January 11, 2023

Delivering ‘true’ mission critical services

The wireless industry has a complex landscape made up of many layers of connectivity, serving a variety of different purposes. Some of those are the use cases we see every day – using 5G to download a TV program, or 4G to check work emails on the go. However, one of our key focuses and strengths at RFS is providing connectivity for the less visible use cases, most notably for Mission Critical applications. In this week’s blog, Steve Cass, Product Manager at RFS explores the world of mission critical connectivity and what it means to deliver ‘true’ critical services.

Steve Cass, Product Manager

What is mission critical

The purpose of mission critical communications is quite simple; it is the infrastructure needed to enable communication to support an emergency response in an urgent or dangerous situation. It is an important aspect of virtually every area of life but particularly when we move into certain environments that are intrinsically dangerous; underground, off-shore or high-rise buildings – having that infrastructure is absolutely essential should the worst happen. 

Although it is easy to answer the question of what mission critical communications is, the issue of building the network infrastructure to support it is much more challenging. We know that it involves rolling out equipment that needs to work in virtually any circumstances but ensuring that continuity of service can be a challenge. Delivering ‘true’ mission critical capability is not simply a case of deploying robust infrastructure that works on the right frequencies, it is about baking in redundancy and back up features to ensure that should the worst happen, communications equipment can continue to work. 

Busting the ‘plumbing’ myth

Part of the challenge that our customers face and that therefore we face, is the idea that the infrastructure needed for connectivity is just plumbing. It doesn’t have to be particularly smart; it just has to enable connectivity to get from A to B. This is a myth, and it is a myth that is unfortunately often the source of customers finding themselves massively disappointed and one of the biggest disappointments is that they end up with a system that isn't really mission critical. For example, as part of the network set up you will have a number of remote radios or WAPs, CCTV cameras and other IP devices that are supporting your mission critical service, not a problem. However, if you lose power to any of those, it becomes a big problem – the entire network goes down. 

It sounds fairly obvious when we lay it out like that, but it is actually a more common oversight than you would expect. It is the reason that at RFS we focus on developing systems that continue to work even when the worst happens. 

A robust approach

This means creating a really bullet-proof mission critical system and at RFS we pull in over a century of expertise in developing equipment that is built to last and built to continue working in a worst-case scenario. This includes our HYBRIFLEX cable which protects the power supply to remote devices ensuring we keep continuous power to the network. It could be using our DragonSkin fire-resistant cables which enable the network to operate during fire conditions but also our lowest fire hazard cables that are approved to both European and US standards which ensure no burning droplets accelerate a fire or emit toxic gases to further endanger life to the environment is as safe as possible while emergency services work. We can also look at self-healing cable, particularly in a mining or high explosive environment, if a cable is damaged, we absolutely need to ensure that there is no risk of a spark that risks causing a severe accident. 

Fundamentally, there are dozens of ways that infrastructure can be tailored to suit the needs of mission critical deployments. The key is to understand the specific risks, look at what that worst case scenario looks like and put in place equipment that is designed to mitigate the risks. 

Prioritize bullet-proofing

It may be tempting when it comes to selecting infrastructure to opt for the latest, on the edge of innovation equipment in a bid to futureproof that deployment. At RFS we are no stranger to connectivity innovation with numerous product inventions throughout our history. However, in the context of mission critical services, we have to work with our customers to recognize that on a list of priorities of course futureproofing should be on there, but bullet-proofing has to be the number one priority to ensure a mission critical setup that is truly fit for purpose using solutions which are tried and trusted.