New TCCA Chief Executive Graham Discusses Future Goals
RRI: Tell us a little bit about your background in critical communications?
I credit my interest and journey in critical communications to my late father, an electronics engineer who ultimately rose to be the chief of signaling and comms engineering in our state railways in Victoria, Australia and after his retirement became a leading consultant in his field. He fostered my interest in electronics and radio and I remember fondly the many visits he arranged for me at a very early age to see end-to-end communications in action in a railway environment and many transition projects to newer technologies.
Through this, my career path was clearly established and an electronics / communications engineering degree led to involvement in major LMR projects with police, emergency services, rail, utility and resource entities. These projects provided significant learnings regarding technology transition projects designed to meet users’ functional and operational requirements, the extent of customer ecosystems involved and also change management.
With an established technical background, I was given opportunities to move into sales, regional management and executive roles that extended involvement across control systems, private and carrier paging, mobile data, DECT and early cellular mobile technologies across the Asia Pacific (APAC) region. For the last 20 years, I have been primarily providing advisory and services to industry supplying critical user sectors and businesses across APAC and North America. During this period, I also played a key role as the founding chair of the Australasian Critical Communications Forum (ACCF), a regional chapter of the TCCA since 2001. In 2012, I was one of the founding directors of the North American TETRA Forum (NATF). ). During the 1990s, I was elected president of the Australian Radio Site Operators and Users Association (RSOUA), now known as the Australian Radio Communications Industry Association (ARCIA).
I am very appreciative of the wide range of opportunities given to me during my career so far and the regions in which I have been fortunate to visit and work. Over 40 years you really cherish the insights and mentoring provided by the industry, users and peers in industry associations such as TCCA. The opportunity I have been granted to contribute to TCCA as CEO and work even closer with members, end users and TCCA partner organizations worldwide is really exciting given the rapid technological advancements and digital transformations occurring in our critical industry sectors.
RRI: What are your main goals as chief executive of TCCA?
The critical industry user community has always been core to the strategic goals and prioritization of TCCA activities and also to our industry members’ endeavors in addressing both current and future requirements in these sectors. Fostering open standards and a harmonized radio spectrum environment are important guiding principles of TCCA membership. My main goal is to ensure TCCA continues to extend its global platform to facilitate close collaboration, co-operation, information exchange and experience sharing between critical industry stakeholders essential to driving the evolution of critical communications worldwide. This includes helping member organizations yield the maximum value from their existing communications investments while charting a course to harvest additional benefits through new technology advancements.
Increasing member participation in the various working groups and task forces through which most of the TCCA initiatives are coordinated, some in collaboration with other partner organizations, is key to reaching specific identified goals. These include translating user requirements to “fit for purpose” solutions; providing advocacy on regulatory and legal policy so policy frameworks are conducive to advancing critical communications capabilities across international regions; enhancing security aspects of both narrowband and broadband networks; and widening the scope of interoperability and certification regimes. TCCA is the guardian of the TETRA standard, and I will continue to drive TCCA’s work in maintaining TETRA interoperability and further development of the technology to 2035 and beyond. Overarching these is our horizon scanning of future technologies and applications relevant to evolving the critical communications ecosystem to ensure it is always relevant to user requirements.
The critical communications market is a small but crucial part of the overall telecommunications market. An ongoing goal is to continue to raise regional and global awareness of our sector through our own Critical Communications World event and other relevant conferences and exhibitions; media profile; expert-led webinars; and the publication of white papers on critical industry topics, as well as leveraging the resources of other industry stakeholders. TCCA has strong and hugely valued relationships with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), the Global Certification Forum (GCF) and the European Utilities Technology Council (EUTC) among others, and we will work to further enhance these as well as building new relationships with other organizations involved in representing critical users and use cases emerging within existing and new vertical market segments.
RRI: In your opinion, what are some of the biggest issues facing critical communications?
The biggest issue has always been to make ourselves heard, given the relatively small size of the critical communications market compared to the overall telecoms market and the pace at which technology in general is evolving.
It is essential that all critical communications stakeholders collaborate effectively to ensure their needs are voiced in the strongest, most effective and united fashion. We must ensure global and regional regulatory policy, equitable and harmonized spectrum access and that standards evolution provides the environment in which critical communications solutions and ecosystems can flourish in an open and competitive marketplace.
We need to leverage as much as possible underlying mass market telecoms systems and application environments. There is no point wasting time and effort trying to reinvent; rather we should aim to adapt and enhance commercial market initiatives and product and service developments to ensure that they can, as far as possible, serve the needs of critical users as well as the commercial world.
It is clear that as critical industries undergo digital transformation, they are likely to need appropriate critical communications technologies to support their future operational use scenarios. The convergent use of hybrid critical communications solutions will naturally demand higher levels of interworking and interoperability capability and require additional consideration of security / cybersecurity.
Given these issues, we will strive to ensure that the various working groups and task forces of the TCCA and the wider ecosystem are well supported with subject matter experts from across the world. Growing TCCA membership will be crucial in ensuring strong and trusted representation across the sector and ensuring that we have a resounding voice.
RRI: What technologies do you think will be critical to critical communications in the future?
Terrestrial narrowband and broadband obviously, but also non-terrestrial, unified edge solutions, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and the Internet of Things (IoT) with both passive and active sensors are all likely to feature more prominently into the future. Critical broadband use will bring an exponential increase in networked devices and applications to enable digital information exchange and provide enhanced situational awareness.
Information exchanges between the general public on smartphones, either directly or through social media, and command and control centers will become more effective and efficient. Harnessing and disseminating the information essential to individual user organizations’ operational needs will require investment in and greater reliance on data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Both voice and data information will require in most cases time and geo stamping. Location-based services and end-to-end time synchronization of networks and dataflows will become essential.
Direct / off-network communication has always been a key requirement for first responders and other critical industries such as utilities and rail / transport and fit-for-purpose solutions for this need to be developed in the critical broadband domain. Non-terrestrial network access has been a requirement in many critical sectors to meet coverage requirements but is also being demanded as a method of addressing voice and data availability / redundancy.
Commercial telecoms carriers are becoming more involved in critical industry use requirements. Cross regional and transnational use cases such as public safety, public protection and disaster response (PPDR), rail / transport and so on will need to be supported.
The evolution of the critical communications ecosystem is broadening and TCCA and its partners and global industry peers will continue to play a crucial part in helping to facilitate and support the development of our sector.
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