Ericsson nabs 5G public safety contract in Finland

The next-generation network is expected to be operational by mid-2021. (Getty Images)

Ericsson snagged a 10-year contract with Finnish authorities to supply 5G core network gear for the country’s next-generation public safety network initiative, called Virve 2.0.

Mobile operator Elisa was also tapped by Erillisverkot Group, the state-run group in charge of Finland’s national communications networks for public authorities, emergency and other critical services, to provide mobile coverage for the public safety network. Elisa said it plans to expand its geographical coverage area to align with the existing Virve network.  

Notably, Finnish vendor and Ericsson rival Nokia does not appear to be involved in the project, which includes 4G, 5G, and IoT technologies. It’s unknown if Nokia participated in the tender.

Ericsson said the contract includes its 3GPP Core IT systems, tapping the vendor’s dual-mode 5G Core portfolio on a common cloud-native platform. Ericsson’s NFVI, and VoLTE solutions are also included.

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Ericsson products will enable Erillisverkot to manage and control the mission critical network, safeguard information and protect data integrity, the Swedish vendor said.

“Critical networks demand the very best standards of reliability, security and performance in the core. We are working closely with Erillisverkot to ensure that is exactly what they will get from Ericsson’s dual-mode 5G core products and solutions to benefit critical services in Finland,” said Arun Bansal, president Europe and Latin America at Ericsson, in a statement. “It's fantastic to see Finland take such bold steps to ensure the safety and support of the nation in such a forward-thinking way and I look forward to other countries following suit.”

Finland launched the Virve 2.0 project in 2018 and Erillisverkot expects the network to be operational by mid-2021. Full migration of current Virve services to the next-gen Virve 2.0 is expected to happen by 2025, up until which the two services will run in parallel.

Erillisverkot CEO Timo Lehtimäki in a statement called the next generation of the public safety network “one of the most important governmental ICT projects in the coming years.”

“The importance of Virve in critical operations cannot be overstated,” Lehtimäki continued in the statement. “Virve will facilitate seamless cooperation between the authorities and other public safety operators, crucial in daily life but also in crisis situations, such as the current coronavirus pandemic.”

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In addition to existing services, Elisa said new capabilities like image and video, as well as other wireless broadband services, will enable a better and more current view of daily operations of authorities and other users. IoT technologies will enable applications like automatic monitoring of emergency personnel and mobile surveillance cameras and drones.

The country has seen an uptick in the volume of official communications, with about 80 million messages crossing the current Virve system each week, according to Elisa.

“The preparative work was thorough and went well in close cooperation with security authorities. This provides an excellent basis for progress towards the deployment of a critical network for the authorities,” said Eetu Prieur, director of Elisa’s Mobile Solutions, in a statement. “From an international point of view, this will be an extremely high-quality and advanced network for authorities, and Finnish authorities are once again forerunners on a global level.”

As for Ericsson, it’s been pushing ahead with a focus on mission critical communications. That includes recently announced plans to acquire Barcelona-based Genaker, a provider of Mission Critical Push-to-talk (MC-PTT) applications, which is meant to bolster Ericsson’s MC-PTT offering.

U.S. communications service provider Southern Linc in February said it would deploy Ericsson’s MC-PTT offering on its LTE network, for use by first responders as well as its utility and public sector customers.