First responders and other critical communication users have relied on a variety of private and land mobile radio technologies for their communication needs. These networks provide excellent support for voice services combined with availability and security. However, their data capabilities are very limited and they do not meet the demands of today’s and tomorrows critical data communication use cases.

therefore critical communication service providers are introducing mission critical broadband services on top of 4G and 5G networks. 5G in particular offers excellent data features for critical communication use cases including very good support for low-latency services, video and IOT. Mission critical broadband services offer vastly improved situational awareness through the use of drones, sensors and augmented reality. Furthermore, you have the ability to connect to all applications available in the home office in a secure and efficient way.

Solution Models for Mission Critical Broadband

There are three main models that can be used for offering a mission critical broadband service:

  • Dedicated network owned by the government. This option provides the best security and control of the public safety services. However, as it requires dedicated spectrum and a dedicated mobile network as well as a rich set of competencies to plan, build and operate the network, there are very high initial capital expenditure costs as well as continuous support and maintenance costs.
  • Mobile network operator as service provider. To avoid capex and opex costs, public safety organizations could buy the service from a regular mobile network operator. The operator would be responsible for the end-to-end service along with the specific security, availability and related requirements of public safety services. A major drawback with this approach is that the mobile network operator has access to the public safety users confidential information such as location and subscriber personal data, which is a typically a show-stopper for this option.
  • Service operator model in co-operation with mobile network operators. The winning proposition for a majority of the cases is to have a separate service operator that is focused on providing secure critical communication services typically in a separate company backed by government funding. To save resources and money, this service operator co-operates with one or multiple mobile operators and shares the radio access network with them. Thus, the service operator does not need to plan and support the radio portion of the network, but has full control over devices, subscribers and the service offering. They may also target additional users in addition to the public safety users such as other government entities, water, energy, public transport and other private and public services that are essential for public safety as well as large international organization that may also have a need for critical communication services.The mobile operator, again, get additional revenue from the investment they already made, which enables the mobile network operator to improve their networks and offer better services to their customers.

The service operator model is the most commonly used model. In the Nordics, Finland just recently took their mission critical broadband network called Virve 2 into use, which is based on this model. The same applies across Europe with countries being at different stages of the evaluation process.

Challenges and Solutions for Operating the Mission Critical Broadband Network

There are many challenges for operating a mission critical broadband network. Fortunately, in a majority of cases, the operator offering the mission critical broadband service is already offering a mission critical voice service over a TETRA or similar radio network. So the operator has the infrastructure and knowledge about offering mission critical (MCX) services in general. There are still, however, additional broadband specific challenges that need to be addressed. Some of the major ones include:

  • Choice of end-user devices. Mobile devices are typically designed for consumer usage and public safety has very specific requirements on the devices such as long battery life, easy to access push-to-talk and emergency buttons, secure and flexible mobile device management and so forth. Good co-operation with the vendors of the mobile devices is needed to get models that meet the specific requirements of mission critical services.
  • Coverage. Mobile operators have optimized their networks to urban areas where most of the subscribers are, whereas critical communication users need equally good network capabilities in both urban and rural areas. Good co-operation is needed with the chosen mobile operator or mobile operators to ensure that the radio access network coverage is improved sufficiently in the rural areas. The same applies for challenging environments in urban areas such as metro tunnels and other challenging radio environments.
  • Interoperability and migration. A safe migration from the old voice-based radio networks needs to be carefully planned. Some countries opt for running both the old voice and new data networks in parallel with some cost implications whereas other countries migrate the users to the data networks. In both cases, you need to ensure that introduction of the data services and migration of the users is smooth and without interruptions of the service throughout the migration process.

Some Particular Mission Critical Broadband Transport Challenges

One typical oversight when it comes to planning MCX services is how to manage and monitor the transport portion of the network. As the operators have typically already operated a voice network, they assume that they can manage the data network in a similar way. However, there are some new challenges specific to mission critical broadband transport networks:

  • Visibility. Nature of data networks. In voice-oriented networks, it is sufficient to monitor the status of the network, whether all the links in the network are down or up. This no longer applies to data networks. There can be sudden bursts in the network, data packets can be dropped and there can be significant delays in delivering the packets, causing problems for push-to-talk and other delay sensitive applications. The operator needs a monitoring tool that is able to monitor the end-to-end status of the network in terms of delay, jitter and packet loss.
  • Confidence: Compared to the traditional land mobile networks, the new networks rely on a third party mobile operator to provide the radio access network. The critical communications operator does not have any visibility into the third party network and therefore needs to have the capability to verify end-to-end SLA requirements over the third party network in order to verify that the services are getting the service quality they need.
  • Provocativeness. In case of mission critical broadband services, you cannot afford unavailability of the services and therefore need to be able to anticipate issues in the networks before they affect the end-user experience. By analyzing the historical data you can identify trends and hot-spots in the network and reconfigure the network or add more capacity where it is needed.

Creanord PULSure solution is all-in-one solution for network performance monitoring suitable for Mission Critical Broadband

Creanord PULSure is an all-in-one solution for network performance monitoring of Mission Critical Broadband


Introducing mission critical broadband has a number of challenges that need to be addressed, but the benefits are definitely worth it and will help to keep the first responders and the citizens they are helping safer. Broadband data enables new technologies to be used, such as IoT-based services, drones and augmented reality, to provide much better situational awareness and information sharing, as well as a more efficient and safer work environment.

Do you have any questions about PULSure from Creanord? Our specialists are happy to help.