Nov 15, 2018

Megapixels and megabits per second; Myths and Misunderstandings

Go into a high street electronics retailer and look at the digital cameras. Nice aren't they.

Chances are you’ll see a shiny collection of desirable gadgetry made in brushed aluminium and steel. Each with a little plastic tag beside it. And I’ll wager that each and every one will tell you how many Megapixels the camera has. Megapixels seems to be the most important, sometimes the single metric determining the quality - and price - of a digital camera.

Or so it is in the high street retailers.

Because the high street retailers are selling largely to the amateur public. Everything is simplified and presented in boiled-down terms. A simple metric. The higher the number, the better the device. And the higher the price.

More or less.

Of course anyone who knows even a little about digital cameras knows that the resolution of the camera is only one variable which contributes to the quality of the photos it produces. A professional photographer pays attention to the lenses, the sensitivity of the sensor, the data compression quality, and many other things.

Choose a poor quality camera with a lot of megapixels and it’ll give you lots of poor quality pixels.
This is the difference between choosing something with the understanding and criteria of an amateur versus that of a professional.

Goodmill Systems are in the professional, critical broadband business. We don’t promote our solutions by citing one single-easy-to-understand-but-too-simplistic metric.

Like megabits per second, for example.

Megabits per second - the speed or throughput of a connection - does not alone assure you of good connectivity or good service delivery. Assuring adequate service delivery when it really matters, to professional users is the combination and balancing (and yes sometimes even the trade-offs) of many different variables which together determine the behavior and characteristics of the end to end connection. Getting it right and making sure that critical connections are always on when they need to be on requires a detailed understanding of mobile networking, well engineered hardware and software, and a configuration all matched for the actual case.

There is no out-of-the-box, plug-n-play solution which produces an optimal setup for everyone. Anything plug-n-play will be, by definition, sub-optimal for many use cases. I would assert that anyone who claims otherwise just doesn't understand the problem well, or hasn't thought about it enough.

Throughput, expressed typically in Megabits-per-second (Mbps), like a camera Megapixels, is only one metric associated with a broadband connection. And it’s not the most important. Not for professional critical users.

A professional user who knows her business, knows her networks, knows her users and knows the services which they need, also knows the characteristics which define those services. As long as the connection to the vehicle is fast enough then the bandwidth ceases to be the most important metric of the system. Moreover, even if there isn’t enough bandwidth the telecom professional knows how to prioritize her traffic. She understands what is important, what is critical, what is really critical, and what is absolutely-cannot-do-without-critical. This is the business of running a professionally delivered telecom service. The connectivity solution needs to support those categorizations and take them into account when bandwidth is lacking, which it surely sometimes will be.

As said already, Goodmill Systems is in the professional, critical broadband business. Our understanding of professional, critical communications has shaped our solution and the way we deliver it to our customers. Of course we don’t ignore megabits per second as a metric; but it’s not the sole, single metric by which we measure how good our system is. We understand that for professional users availability, security and resilience are equally if not more important. And a singular emphasis on squeezing every bit per second out of the system is for amateurs.

Is you have professional mobile broadband needs, look us up at Goodmill Systems. With us you're Always Online.

Ged Robinsson
Region Director
Goodmill Systems Ltd.

Sep 12, 2018

EU’s Security - Industrial Complex

This text has previously been published in Finnish in the paper edition of Kaleva on the 13th of August 2018.

EU’s military strength is more than a matter of defense budgets. This was stated by Risto Murto of Varma in his article in Kaleva 27th of July. Especially Murto highlighted the need for a military-industrial complex, if EU wants to be a peer military might with the US. However, Murto didn’t spell out why such a complex would be needed to create strength.

One could think that a local industry enables larger investment, as the money spent doesn’t directly drain outside of the local economy. On the other hand, if the similar argument was made about bananas, we’d be sure to remember the principle of comparative advantage.

Additionally, Murto writes about the share of public investments going to the defense sector. According to him, in the US the share of military research spending of the total public research investments is 60%. Where as in the EU, the share is only 5-10%. As military applications of technology are often secret and other innovations are protected by IPR, this can be seen as an area, where a local military-industrial complex in fact does produce military strength. An innovation unknown to the enemy can potentially increase military capabilities significantly. Good examples include steel and radar, as well as the extreme example of nuclear weapons.

The article closes on a thought that the emergence of a military-industrial complex in the EU is very unlikely, because Europeans are considered unwilling to make it happen. Two reasons can be identified behind the unwillingness. First, the article also discusses the fractured nature of the EU. States find it hard to come to an agreement on, for example, joint equipment purchases or mergers of companies within the industry. I believe this to be true, for it is unlikely that a comparable complex would’ve emerged in the US, if the federal government wouldn’t have been able to engage in pork-barreling over the states. For example, it has been presented that the F-35 program couldn’t be stopped due to employment effects even if it would be considered a failure. The second reason is the ethos of the citizens. A large portion of Europeans won’t find investments into defense desirable even in the current prevalent security status. The effect is most profound with Germany as the economic powerhouse of the EU, which might still carry historical reasons.

If EU and Germany would however want to develop their military-industrial complex, the recent changes in how wars are fought open up better possibilities than before. While a moment ago, the holistic security paradigm meant mainly channeling military expenditures to other causes, now, an increasing amount of threats and cures for them are simultaneously applicable in both civilian and military contexts. Good examples include police and border guard equipment, cyber and information environment protection and security and electronic surveillance and positioning solutions.

The need of governments to enhance security and citizens’ reluctance to traditional arms procurement could possible be mended by investing in the creation of a security-industrial complex somewhat akin to the military-industrial one. This would mean an increase in public investment to products of local companies such as described above and especially to the development of these products.

To be distinct from the current innovation policy the new model should put front and center the user organizations of the EU member states – in essence the security authorities. EU and Finland could learn from the US DARPA organization and require the extensive use of a culture of experimentation instead of application processes. The activities should, in contrast to DARPA, include user organization besides the ministry of defense. In addition, public procurement and innovation subsidies of larger companies could be directed to support the same viewpoint. Especially effective and growth inducing results would be achieved by directing the investments towards start-up companies’ products, either directly or by encouraging the existing established security sector companies to include smaller ones in their deliveries.

For purposes of the generation of the complex, most fruitful would be, if the start-ups, that have gotten their operations started by the co-operation, would be acquired by EU defense sector companies. New business and innovations would be created simultaneously as the competitiveness of the acquirers would improve by increased scale and ability to differentiate. Even though this wouldn’t realize the synergies between competing companies, the speed up in innovation leading to the differentiation in offerings, would be a more natural way to open EU level joint procurement than traditional horse-trading negotiations. The road is long, but a security-industrial complex can not be built in a day.

Topias Uotila
Member of the Board
Goodmill Systems Ltd.

Apr 17, 2018

Being 'Always Online' has changed the public safety vehicle use forever

High data rate and high availability broadband services give a tremendous advantage to all public safety operators in the field. This is a direct response from users that have used the technology for years already. Applications demand more bandwidth all the time. In the future, online streaming video will be the killer application.

Additionally, all the intelligence cannot remain confined to a vehicle’s computer. This means that safe and high availability access to central databases is a must. A managed multichannel routing solution is the future proof answer to these needs that requires no huge upfront investments. One can start easily with multiple commercial operators. The links can also be easily upgraded to new dedicated networks when they emerge. A wonderful benefit of novel and flexible multichannel systems is that they can use any available network technologies both now and in the future.

Network congestion problems are solved by dynamic prioritization. This can be and needs to be done in both dedicated and commercial networks. An important not to remember is that dedicated frequencies themselves don’t provide for high availability and non-congestion.

From a monetary point of view the multi-network approach is rock solid. The system pays for itself in a few months and in some cases, weeks. Routers that can take full advantage of multiple networks are the crucial element in creating this Blue Ocean for public safety operations. The incumbents that have so far sold the digital PMR networks are naturally interested in continuing their old business model. But with novel alternatives it’s possible to minimize network investments, and the main business will switch to other players. This has already happened in Scandinavia and will likely be repeated in other parts of the world. I hope for the taxpayers’ sake that the modern approaches get the foothold they deserve.

If you want to hear and see more, please visit Goodmill Systems at the Berlin Critical Communications World exhibition. Goodmill Systems is again part of the solution Finnish authorities are showcasing in the event. Our broadband solution is in the center of the systems that are presented by our customers from public safety and security organizations. You can see how the product is used in real life and discuss directly with the users.

Juhani Lehtonen, VP, Goodmill Systems, +358 50 572 5542

Feb 2, 2018

Can Public Safety be a Competitive Marketplace?

Traditionally Public Safety Communication networks have been closed, proprietary networks, but that’s all about to change. Today, Public Safety networks are rapidly being integrated within the commercial communications grid.  For anyone who has watched this space over the last few decades that amounts to a seachange for how Public Safety fits into the larger business ecosystem. Will this bring a about a new wave of innovative players that weren’t there before? Will public safety communications one day become a thriving, competitive marketplace?
This past week I had the opportunity to  meet and reconnect with scores of public safety stakeholders from coast to coast in the US, many of them involved in the FirstNet initiative that is being delivered on AT&T’s existing LTE network and touted quite correctly as the world’s most advanced Public Safety Communications Network. This model for public-private partnership in public safety communications (or, as I like to call them PPPPSCs…;) may be new on a global stage, but it’s already proving its worth in driving down costs, fostering innovation and playing host to new and advanced technologies arriving from all sectors.
For our part, and as one the innovators on the network side, we can see the advantages of the PPPPSC model first hand, but also how much work remains to be done. Certainly coverage must be built out and expanded, and certain components of the network need to be made more robust. That said, this way of using commercial networks, and with such features a pre-emption and local control, (FirstNet’s term for Network Slicing) amoung others, will ensure every bit of the reliability of a proprietary network like TETRA and so much more.
On the application development side, Public Safety is a new, untapped opportunity and one with some difference, but nonetheless promising revenue potential. While the number of public safety operatives caps out at 75 million worldwide, with forecasted revenues of some $80 Billion by 2026 the math begins to emerge. Think lower volume, (and much) higher margin, not to mention great bragging rights about working with government.
The time is now
Today we see many use cases in which Public Safety organizations are using consumer apps or worse, some custom designed code to serve a specific need. It’s no surprise that in just as many cases agencies are choosing not to use apps that would serve them well in the field but for security concerns. The most recent foible over FitBit foisting sensitive data to the world at large is but a case in point. Last week the news was abuzz about the health device/app providing the precise locations of likely military or government personnel in places like Syria and Afghanistan and….well, you get the picture.
Still there are a good number of perfectly serviceable consumer technologies that provide immediate benefits for Public Safety including Push-to-Talk, and One-to-Many communications that are available on consumer phones and work just fine on any LTE network. And with this example alone, in a market where there are multiple, interoperable Push-to-Talk vendors, we are already seeing its competitive potential.
Taking the “public safety as competitive market place” concept one step further up the food chain, if we can have multiple, overlapping application and device vendors, then why not have two or more public safety networks? Again, it seems that we’re already there in the US, as AT&T rival Verizon is planning to launch their own Public Safety network to compete with FirstNet. Technically this is no Herculean task as they are using exactly the same LTE technology as AT&T that supports the very same applications and devices, and this only drives more opportunities for competition. Certainly from a cost perspective, two providers is better than just one. Between the two networks however, there is some concern around app interoperability.
From the outset, the main the argument for FirstNet was that because police forces and fire departments used different communication methods, there was a baked in risk, and precisely the one that had tragic consequences during the 911 attacks, as communications failure between first responders lead directly to the deaths of 128 firefighters in the second tower.  Note: This horrific event is the starting point of our recently published case study on FirstNet.
So to the questions – could this happen again if there were two LTE public safety networks? The answer, fortunately, is no. This is because LTE networks are IP-based which means that compatibility is managed at the application level. Just as there are no interoperability issues between, say WhatsApp and Skype calls on differing networks, Public Safety communications applications would behave the very same way on AT&T’s network as they would on Verizon’s with zero interoperability issues. This strengthens the case for two networks, but weakens the case for multiple apps, as for example, there are issues if you want to call a WhatsApp contact from Skype.
Certainly, from a Public Safety community point of view, the more networks the better. This is mostly to help insure better, more redundant coverage, particularly in the case of outages. Remember that in the 911 case, the breakdown in communication was due to melted repeaters on a single, dedcasted network. Multiple, interoperable networks would have helped avert that problem. With two networks you can reach over 99% availability according to our partner, Goodmill Systems who provide hybrid network hopping for public safety. In this case more is more and will all be even delivered at an even lower cost.

Sep 29, 2017


When talking about critical broadband connectivity for public safety, we are talking about saving lives. The availability of the online information is thus of the utmost importance. If one tries to fetch information from criminal records, the latest blueprints of a building in case of fire, or send cardio information to a doctor in hospital, connectivity is crucial. It might not be a matter of a second or two, but one certainly cannot wait minutes for data to be delivered.

In critical communications, the command and control application become a focal point. With an efficient C&C application one can share information about other units’ locations, target drawings and other various case specific information. The more instantaneous the data is, the better security it provides for the officers on the case. We have seen live situational pictures shared from the criminal site to enhance co-operation and to minimize the inefficient use of mobile voice terminals.

I wish to underline that 99.9% of the usage of broadband data in public safety is outside of a big catastrophe. This is normal day to day work for public safety personnel. When this work can be made more efficient, the savings are immense. Let's look at the network infrastructure requirements of the solution.


The most common mistake public safety has made is to rely solely on one commercial broadband network. It almost seems like all concentration with development is on the applications. Too often, connectivity issues are handled without due consideration “…oh and we’ll use the broadband of the number one commercial operator, with a dongle or similar.” The fact is no single network, especially a commercial one, is ever enough. The networks are built and designed in a way that do not enable 100% availability regardless of coverage. Commercial networks have occasional service breakdowns, on larger and smaller scales. These networks also have IP addressing scheme changes that cause links to break down. This requires new connection set-ups that always take time. Typical availability, under the coverage area, over any larger single network when in full operation is about 96-98%.


The most obvious and most employed solution to the broadband question in the market is to repeat the previous narrow band and voice implementations in the new environment. The communication of public safety has previously been done by dedicated networks. It all started with RF – radios. With digitization, the P25, Tetra and Tetrapol technologies were implemented. These regional or even countrywide implementations have been paid for using taxpayers’ money and the arguments in support of these networks have revolved around availability during crisis situations. Well, no solution is 100% reliable and despite little official communication on the subject, we know that existing digital PMR networks are far from being perfect. A good question today is if a dedicated network is even needed for voice services? There are novel push to talk possibilities and various MVNO approaches that could even replace the existing networks. If we select a dedicated network for public safety use, we should consider the cost vs. benefit. If the network has already been built, it certainly makes sense to use it, but building a new one is another question.

The approximate amount of users on a dedicated network compared to a commercial one is about 0.5%. Dedicated networks builders argue that this small number of users isn’t interesting enough for commercial operators. Is the answer to build another network with even higher availability requirements? With a simple calculation, the cost would be 200-fold per user. How much are the public really prepared to pay for these services? There is always a limit to everything and I have a hard time believing that a dedicated network, especially a Broadband one, would be accepted anywhere as the only possible solution.

I understand the need for coverage in remote areas where there is no business case for the connectivity of commercial networks. This can however, also be covered by satellite.


This last alternative is somewhat like what FirstNet is doing in the US, the Emergency Services Network (ESN) in UK, and Red Compartida in Mexico. There are more, but these are maybe the most important ones right now. The idea is to combine the existing infrastructures of commercial operators and to build more infrastructure and robustness into the solution. The major thinking behind these approaches are dedicated frequencies. The problem here is that dedicated frequencies offer neither high availability nor resilience. For that you need robust infrastructure.

This solution would also still rely on a single network at a time, with all the associated problems. Why try to create robustness where it already is available? The best solution is at hand with a multiple network approach. Finally: implementing some resilience, like battery backup for base stations, can occasionally be a good idea. New infrastructure where no networks are available can be justifiable, but there is no need to build anything extra when it is not really needed.

The worst scenario with these old-school approaches is that lots of money will be spent and the customers will not be happy. Often in these cases, after the false investment has been made, the critics are silenced. Finally, and sadly, users are not given any alternative for a better solution, which is a multiple network approach.


One benefit of using multiple networks comes through security in case of interference. If someone tries to jeopardize the functionality, or manages to block the traffic of one network, the possibility to use several connections solves the problem. One can always use rapid deployment connectivity via extra LTE or 5G networks, use WiFi, or satellite alternative. The best about the solution Goodmill offers is that these alternative networks can be used automatically; the system selects the best or the most viable connection, depending on how the switch over protocol is determined.

Everything previously discussed summarizes that utilizing a combination of networks brings availability to the accepted level for Public Safety mobile use. It is always a matter of resilience that dictates what the approach selected in each region or country will be: how many networks and what type of network enhancements are required. In our experience, with constant monitoring capabilities and Mobile IP enhanced session persistence, a multiple network approach that auto selects the best network, exceeds the current needs of public safety. There are, however, few important criteria that must be met. First, the multi-channel routing solution needs to have a short switch-over time between networks. Second, sessions need to stay up when the IP addressing changes. Thus, the solution needs to be network agnostic, so that the applications don’t have to know anything about the occurring changes.

The multiple network solution has proven extremely reliable and cost-effective all over the world. Goodmill has one of the largest installed base of managed multi-channel routers in public safety in the world. The solution has been proven in nationwide implementations for years. Of course, the products need to meet the highest standards. As an example, Goodmill products have MBTF of more than 400,000 hours for the routers in use. Our clients can constantly monitor the connectivity situation. The remote management (over-the air) OTA capabilities provide a constant online view of fleet connectivity and provides access to routers whenever needed. This is the connectivity platform that meets the hardest public safety requirements.

Goodmill Systems Ltd.

Sep 15, 2017


In the past, there have been huge investments into public safety networks around the world. Investments into digital voice solutions with country-wide coverage are still ongoing in many countries, with Germany and Norway being the latest and widest implementations. Big infrastructure providers have been earning good revenue with these national roll-outs. Now, as the old technology cannot provide the data rates required, many of the traditional players are planning on selling new broadband networks the same way in the future.

There is however, a new ‘Blue Ocean’ concept that changes the whole business model for public safety broadband. This is good news for taxpayers, but poses a significant risk for the previous rulers of the marketplace. Before I get to that, let’s summarize what ‘Blue Ocean’ in this case stands for.


This term was invented by W. Chan Kim and RenĂ©e Mauborgne in their book “Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant”. The idea is that you don’t only develop and enhance your offering to win markets, but you can redefine it by introducing aspects of elimination and reduction. With the new model, we can reduce or even eliminate investments into new networks and simultaneously improve data security, reliability, coverage and resilience. And all this at a fraction of the cost of the old business model.



Whenever talking about public safety, the argumentation for selling solutions has been around the importance of the service itself. I’ve heard arguments like “TETRA is the only technology you can trust on your life” or “dedicated and government controlled networks are the only solutions that fulfill the availability and resilience needs of public safety”. As we know that Tetra is far better suited for critical communications than a single commercial network, these statements are still not true. The digital PMR, when introduced, was the only suitable solution. It has given over the years us great benefits, is very useful today and will continue to add value in the future. However, we also know of numerous situations where TETRA, Tetrapol or P25 networks have been down or unusable due to congestion problems. These, like any single network solutions, are still vulnerable to storms and other natural catastrophes. The dedicated PMR networks too often get overcrowded when needed most. Simultaneously, when there’s nothing important going on, the networks are using even as little as 2-5% of their capacity. This means that there is a huge investment standing unused most the time, yet failing unfortunately often when needed the most. If this is what the current situation is, do we really need dedicated networks business model in the future? Are there solutions that can outperform the availability and resilience of a single network investment? I think these are questions worth asking.


The new strategic alternative comes from eliminating the need for new networks. We already see solutions for fixed landline based internet where dedicated secure networks are built inside a commercially available one. VPN tunneling or MPLS technologies are commonly used in the PS sector today. The solution is to combine commercial networks, as many as one wishes, and use secure tunnels inside them. This way, the existing infrastructure of all mobile operators can be used, taking advantage of the resilience, availability and operational security they can serve together. This is very important to understand: the existing, separate networks can offer these benefits when used in unison. The same reason we have two ears and eyes. It is possible using these separate networks to have secure tunneling running simultaneously across them all. This means that the costs of the solution are magnitudes lower than building an entirely new network anywhere with any significant coverage.

To read more about the ultimate solutions, check this white paper. 

By Juhani Lehtonen, VP Sales & Marketing of Goodmill Systems Ltd.

Sep 4, 2017

Would You Build Dedicated Roads Just For Public Safety Vehicles?

The recent developments in the discussion about future broadband solutions for public safety have been quite alarming. We hear arguments like "frequencies save lives" and "dedicated broadband is the only solution you can trust your life on". These demands to allocate natural resources and tax money to totally new networks are same as asking for dedicated road infrastructure for public safety.

There are two concerns in public safety about mobile broadband that lead to these demands. The first one is availability. If broadband networks were roads we would already have 3-4 road providers in each country. All of them assure the roads to be available in the populated areas. Simultaneously they also overlap quite nicely. If one road owner does not guarantee a road to your remote summer cottage, it is very likely that one of the 3-4 have made the road for you. Of course, there might be some areas where there are no roads, but there's a reason for that: no one lives there! If a plane crashed into an area with no roads, one would just use helicopters and vehicles designed for terrain to access the crash site.

The second argument for dedicated networks and frequencies is congestion. This demand means that if the roads were full of traffic, we would need to have separate roads for police and ambulances so they would not be blocked by other traffic. Think of the use of natural resources (land) and the investment into building these extra roads. And all just for these occasional jams. How about the idea of giving priority to ambulances by letting them easily by when they have emergency? How about organizing green lights for their path as they are driving to and from a site?

We have, of course, solved the issues of public safety when it comes to road infrastructure. It's because the issues is comprehensible to a common man. The broadband network infrastructure is not much different. Broadband networks can be operated and handled actually very similarly to road infrastructure.

As we already have 3-4 network infrastructure providers in most countries, it makes sense to use a combination of networks for best possible availability. As the infra is already there, why to build it? Solutions like multi-channel routing with 3-4 simultaneous connections enable the usage of the. It's a bit like why we have two eyes. Not any single network is ever resilient enough anyhow! How about areas with no networks then? Remote road to a non-inhabited destination because of a possible plain crash has never been argument to build a road, but seems to be for public safety networks. Also with broadband one can always use satellite or build temporary networks when necessary.

Congestion can also be avoided already with current infra. Prioritization is already possible and implemented for LTE networks. You can even accomplish dynamic prioritization where you use it only for certain users and allocate the traffic only when necessary. Just like with normal traffic: when the situation requires, you stop other traffic.

Dedicates networks and allocated frequencies are not the answer to resilient, redundant and safe broadband infrastructure. Special solutions for public safety are required, since always online connectivity in critical situations is a must. Dedicated network and frequencies can in some cases be seen as an additional insurance. But giving away natural resources or investing into a unnecessary infra is the same as building dedicated roads only to be used by public safety.

More on the topic by Juhani Lehtonen soon to be published in a new white paper about public safety broadband development.