Tactical Edge to Tactical Core Voice Communications Deliver Secure Fixed Line Voice Mobility: Sponsored Content

April 1, 2021
By Bill Grabner, Vice President, Federal Markets at Ribbon Communications

How tactical voice communications can be an integrated part of secure mission voice solutions—not on an island.

Whether supporting missions downrange on the battlefield or supporting citizens down the street when a natural disaster hits, the U.S. government needs secure communications that are easy to deploy and easy to use. This is not a new need by the U.S. Government—and current solutions for field deployable voice communications fall short in several key areas.

Among the drawbacks: speed to deployment and ease of use in field deployable voice communications solutions. At their core, field deployable tactical voice communication kits are mini-private branch exchanges (PBXs) that are not typically designed for portable use. Given the lack of ruggedization, they require a fair amount of configuration prior to shipping out to their intended destinations. It typically takes days or weeks for a typical vendor to install a PBX. Translate that to a tactical telecom support team that has a matter of days or hours in order to configure a field voice system before rolling it out on a support vehicle. All of this equates to a lot of stress on the team, increasing the propensity for delays or errors.

Report from the field

In addition, a field deployable voice communications kit usually requires a voice or networking-trained specialist in the field to deploy and troubleshoot. This often occurs when manpower in the field is a precious commodity as that manpower is focused on the mission at hand not on a mobile network build-out. Also, many deployments have licensing and enablement issues. It wouldn’t be the first time that a field tech deploying a tactical voice communications solution can’t make calls when a licensing file is out of date—or can’t phone home to validate the license entitlement.

It goes without saying that secure communications are critical whether on base, in the office or in the field. Now, more than ever, secure networks are an integral part of any government communications network. Bad actors are pursuing any and all possible entry points into government network operations, and voice communications need to be locked down just like any other part of the network.

Interestingly, one area the U.S. government has not demanded compliance is in usability. Most vendors don’t have a solution—their emphasis has been primarily on getting secure, mobile voice communications into the field. But the users of those systems define how well it works and, with current technology, they have greater expectations than just getting dial tone. The communications systems need to be easy to deploy, easy to use and easy to maintain.

Mobile phone technology is ubiquitous. Fixed line phones don’t have quite the flexibility of cellular devices, but in a captive government network environment, why do users of tactical comms still have to be on a digital island, as they are? Why can’t their secure voice comms locate them wherever they are connected?

Enter the Ribbon Voice Tactical Edge and Core Solution (VTECS). Ribbon VTECS was purpose-built to solve the current challenges facing tactical voice communications and make it an integrated part of an agency voice network.

VTECS is built upon the Ribbon Session Border Controller (SBC) and Ribbon Application Server SIP-PBX (AS PBX). These solutions are in use in tens of thousands of customer networks worldwide, including many critical U.S. government facilities.  The Ribbon SBC provides robust security, simplified interoperability, advanced session management, and carrier-grade reliability for fixed and mobile applications. The Ribbon AS PBX is a carrier grade, open standards-based telephony application server platform with more than 27 million seats deployed worldwide, with some Ribbon customers exceeding more than a million seats on a single deployment.

The Ribbon VTECS is superior to other mobile solutions in several ways:

Carrier Grade Performance and Security:

The Ribbon SBC and AS software platforms can scale down to a very lightweight hardware platform that can be field deployed; this brings all of the capabilities and security of a carrier grade telephony solution down to the edge of the network in a compact, mobile package.

DoD Level Security

The Ribbon AS and SBC solutions that are the heart of the VTECS are both FIPS 140-2 compliant and are on the Department of Defense Approved Products Listing (APL). Ribbon is preparing to take both products through FIPS 140-3 as this most recent encryption methodology becomes standard as well.

Built to Open Standards

The open standards approach that Ribbon has in its communication solutions development allow VTECS to run on a variety of tactical rugged mobile platforms and interoperate with a number of secure, SIP-enabled end devices.

Variety of Communication Methods:

Because Ribbon has supported fixed line and mobile network operators for over 30 years, the company’s communication expertise is built into all of its products. The Ribbon VTECS supports communication over SIP trunks, PRI trunks, analog lines, WiFi, satellite connections, LTE/5G mobile connections and others.

Easy to Deploy

Ribbon VTECS was built with mobile field installation use in mind. Ribbon has simplified the configuration process to allow mobile communications support teams to quickly and easily pre-configure installation parameters before sending the voice kit into the field, dramatically lowering the time to both ship it out and to install the system.

Fast to Deploy

Ribbon has built an automated installation framework for the VTECS solution, requiring only a few pieces of information that lets the automated deployment tool do the rest. Depending upon the local deployment environment, a Ribbon VTECS can be taken from power on to ready to use in as little as 90 minutes.

Ease of Use

A mobile voice communication solution must be easy to use. Ribbon has developed Service Anywhere , which takes mobile phone find me/follow me functionality to secure, fixed line voice systems. Service Anywhere takes the concept of the Ribbon Tactical Edge mobile AS PBX portion of VTECS and integrates it with a Tactical Core AS PBX. The Tactical Core AS PBX is a fixed PBX that resides at an office, base or any central location and provides PBX functionality for its users.

When a Ribbon Tactical Edge installation is brought up in the field, it “phones home” to the Ribbon Core solution and provides the core with its local subscriber data. The kit subscriber data is then shared throughout the core network, such that a subscriber call on Tactical Edge will always finds its way home. This same functionality applies to a single nomadic subscriber. When a Tactical Core subscriber logs out of its base or office and goes into the field, the systems recognize the user. It then provides the same voice feature profile and permissions and replicates the subscriber’s new location to the other Tactical Core nodes in the network.

In this scenario, when a call comes into the network for that user, the entire environment is aware of the user location and directs the call accordingly. This is precisely how modern cellular systems work and can now be applied to fixed line communications.

Microsoft Teams Integration

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the way that U.S. government personnel communicate with each other. While teleworking has become a new reality for many people around the world, tactical missions can’t happen remotely. Many of those mission-critical personnel are using modern communications tools such as Microsoft Teams to communicate. The Ribbon SBC that is part of the VTECS is the only SBC to be included in the Microsoft Teams DoD APL System Under Test, and can support secure Teams Direct Routing capabilities in the field.


The Ribbon VTECS was designed and built with mobile tactical command unit input to improve upon existing capabilities that other vendors have. Ribbon took the best of its carrier-grade capability, security and interoperability and put it into a form factor that could be field deployable and easily used.

Security, ease of use, reliability and scalability are critical to any mission-critical environment. Ribbon’s Tactical Core and Tactical Edge solutions help transform its customers smoothly to the next generation of wireless, fixed and edge solutions, all set against the new demands of a government marketplace affected and informed by roiling external factors.

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Has anyone used the Ribbon Voice Tactical Edge and Core Solution (VTECS) SBC? Any opinions good or otherwise?

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