2021 was lift-off year for MCX

Thursday, 03 February, 2022

2021 was lift-off year for MCX

MCX provider Softil released its annual review of the MCX industry in 2021 and highlighted developments that dominated the MCX year.

“The year 2021 saw the MCX revolution intensify with public safety broadband networks moving closer towards daily reality for the benefit of first responders, emergency and utility workers and railway operators,” said Pierre Hagendorf, Softil’s CEO. “Not only did MCX standards and technologies continue to mature and solidify, but we witnessed firsthand an increased number of MCX networks and solutions being designed and implemented.”

In Britain, progress was made in enabling public safety agencies to begin using the MCX communications offered by the LTE-based Emergency Services Network (ESN). ESN will bring new 5G capabilities and services to first responder agencies. With 648 of the 700 new ESN cell-site towers now built and 566 already operational, Britain’s Home Office is focused on providing blue-light emergency agencies with the tools and dedicated network access needed to work faster, better and at less cost in the shortest timeframe.

In the United States, the nationwide deployment of FirstNet accelerated. 5G is now offered as part of the FirstNet service and new dedicated assets were announced last year to provide fire, EMS, law enforcement and other critical workers with unthrottled access to connectivity when and where they need it. This includes communications in the immediate aftermath of a storm or other disasters when commercial power and other infrastructure may be disrupted.

Ultimately, FirstNet is intended to cut through the clutter of commercial traffic. The speed, performance and reliability it provides allows emergency personnel to share videos, text messages, photos and other essential information during incidents in near real time and utilise location services to help with mapping capabilities during rescues and evacuations.

In South Korea, the availability of MCX services continued to advance, now offering a 3GPP-compliant nationwide MCPTT public safety service for more than 330 agencies, which includes police, firefighters, emergency medical services and military. This deployment also includes the world’s first commercial eMBMS (evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service) service, increasing efficiency of the network bandwidth management.

Finland’s Virve 2.0 public safety network made further progress, getting closer to rolling out mission-critical voice and messaging broadband services for public safety agencies and corporate clients. And The European Union’s BroadWay project, which paves a technological path for interoperable, cross-border public safety broadband, took another step towards reality last year with the project demonstrating the results of its prototyping phase for buyers in EU member countries.

Noticeable MCX market trends

The development of voice, data and video MCX control room solutions for the ESN network resulted in Capita leveraging Softil’s BEEHD MCX technology to develop a range of control room products. Systel, the French- and UK-based provider of communications products to civil security forces, chose Softil’s BEEHD technology to upgrade its control room solutions for connection to the UK’s ESN mission-critical services network.

Zetron announced that Softil’s BEEHD MCX technology would be used to expand the LTE Push-To-Talk (PTT) integration capabilities of a range of MCX-based dispatch solutions.

Several vendors entered the MCX space with new ranges of wireless voice and data devices, including wearables. These are vital to community safety, productivity and way of life.

When designing the MCX-based Public Safety Broadband Networks, the need for backend complementary systems arises. One of such systems is a recording solution that needs to be deployed in any MCX network to enable the debriefing that is core to any critical-communication-related event. Late last year, traditional public safety recording solution vendors took steps towards upgrading their solutions to implement MCX recording. Being a critical field deployment element, the first MCX recording systems are expected to appear on the market in the second half of 2022.

Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS) is the future worldwide communication system designed by the UIC, in close cooperation with different stakeholders from the rail sector, 3GPP and ETSI, and is the successor of GSM-R technology and an enabler for continuing rail transport digitalisation.

First responders currently rely on land mobile radio (LMR) analog and digital radios to communicate in the field. Radios offer familiar simplicity and reliability when it comes to emergency communications. MCX technologies offer greater capabilities, enriching traditionally voice-centric push-to-talk communications with video, message chat and file exchange, the transition from radio communications to MCX communications is not instantaneous. Vendors such as Catalyst Communications continued enhancing their LMR-LTE bridging interworking products to enable connectivity to and between legacy and next-generation MCX devices.

Interoperability testing of MCX and FRMCS products and services continued strongly in 2021 with industry-wide Plugtests playing a key role in new offerings being tested for interoperability. At a remote event last June hosted by ETSI, with the support of the European Commission (EC), EFTA, the Critical Communications Association (TCCA) and the Union Internationale des Chemin de Fer (UIC), 100 participants from all over the world executed around 350 test cases in 65 test sessions of the interoperability of their FRMCS products. Results were reported in the ETSI Test reporting tool with 95% success rate. In November, ETSI conducted Plugtest #6 covering both FRMCS and MCX technologies with 97% reported success rate.

Many utilities, mining and transportation sectors looking at next-generation communication solutions chose MCX as the foundation for such solutions.

Pierre Hagendorf, CEO Softil.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Dolores Harvey

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