like these are the main reason to move to broadband.

    Critical communications users are typically cautious and need robust solutions. We need to build a common understanding of where we are heading and how fast. This calls for us as a service operator to sit round the same table with our customers and strategic partners to work out a roadmap – building safety and security together!

    What do changes in network ownership mean for the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders?

    It’s important to ensure we have government level support. We need legislation that enables us to serve critical communications customers in the best way possible, which is also not too strict and allows us to pursue new critical communications opportunities in the future. We need strategic commercial partners. This is not a completely new situation for us as we have worked with some great commercial companies in the past.

    We are starting the project phase of VIRVE 2.0 and are starting to negotiate with commercial companies. The network will be developed as a hybrid model to offer current and new capabilities well into the future. A hybrid network will ensure customers get what they need and deserve. Some may say it is costly to have two environments running in parallel for a successful migration to happen, but we need to ensure that the critical communications customers get what they need 24/7.

     

    “While group communications will remain vital, exciting new solutions like body-worn cameras and drones that stream real-time video to operations centres are very interesting to users. New possibilities like these are the main reason to move to broadband.”

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    User demands are becoming more diverse, how do you respond to that?

    We listen to customers very carefully. We cooperate closely with the VIRVE main user group comprising all key member groups who put their needs on the table. We monitor the pulse of customers and get feedback from different angles and environments. The whole critical communications community needs to be active in this. Cooperation and trust are vital. We are a big community that is trying to tackle the same challenges together.

    We must ensure interoperability through a secure, common digital platform. The foundation for this centrally-built secure platform has still to be developed and we are working with our strategic partners and customers to gain a good, common understanding of what this platform will look like and develop a common service roadmap. VIRVE 2.0 will play a key role to access to this secure and interoperability platform.

    4G is currently in place and we will start with 4G-based services (VIRVE 2.0). 5G will bring things like real-time services and the Internet of Things (IoT). These technologies provide the ways that customers and e.g. sensors can have a robust access to the common digitalized secured service platform.

    What does the new generation of users mean for the way communications and security are run?

    The new generation of users expect easy-to-use solutions because this is what they are familiar with. This is causing increased pressure on safety and security solutions to be more intuitive and user friendly. Security just needs to be handled as a default requirement. One simple customer interface solution would be a key requirement. Users tend to want to carry only one device. Balancing user friendliness and availability requirements together with security is a tough question that needs to be tackled somehow.

    How do organisations track the constantly changing demands of users and develop appropriate services?

    We need to work with customers and listen to their demands. At the same time, critical communications depends on field tested, robust solutions. We need to test, test, test, which is one reason we don’t evolve as rapidly as the consumer communications market. Partnerships are crucial as we don’t have all the resources and processes in place, so we need to rely on partners to help us to be more agile and move forward as quickly as possible!


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    The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Airbus.

    Juho Luoma is responsible for Suomen Virveverkko Oy's business development and strategy planning. He is also a Member of Suomen Virveverkko Oy's management team. In addition to this, Juho Luoma is a Chairman of Erillisverkot Group business development team.

    Erillisverkot Group provides secure and reliable ICT services for public authorities and other critical operators of national security. It develops overall security and safety in society, and its operations affects everyone in Finland. The group’s services are used by the Finnish Defence Forces, police, fire and rescue services, social services and health care providers, the Emergency Response Centre Administration, as well as companies critical to national emergency supply.

    Juho Luoma

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    Juho Luoma, Business Development Manager at State Security Networks Group Finland