Three words sum up what’s needed to migrate a live missioncritical radio network without causing unacceptable disruption – planning, planning, planning.
That was the major lesson learned by Hong Kong Police when it sought to upgrade a TETRA network that had been in use since 1999.
Dr. Jolly Wong, Chief Technology Officer of Hong Kong Police emphasized the importance of planning to a successful outcome: “It is always a challenge to upgrade a network in operational use. The project needs to be planned carefully so that the interruption to services is as short as possible. Also, planning must take into account how all the new features will be taken into use, so co-operation is also crucial.”
Dr. Wong regards the project as a perfect example of success created through close co-operation between customer and vendor.
“Effort was required to plan ahead and execute the upgrade, mitigate the risk and monitor the post-implementation system performance,” Dr. Wong explains.
Perhaps the greatest achievement of the planning process was to enable the TETRA network to undergo three consecutive upgrades within the space of only three months. The network is based on Airbus MRCS/CRS hardware platform and Hong Kong Police wanted to upgrade it to the software version Release 6.0.
With planning commencing in 2013, careful orchestration between the customer and Airbus Hong Kong allowed for a seamless transition of the network in three phases. Phase 1 covered the upgrade from Release 4.1 to Release 5.0, Phase 2 handled the transition from Release 5.0 to Release 5.5 and Phase 3 covered from Release 5.5 to Release 6.0.
“This was a record breaking exercise, with three consecutive upgrades of legacy system hardware accomplished within three months without compromising Hong Kong Police Force’s operational needs,” says Dr. Wong, emphasizing again that none of this could be achieved without the most careful planning. He also stated that the user experience is the most important factor.
The upgrade project revitalized the network, enabling more effective support by Airbus. This in turn helped achieve a sustainable operation, enhanced the system’s performance and enabled eff ective operation and system maintenance.
Dr. Wong is particularly satisfied with the last but certainly not the least of the benefits: “The project instituted a culture of coordination and collaboration amongst all stakeholders, uniting them in a shared mission to deliver high quality mission-critical radio communications services.”