Sophia Antipolis, 26 November 2014

The ETSI summit on critical and emergency communications, held on 20 November in ETSI’s newly extended amphitheatre in Sophia Antipolis, attracted participants from many sectors. Regulators, public authorities, users, analysts, standard organizations and industry associations gave insights of their expertise and shared their own experiences in the provision of critical and emergency communications, or in using these technologies to save lives.

Through short and highly interactive presentations, topics covered included public warning systems, citizen to authority communications, LTETM for critical communications and post incident recovery and disaster relief. Feedback from outside Europe showed that education was key to the successful implementation of public warning systems, and that several communication channels such as broadcast, mobile or IP based systems had to be used. To contact authorities and emergency services, citizens should gradually be able to use modern social media networks, SMS or apps along with traditional telephony, and emergency services need to be reachable by people of all abilities.

The summit also addressed issues to be resolved for the 112 eCall service of automatic vehicle crash notification, including the need to choose a technology that would not become obsolete during the lifetime of the vehicle. LTE, standardized by 3GPP, is now being considered for use alongside TETRA to provide broadband services to first responders, either through private or public mobile networks. But interoperability is a key factor and European member states must work at harmonizing their views. In post-incident recovery and disaster relief scenarios, it was said that satellite communications could complement mobile communications, provided interoperability between terrestrial and space segments is enabled.

The summit established that if standardized critical communications solutions offer significant economy of scale, clear policy supported by regulation is needed to speed up adoption of standards. Economic issues are just as important. These may include allocating sufficient resources to enable all parties (end users, first responders, public authorities), or using innovative cost or resource sharing models between the public and private sectors, in order to deploy an end to end emergency service.

ETSI has established itself as a leader in the standardization of technologies for critical and emergency communications. While the TETRA radio system is now sold throughout the world, numerous standards activities related to emergency communications are ongoing. ETSI public safety standardization ranges from maritime personal emergency locater beacons to public warning systems. ETSI is also analyzing how to correctly locate those who place emergency calls on VoIP systems – when these systems may not be managed or located in Europe. And the Satellite Emergency Communications work will most likely have its greatest impact in disaster relief operations in remote areas of the globe.

ETSI’s Critical Communications Summit was a unique opportunity to share and receive information on state of the art developments, and debate with key decision makers in this sector. A full set of the summit’s presentations is available on our website.