Pan-European emergency services broadband: where there's a will, there's a 'Way


In this taster for the December 2019 edition of the BAPCO Journal, editor Philip Mason talks to BroadWay project coordinator Dave Lund about the quest to provide mission critical mobile broadband to first responders across the continent.

Could you give an overview of the origins of the BroadWay project? 
The BroadWay project grew out of work which had been undertaken by the Public Safety Communication Europe [PSCE] forum, which was convened around a decade ago as an outcome of the European research programme.
The initial idea was to explore what might conceivably come after the roll-out of narrowband to the emergency services. We then looked at broadband in earnest, probably around five years ago, at which point we started working on what was known as the BroadMap project. 
The idea behind the PSCE was to facilitate a sustainable dialogue between major stakeholders, and that’s what we still continue to do. That includes the various different committees, end users, industry, academics and so on. 
What was BroadMap and how does it relate to the work which is currently being carried out?
BroadMap was essentially a requirements validation, where we looked at a number of different studies and took what we found back to the first responders in order to ask them what it was they actually wanted. There were about 700 requirements on the list by the time the project had finished.
After that, we carried out a solutions analysis, and came up with something called SpiceNet [Standardised PPDR Interoperable Communication Service for Europe], which is the model we’ll be carrying forward as the project moves on. SpiceNet provides a reference architecture for pan-European PPDR mission critical mobile broadband services.
BroadWay is the commercial pre-procurement programme, feeding into the effort to provide first responders across Europe with the ability to use broadband across national boundaries, and therefore across networks. 
How is the procurement process being carried out? 
There are 11 procurers derived from across 11 European member states, all of whom operate at ministry level. The Finnish procurer for instance is the operator of that country’s emergency services TETRA network, Virve, with the overall procurement being led by Astrid in Belgium. That is on behalf of all 11 procurers, with PSCE for legal and programme management.
We started putting the procurement structure into place about 18 months ago, spending the first year preparing the request for tender. The European Commission has agreed to fund the project on an ongoing basis.
Could you go into greater detail about what the project will allow first responders to do?
That’s not really an answer I can give other than in the most general terms, because the technology which we require doesn’t fully exist yet. Again – broadly speaking – it will allow members of the emergency services to communicate with each other using mobile broadband, regardless of national boundaries.
In terms of the technology itself, at least at this point, we’re using FirstNet as a reference, as well as the Emergency Services Network in the UK. The latter is not fully ready of course, but the fact remains that they’ve done a fantastic job in helping to push the standards forward.
We wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing without the work which has already been carried out.

Read the rest of the interview in the December 2019 edition of the BAPCO Journal.

For more on the use of broadband by the emergency services, register your interest and join us at BAPCO 2020. 


Philip Mason
Editor, Critical Communications Portfolio
Tel: +44 (0)20 3874 9216