Late last month, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) held its fourth round of testing aimed at ensuring interoperability across products that provide mission-critical features based on 3GPP standards.

The event included remote testing as well as an in-person final event held at the Savonia University of Applied Sciences, Kuopio, Finland. The plugtest event focused on mission-critical voice, data and video services as outlined in 3GPP Release 14.

Three takeaways from the event include:

A high percentage of interoperability was achieved. ETSI reported that the event had a 95% success rate of executed tests, which were based on 3GPP Release-14. More than 1,800 tests were executed between different vendors in more than 210 test sessions, ETSI said. The previous ETSI MCX plugtest event, held last summer in Texas, had a 92% success rate with more than 2,000 tests of mission-critical push-to-talk, mission-critical data and mission-critical video.

The mission-critical service ecosystem continues to evolve. Interoperability among MC products is particuarly important with commercial launches expected later this year. AT&T, for instance, has said that it plans to enable the capability by the end of this year on its network, so that FirstNet users have access to mission-critical push-to-talk.

The ETSI plugtest event included tests with radio equipment including base stations, user equipment and network cores, but also allowed over-the-top testing of mission-critical servers and clients. Thirty-one companies participated, the same number as in last summer’s MCX plugtest event in Texas.

ETSI said that participants included AINA Wireless; Airbus; Alea; Armour Communications; Athonet; Bittium; Ecom Instruments; Enensys-Expway; Ericsson; ETELM; Frequentis; Funkwerk Systems; Genaker; Havelsan; Huawei Technologies; Indian Institute of Technology Bombay; Kontron Transportation; L3Harris Technologies; Leonardo; MCOP-University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU); Motorola Solutions; Nemergent Solutions; ng-voice; one2many; Polaris Networks; PRESCOM; Samsung Electronics; Softil; StreamWide; TASSTA; and valid8.com.

Mission-critical features and test capabilities continue to expand. There are MC features included in 3GPP’s Release 13, 14 and 15; recent ETSI events have focused on Release 14.

Anatoli Levine, director of products and standards at Softil, one of the mission-critical tech enablement companies which participated in the plugtest event, recalled that the first ETSI MCX plugtest event two years ago focused primarily on MCPTT, and the event has grown considerably.

“The test document for that plugtest included less than 50 test cases and was limited primarily to mission critical push-to-talk, and was mostly conducted over standard LAN,” Levine said in a statement on the most recent testing. The test document for the most recent plugtest event, he said, included more than 150 test cases and covered “mission critical PTT, video, data, configuration management, key management and security, and much more. The testing [included]the use of actual LTE access (eNodeB), real handsets with real SIM cards, over a variety of IMS and EPC implementations. MCX solutions are getting ready for prime time.”

ETSI said that it has already begun work on a fifth mission-critical plugtest event and is in discussions with possible hosts on venues and dates.

“It is important to remember that interoperability is a journey, not a destination. Of course, it is a cliché, but it is still the truth,” added Levine. “Interoperability is essential to establish and maintain as the price for broken interoperability might be way too high, especially when it comes to the communication technology which is essential for saving lives. The testing exercise this week is an important step in getting MCX solutions into the hands of the users – one test at a time.”


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