The new broadband Virve service for public safety operators is being built carefully and in stages. “We have made excellent progress, as a large part of the work has already been done. The situation could be compared to a building that already has foundations, walls and a roof – at this stage it already looks like a house,” says Ari Toivonen, Development Manager at Erillisverkot.
The broadband subscriptions and Virve’s new services will ensure effective communications and cooperation between the authorities and other security operators also in the future. Customers will have the opportunity to test the new data subscriptions and familiarise themselves with the new phones and other devices in the new Virve service next year.
“Our goal is to introduce the new broadband Virve service to our first customers in 2022”, says Ari Toivonen, Development Manager at Erillisverkot.
The network is only open to limited user groups, such as the authorities and other security operators. All traffic is encrypted and the data is stored in Erillisverkot’s secure data centres in Finland.
The new Virve services will be introduced in stages between 2022 and 2025. During the transition period Virve, which currently operates on the Tetra network, will continue to be available alongside the new service until 2025.
“The most challenging thing about constructing the new Virve service is that we are creating a network and an entire service pretty much from scratch. The current Virve, which is based on Tetra technology, is completely different from the new broadband Virve service that operates on 4G and 5G networks.
We can’t build a new Virve service on the old network, which is what happens with commercial mobile networks where 4G benefits from the fact that is already an existing 3G service”, says Toivonen.
Building something new is inspiring
Another reason why building a new network is very demanding is because the service is made up of many different parts. Everyone at Erillisverkot working on the programme are filled with enthusiasm and motivation to solve this complex jigsaw together.
“You can see there is a great spirit of development and our experts are very focused on developing something new. It is wonderful, and above all meaningful, to be able to create the future”, says Ari Toivonen.
The construction of a completely new broadband network is rare, even on a global scale. However, Ari Toivonen is already familiar with the process, as he has also been involved in updating the public safety network in the UK. Everything should have been ready in 2019, but work on the future service is still ongoing over there.
“It shows what a large a project this is. We are well on schedule in Finland, although we do encounter slight setbacks every now and again. They are all part of developing something new: we have to try out different options to find the best solution”, says Toivonen.
The renewal also means huge changes to the job descriptions of the experts. At present, many are still working in the production of the current Virve network, but the focus will gradually move over to the new broadband Virve service.
“The change will also require our staff to undergo a lot of training. The migration from Tetra technology to new broadband technology is similar to a piano technician switching from repairing acoustic pianos to electric pianos. Acoustic and electric pianos are instruments that work in completely different ways, even though there are many similarities in their appearance”, says Toivonen.
Customers participating in testing
Erillisverkot will first test all the functions, equipment and software of the new of the new Virve service in their own laboratory. After this, Erillisverkot’s customers, i.e. various user groups, will be able to test the products in their own operations.
In the first half of 2022, prioritised broadband data subscriptions will be tested. Customers will be able to start using these subscriptions by summer.
The data subscriptions can be used to do the same things as you can on a normal internet subscription, but all traffic is encrypted and secure. The subscriptions offer the authorities and other security operators priority over normal users in situations in which the network is busy. They will allow a security operator to establish a mobile office, for example, or manage operations while being out on the field.
The data subscriptions will function in areas with 4G or 5G network coverage. This service area will be expanded continuously over the next few years. The Virve of the future will be based on 4G and 5G network coverage that is as comprehensive as possible.
New devices available next year
The broadband Virve group call application and the first new devices will be available in 2022.
“We must be able to offer suitable devices for the wide ranging needs of various security operators. Some need a mobile phone in their work, some need a tablet and some need a computer, while for some a data subscription is enough”, says Toivonen.
“I believe that devices will continue to evolve according to the needs of use, similar to the development of the first 3G mobile phones at the turn of the millennium. Initially, there were many ideas, but it was Apple’s introduction of the iPhone and all its mobile applications that revolutionised the business. Soon the other device manufacturers followed, realising that this is what the users need.”
New user needs and ideas arise best in practical use.
The broadband Virve service is based on continuous renewal. The development work will not stop even after the Virve services have been fully implemented. New services will constantly be developed based on the needs highlighted by customers.
“The new needs and ideas arise best in practical use. This is precisely the way mobile phone applications for consumer use have also evolved”, says Toivonen.
Working together with partners
Erillisverkot is building the new Virve service in cooperation with its partners. Elisa will provide the 4G and 5G radio network service and will be responsible for ensuring that the geographical coverage area of the network is at least as comprehensive as the current Virve network. Ericsson will deliver the 5G core network, which coordinates and transmits traffic from the radio network to the services and controls the subscriber data.
Erillisverkot will operate as the new broadband Virve service’s statutory service operator, operating the core network and producing services for it.