Connection is the lifeline – new TCCA white paper raises concerns around mission critical user access to commercial networks

10 October 2023

For critical communications users on the front line, connection is the lifeline – immediate availability of network services is crucial. In Europe, it is expected that most operators of broadband networks for Public Protection and Disaster Relief (PPDR) will cooperate with commercial network operators (MNOs) to provide either full or partial PPDR services.

However, to date only a few countries have adopted a legislative/regulatory solution that takes into account the needs of PPDR users if their mission critical services are reliant on the availability of MNO networks. A new white paper from TCCA’s Legal and Regulatory Working Group looks at how European regulation on net neutrality may affect public safety operators that utilise radio coverage from commercial MNOs.

It is widely accepted that Quality, Priority and Pre-emption (QPP) is critical to secure effective mission-critical communications using commercial networks. The 3GPP standard and technical solutions currently available in the market support this. However, there is a concern whether it is possible to provide QPP services without breaching European regulation on net neutrality (Telecom Single Market (TSM) Regulation). Without QPP, PPDR users will have no priority above other mobile network users and may – if the traffic in the network is heavy – be prevented from communicating with other PPDR users. Under this current regulation, each individual country needs to act, creating national rules to allow traffic management measures in favour of users of public safety services.

The white paper highlights that while some EU/EEA countries have already adopted national rules to enable the use of QPP services under an exemption under the TSM Regulation, others are only at the starting point of assessing the legal possibilities. There are indications that different countries may interpret the TSM Regulation on net neutrality differently. In some countries, the possibility to prioritise PPDR by national law has not yet been considered, which could lead to an equal treatment of PPDR and other end users even in emergency situations.

TCCA believes that modifications to the existing regulations at EU-level will help to secure mission critical services (MCX) for public safety organisations across Europe. For future regulation, the mission critical communications community's needs should be included from day one. This would also secure the development of harmonised MCX across countries, including the readiness to support operational mobility for PPDR users.

“It is essential that mission critical users have priority in a crisis situation if they are using a commercial network service, and QPP enables that,” said Nina Myren, chair of TCCA’s Legal and Regulatory Working Group and TCCA Board member sponsored by Norwegian public safety operator DSB. “Through TCCA, we are promoting cooperation between countries to develop a common understanding of the TSM Regulation, including its applicability, so that the challenges can be addressed. Speaking with one voice will help to address the issues at EU level.”

The new white paper Legal and Regulatory aspects regarding the realisation of Quality of Service, Priority and Pre-emption (QPP) in commercial networks is available here.