Introduction to Broadband and Convergence

What is Convergence?

What Makes Critical Communications, ‘critical’?

Communications are ‘critical’ when they are essential to the operation of an organization. Failure or disruption of communications either seriously impacts or halts an organization’s activities.

There are several senses of ‘critical’ that may be involved:

  • Business critical – where comms failures severely disrupt business activity and may result in significant penalties. For example, power utilities face major financial penalties if comms failures during maintenance lead to downtime exceeding allowable targets.
  • Mission-critical – where comms failures stop or greatly degrade a mission activity. For example, an emergency response during a disaster.
  • Safety critical – where comms failures lead to property damage, injury, or loss of life. For example, communications failures during a SWAT team response.
  • Security critical – where comms failures lead to the loss or damage of sensitive data or a compromise of system integrity. For example, in banking systems.

Mission Critical Communications

Depending on your organization and what it does your communications may be critical in any or all these senses. For instance, during a hurricane response, communications for a Utility are critical to the business, mission, safety, and security of their operations and their customers.

So what general features would we expect a critical communications system to have?

  • 24/7 Coverage in all critical areas including in-building coverage.
  • Fast, reliable connection including failsafe communications that kick in when all other systems collapse or when key parts of the communications network are damaged. This may involve some form of direct mode communications which do not require access to a network, such as simplex radio. Also, dependable mobile connections with fast, smooth handovers across the network.
  • Good group communications for both voice and data. Talkgroups may need to be set up and modified on the fly and should allow individuals to enter a group call after it has started (also known as ‘late entry’).
  • Ability to prioritize calls, talkgroups. and key personnel. Thus, emergency calls, key command or management groups, and personnel should be able get priority access and even pre-empt calls in progress.
  • Security to encrypt communications, protect data integrity, and authenticate users, applications, and server equipment.

Depending on your organization’s needs, there may be other, more specific requirements for your critical communications system.

Next up, we’ll discuss the advantages and issues of multiple bearers and devices.