Predicting the future is a great exercise – you get to answer the question “what if” many times over, it is akin to building a brand-new road, a path. Reflecting on the past is an undertaking of an equal grandeur – you step aside, you observe, you make conclusions and use them as stepping stones to continue moving forward. With this idea in mind, we would like to take a look at what happened in the 2019, and see what we can learn from it.

3GPP MCX standards evolved

In 2019, the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) continued to advance standards for the global MCX industry. Multiple enhancements were made in the standard for group management, service migration and system interconnections. 3GPP’s standard was also broadened to address railway-specific requirements. The work on implementation of LMR/MCX interconnect (so called stage 3) was completed.

Important work was done in 2019 by 3GPP to ensure that MCX requirements are fully supported in the design of 5G networks including critical items such as direct mode, mobile broadcast and quality indicators. Additionally, work under way to address Isolated Operations (IOPS), discreet listening and logging and location management is expected to become a part of Release 17.

MCX services inching towards reality

The MCX industry continued throughout 2019 to enable MCX services. Some of the notable developments included AT&T continuing the FirstNet core network buildout, but its MCPTT service expected to be live in August 2019 was delayed to early 2020. In the UK, the Home Office continued with implementation of its MCX-based ESN network, and the Pan-European MCX service called Project Broadway entered the request for proposal (RFP) stage. In Finland, work began to define the functionality of the nation’s next generation public safety network called Vivre 2.0 based on MCX technology.

Interoperability of MCX products and services

Softil attended ETSI’s MCX Plugtest #4 in Kuopio, Finland in September 2019. MCX implementations from more than 30 vendors underwent numerous interoperability testing scenarios as defined in the ETSI test plan and covering MCX functionality up to Release 15. Testing scenarios included MCPTT, MCVideo, MCData, eMBMS, and encrypted group communications in multi-vendor scenarios.

Advancing the MCX industry

Last year, Softil expanded its MCX footprint by joining the iCERT (The Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies) organization and continued its participation in industry bodies PSTA and TCCA. Softil believes that when it comes to new technologies and unchartered territories, industry consortiums play an important role in providing a common platform for all involved. iCERT is uniquely positioned at the intersection of NG911 and mission-critical communications and can help to advance the common case of new technologies for first responders and those who rely upon their vital help.

Deployments of MCX solutions

The year 2019 saw early deployments of Softil MCX enabling technology in numerous build outs such as railway applications from Siemens Mobility. Hanswell’s fixed dispatch and communications terminals for South Korea’s National Police Agency represent the first step towards a country-wide deployment of MCX technology for First Responders. The move to MCX technology by police authorities will then be followed by deployment to the firefighter community in line with South Korea’s national policy to transfer public safety communications to broadband technologies.