Vertel's PoC play for fleet managers

By Jonathan Nally
Tuesday, 12 June, 2018

Vertel's PoC play for fleet managers

Veteran Australian communications company Vertel has joined the push-to-talk over cellular (PoC) fray with a premium offering aimed at organisations with business-, mission- and life-critical communication requirements. The service is being introduced at the same time as the expansion of the company’s network services with a new SD-WAN solution.

According to the company’s executive director, Andrew Findlay, PoC “is a game changer for instant group communications”, offering all the best aspects of two-way radio and integrating them with the benefits of data, video and voice available via public carrier networks.

We spoke with Findlay to get a few more details about Vertel’s offerings and business philosophies.

Critical Comms: How will your PoC offering help fleet operators?

Andrew Findlay: In the fleet management space, we’ve been focused on delivering a high-quality push-to talk over cellular solution, which provides a significant value-add to our existing land mobile radio customers. We’re targeting organisations that value the instantaneous nature of PTT but want the benefits that come from public mobile networks. We are also looking to win back users that have moved away from two-way radio services to mobile data solutions. Our PoC service can be easily integrated with their existing mobile data solution for an enhanced voice capability.

The second thing of interest is the launch of our SD-WAN offering. We are the first to market in Australia with Nuage Network’s SD-WAN platform. Nuage is the business that Nokia created to address the opportunity that comes with the virtualisation of fixed and mobile networks. Many large transport and logistic companies have large, distributed networks with branches and depots in hard-to-get-to areas and where you have a lot of IT staff and technical personnel managing the environment. SD-WAN does really interesting things in terms of simplifying how those branches and those depots connect, while reducing the complexity and cost of internal ICT teams. It also provides us with the ability to offer virtual network functions at the edge of the network. These services are essentially ‘software based’, allowing for much greater flexibility, availability and scale.

CC: Have the latency and group calling problems with PoC been solved?

AF: In the days of GSM, the circuit-based data construct lit up all the cells to deliver a group call. This proved to be a poor use of scarce and valuable network resources. 3G solved some of those problems, but you still had to deal with latency in call set-up and there were some peculiarities in terms of getting consistent access to all your subscribers. But in a 4G scenario, where you have these always-on connections and relatively low latency compared to 2G and 3G, those one-to-one, one-to-many and group call issues have been resolved.

We’ve been watching the PoC market closely for a number of years. As guys who started off in two-way radio, we’ve been amongst the harshest critics of what’s actually possible with PoC. But now, after looking at what’s available in the 4G world, plus the development of the applications and the overall packaging of network, hardware and support, we’re confident that it’s a solution whose time has come.

Network controllers sitting in front of computer screens

Vertel’s network operations centre.

CC: If I were a customer, could you supply the entire solution for me?

AF: There is a huge range of PoC offerings out there — from free applications on Google Play to very expensive and niche services for the emergency services and defence markets. Our insight was that you have to have control of all the various service elements to provide a really solid service. As we are focused on critical communications, we have taken the view that our premium offering is based on us providing the full solution of hardware, network, application and service management in a tightly integrated bundle. A big part of this is the gateways to interface into other LMR and IP-based networks. So yes, we do provide the full end-to-end solution.

CC: What’s your initial offering in the PoC world?

AF: From a device perspective, we’re going to market with two options. Our premium offering is based on Samsung devices. We also have a standard offering that is made up of a handheld and in-vehicle device that is based on the form factor of a two-way radio. We have spent a lot of time optimising these devices and peripherals for our service to run really well.

Our application partner is TASSTA, a really innovative organisation out of Germany. The service is based on existing PoC standards and has a development path to the Mission Critical Push-to-Talk (MCPTT) standard coming out of 3GPP. Our service can be delivered as a managed cloud offering or as an on-premise server. We can also provide the software to let a client run the application in their own ICT.

Network-wise we have a single carrier option for business-critical users and a multicarrier set-up for organisations with mission- and life-critical requirements. We integrate private and public WLAN as well as LMR networks from many vendors. Our future path will be to integrate our service with our own and customer-owned private LTE.

The last piece of the puzzle is that we’re supporting it all with our own 24/7 service desk and NOC. We have all of the software running in our own data centres, so it’s all in-country and we have a diverse array running.

What we’re really interested in is the critical network space; that’s where we really come in to our own. We know that there are other service offerings that can be pulled apart and you can take either the application or the network. But we’re focusing on the customers, who want a user experience that’s as good as, if not better than, what they can get from their two-way radio, and our way of nailing that is by having a tightly bundled PoC environment.

Vertel will be exhibiting (Stand #5) and demonstrating its new PoC solution at Comms Connect Sydney at Rosehill Gardens (near Parramatta) this week, 14–15 June 2018.

Pictured: Andrew Findlay.

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