Date: June 30, 2023
Autor: Szymon Grych
All one needs to know about ENTRUSTED objectives is, very briefly, yet pretty much stated in the project title itself or rather its full version: European Networking for satellite Telecommunication Roadmap for the governmental Users requiring Secure, inTeroperable, innovativE and standardiseD services. Here goes some clear evidence showing that, after 33 months of implementation, the outcome has met these expectations after.
Networking and knowledge sharing
First of all, when it comes to networking, the project has actually provided a platform for a constructive dialogue, cooperation and mutual learning, mainly by establishing, maintaining and even expanding a representative, steady and flexible Network of governmental Users (NoU) of secure SatCom services within the European Union. Eventually, the NoU comprises 13 Member States and 7 EU institutions and agencies which form the ENTRUSTED Consortium, as well as 2 Member States and 3 EU agencies that collaborate with the Consortium. Member States that belonged to the NoU represent potential beneficiaries of GOVSATCOM SatCom services. EU institutions and agencies also play a vital role in the Network, as they represent technology or service providers and user communities. The network’s participants not only raised awareness among potential users and stakeholders, but also collected information on users’ needs or future capabilities, widely consulted the requirements and defined use cases.
The project events, along with the website content and social media accounts helped in creating a common identity and, most importantly, motivated and mobilised the user community to get involved in the discussion of the EU GOVSATCOM system and services. Additionally, it significantly stimulated a skills development process.
Dedicated workshops for secure SatCom potential users to exchange ideas, on-going activities, and planned initiatives or to identify new actions to be put in place. Due to the sensitive nature of performed research, the workshops were addressed to all members of the Consortium and external collaborators. EU Member States could additionally invite national experts or relevant stakeholders.
As not all ENTRUSTED partners were directly engaged in activities undertaken within particular work packages, these workshops served several purposes, such as:
- informing about conducted research work,
- validating emerging findings,
- gaining additional insights from participants,
- discussing derived conclusions and agreeing on proposed recommendations.
All workshops have played an important role in advancing research efforts. In total, these four events were attended by 144 participants representing EU Member States and EU agencies and institutions.
In order to reach out to external stakeholders, especially some less experienced SatCom users and help them acquire essential knowledge and competence, an online training and live demonstrations were prepared.
The ENTRUSTED online training course, entitled “Fundaments of secure satellite communications”, was aimed at technical employees of public institutions, implementing or managing communication solutions used in security-critical missions, operations, or key infrastructures, who have no specific knowledge of SatCom. Thus, the educational content was developed with respect to the following objectives:
- Introduce fundamental concepts, characteristics and applications of SatCom;
- Explicate how SatCom facilitates the transmission of information to support the effective execution of professional duties;
- Raise awareness on secure SatCom for governmental users within the EU (i.e., GOVSATCOM).
The platform is still freely accessible to anyone who is interested in SatCom and looks for a useful starting point to acquire basic yet comprehensive knowledge of the topic.
To explain what EU GOVSATCOM is all about by showcasing the benefits of secure SatCom capabilities to prospective GOVSATCOM users and proving how secure SatCom service can be used in practice, the demonstrations were prepared, with the operational scenarios both to be presented during live audience events (so far on 2 March 2023 in Rome and on 2 May 2023 in Prague), yet at the same time easy for self-exploring as a resource package published on the ENTRUSTED website.
Thus, the GOVSATCOM capabilities were in reference to specific operational scenarios, such as:
- Access to GOVSATCOM services for military users,
- SatCom in emergency theatre,
- Assistance in case of disaster and armed conflict,
- Secure communications for national diplomacy network.
Use cases put in order
For the purposes of user consultation process and further research, the Consortium reviewed and complemented a list of use cases for future GOVSATCOM services. At the outset, ENTRUSTED built on the acknowledged classification of GOVSATOM use cases, grouped into Use Cases Families:
- Surveillance use cases, in which the mission of the user is to observe and monitor specific areas of interest, and in which secure SatCom services are key to communicate with units deployed in remote areas not covered by terrestrial networks, or in areas in which terrestrial networks are not reliable;
- Crisis management use cases, in which the mission of the user is to support safety and security of citizens under crisis situations as, for instance, disasters, in which usually terrestrial communication networks are affected and not reliable, or even inexistent in some cases;
- Key Infrastructures management and operations use cases, in which assurance of guaranteed communication links is vital for the security and safety of citizens;
- Transversal use cases which support or complement all above mentioned use cases, but need special attention due to their specific characteristics – comprising:
- secure SatCom services for Polar regions where conventional SatCom systems usually offer limited coverage;
- secure SatCom services for Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS), with special focus on Beyond Line-of-sight (BLoS) operations, in which SatCom services are the main communication and control link with the flying assets; and
- secure SatCom services for Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and Internet-of-Things (IoT), which may support the design and development of advanced systems to be used in relevant use cases
- Other uses cases, added as a result of the User Consultation Process and the expertise provided by partners, which consist of e.g.: Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) communication, control and payload data transmission for Line-of-Sight (LoS) and Beyond line-of-Sight (BLoS) operations; Services for scientific teams onboard vessels; Broadband services provided by authorities for citizens (in specific cases to remove connectivity blind spots); Critical Crops Monitoring (CCM), for instance in reference to such aspects as crop health or growth stage; Customs routine operations and Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) and quantum internet applications
Individual Use Cases were grouped into Use Case Clusters, which were subsequently classified under specific Fields of Applications.
Consultation, research and providing foresight
While identifying use cases was a starting point, before developing an efficient and useful roadmap, carefully reviewing the current and near future situation in terms of resources, technologies and various actors involved, as well as confronting these findings with the users’ point of view was equally crucial. That is why ENTRUSTED Consortium conducted a user consultation process. The survey study was launched in April 2021, and it was carried out until the end of June that year. Eventually, 155 users took part in the survey and returned completed questionnaires. 71% of respondents declared to have no previous experience with the use of SatCom services. All individual survey were aggregated and analysed in detail. Feedback collected from respondents provided updated information on current user capabilities and main limitations that hinder the use of SatCom services in operational tasks. Users also indicated essential features and aspects of SatCom services necessary to meet their operational needs.
Key messages conveyed in answers received from users were presented in “Anonymised Survey Results”. In general, there is an increasing trend in the intended use of SatCom capacity due to the evolution of their operational tasks. Yet, the majority of respondents were not fully aware of the benefits that SatCom could provide. One of the main barriers referring to SatCom services, identified by users, is that such services seem to be quite complex, and accessing them is not so straightforward. Coupled with a general perception that information about how to contract, install and use SatCom services is not easily available, keeps the exploitation of SatCom below their full capacity. In addition, users consider the cost of SatCom services and necessary equipment as the key limiting factor for their uptake.
Aggregated answers from ENTRUSTED questionnaires and the expertise provided by the Consortium and external collaborators contributed to additional project outputs: “User’s Requirements” Document and already mentioned “Use Cases Definition” Document.
With an intention to derive requirements at the level of an individual use case, the core attributes were classified in the manner presented below:
It is expected that the corresponding reports will be treated as living documents, regularly updated in reference to new available technologies and capacities, as well as emerging needs of governmental users.
Reviewing and analysing existing materials collected from research institutes, technological stakeholders and SatCom users resulted in the analysis of the SatCom technology baseline outlined in another ENTRUSTED’s deliverable: “State of Art of secure SatCom suitable for governmental user technology and service access”. The document has taken into consideration aspects such as generic telecommunication satellite system, service provision scheme for both commercial and governmental SatCom systems, rules and steps that control access to a SatCom service, main security threats and techniques in secure SatCom, current satellite communication systems in the EU. The analysis of the state-of-the-art user technology to access secure SatCom services provided useful insights for the implementation of the pooling and sharing principle in GOVSATCOM.
Furthermore, the consortium examined the identified needs of GOVSATCOM users and the evolution of use cases from a technology perspective. This included the analysis of growing security threats, connectivity of remote areas and maritime communications, integration of 5G networks, Internet of Things (IoT), high throughput laser communication for LEO constellation, telesurgery operations and remote healthcare, or education and academic research, among others.
Some key challenges for the evolution of SatCom technologies and the correlation with user terminals interoperability were also investigated. It was highlighted that interoperability should be addressed at different levels: transport protocol interoperability and interoperability of security solutions or frameworks (e.g., different cryptographic management schemes). The conclusions were summarised in Deliverable “ Analysis of secure SatCom for governmental user’s future technological trends”.
To put the consortium’s own findings in wider perspective, multiple technology and research players were invited to share information about new trends observed and their R&I work in the field of secure and sustainable SatCom services. An online survey conducted between December 2021 and January 2022 resulted in submission of 24 questionnaires by entities from 9 EU Member States. Among them were 15 large enterprises, 4 SMEs, 4 universities and one provider.
Respondents emphasised that interoperability is essential to foster the integration of SatCom systems with terrestrial networks, including future 5G/6G. Therefore, the industry’s priorities are consistent with what has been established during the trends’ analysis.
All the gathered knowledge mentioned above prompted the identification of key technological factors with respect to service access, system/service performance, user terminals, standards and interoperability. The factors were put in order according to their impact on the user service, in relation to meeting user needs, hence grouped in three macro-areas:
- Service performance: technologies needed to improve service performance in terms of quality and technical properties, such as coverage, throughput, latency, flexibility, interoperability;
- Service security: technologies for enhancing security in relation to confidentiality, integrity and availability;
- User equipment and facilities: technologies required by a user to interface and access the service, for instance user terminals or the service web portal.
Eventually, highlighting recommended actions in specific R&I areas, and consequently necessary investments were the basic assumptions while developing two deliverables vital in the context of EU GOVSATCOM programme further implementation after the project is concluded: “Analysis of Research and Innovation gaps” and “R&I Roadmap and Coordination plan (RIROC)”.
The roadmap consists of the description of each R&I focus area, list of addressed user attributes, time required for associated technology to reach a potential level of Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of > 7, proposed funding schemes, and an indication of the SatCom segment involved. It is intended to serve as guidelines for the European Commission, Member States and the wider European R&I community (funders, institutes, and industry) up to 2030.
A successful uptake of EU GOVSATCOM cannot be attained by investing in technologies from key areas alone. There is a range of complementary measures that should be implemented in order to take advantage of technology innovations. For instance, the definition of new standards and guidelines for an effective deployment of new technologies and innovative solutions, or targeted support for SMEs, in terms of legal and financial incentives. ENTRUSTED identified several areas for complementary actions in the context of GOVSATCOM, which comprise the following:
- market development and deployment,
- operational deployment,
- supply chain.
Finally, let the numbers speak for themselves, as the results of the project can be likewise presented by pointing out some of the key statistics or indicators: