With global market giants such as Harris Corporation and Rayzone to contend with, and tough competition on the home front from specialty vendors including cellXion, how does a comparatively small player like Pro-Solve International not only survive but make a strong “go of it” selling IMSI catchers?
In a crowded field, Pro-Solve distinguishes itself with a trio of assets: decades of hands-on experience in RF test and monitoring equipment, smart partnering with other IT companies who bring their own strengths to the mix, and a wise decision to focus on design – while offshoring equipment manufacture.
Though small in personnel itself, Pro-Solve has used this model to create the kind of size that matters most: footprint in the marketplace. For Pro-Solve, now entering its second decade of operation, it’s a winning formula that has led to a loyal client base among British and selected offshore LEAs and government agencies.
Based in the west side London suburb of Marlow, Pro-Solve incorporated in November 2006, but made its public debut at the Singapore Global Security Asia exhibition the following March. There the company’s principals unveiled an impressive line of products that included IMSI catchers, RF jammers, sensing devices, as well as “first response” solutions using iDEN (Integrated Digital Enhanced Network) and TETRA (terrestrial trunked radio) technologies. Pro-Solve even threw secure SATCOM solutions for remote response teams (read Special Ops) into the mix.
Quite a showing for a startup. Obviously, the company didn’t accomplish all the aforementioned in four months time. Pro-Solve explains what appears to have been a sudden leap into ISS hyperspace as really being the result of two years’ intensive work developing both its IMSI catchers and iDEN/TETRA solutions, followed by its SATCOM work.
Extensive experience in radio monitoring have the executive and engineering team a leg up on accelerating from R & D to commercially available for their targeted clientele. Key team members hailed from RACAL, formerly known as Aeroflex Burnham Limited, a renowned specialist in the manufacture of electronic instruments and appliances for RF testing and measurement, and navigation founded in 1951.
With the 2003 acquisition of RACAL, a maker of test & measurement equipment for wireless networks and handsets, the merged company expanded into the wireless arena. In 2005 the name changed to RACAL, and the company’s enterprise evolved to offer integration services and re-sale, as well. Among the companies it worked with was Rohde & Schwarz, inventor of the IMSI catcher.
During their tenure with RACAL and similar enterprises, the men who would birth Pro-Solve International gained the experience and contacts to create a winning venture. Paul Canning knew design and manufacturing of electronic devices inside-out, had first-hand experience installing them, and had built a successful management career opening and running offices in France, Germany, Italy, India and the AsiaPac region. Peter Connell and Mike Kenyon each brought 30 years experience in developing commercial and military wireless T & M hardware and software.
It was time to put this knowledge to work in a new field: mobile monitoring and interception.
The Pro-Solve IMSI Catcher Suite
Pro-Solve’s first bids in the IMSI catcher arena were devices designed respectively for GSM, UMTS and CDMA networks. Roughly on paar with competing products by Harris Corporation, Pro-Solve’s hardware performed the familiar functions of active mobile interception devices: base station emulation with a stronger signal to lure targets of interest; man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack to capture identification of the target; real-time interception of voice and data traffic; use of triangulation to accurately determine position; and the ability to either jam or take control of target mobile devices.
Like Harris, Pro-Solve introduced supplemental equipment such as booster antennas – the ProSolve “Zoneshield” – to augment coverage areas. Pro-Solve also answered the call for greater portability, providing a battery-powered version that was lightweight and easy to conceal, for use by agents on the move in the field.
Other key advances began in 2013. Pro-Serve went into high gear to produce sophisticated analytics and data retention modules – SearchNet and SearchBase – providing a new dimension to its mobile location/interception suite: broad-based intelligence gathering coupled with post-mortem analytics.
All the while, LTE was engulfing the world of mobility. Old school IMSI catchers could no longer rely on the old trick of circuit-switch fallback from 3G to 2G. 4G LTE introduced a new level of complexity (for details on 4G IMSI catcher challenges, see this post).
It is hard to say which IMSI catcher vendor – Harris, Rayzone or another – led the charge into LTE. But Pro-Solve certainly kept pace, working steadily throughout 2014 until its LTE IMSI catcher solution was ready for market as the 2015 New Year opened. It was a coup that some Pro-Solve competitors – cellXion comes to mind – have yet to master.
Almost from the start, Pro-Solve has taken a few detours so that the company isn’t a “one trick pony.” The company’s ventures into TETRA and SATCOM are typical of such initiatives, and broaden the company’s appeal to beyond law enforcement and government intelligence to reach military clients.
When a new service involves expertise in an unfamiliar area, they find a good partner. One of Pro-Solve’s first such ventures was the addition of a counter-intelligence solution that detects GSM bugs, made possible by a partnership with a leader in counter-intel, OCC Interscan in 2010. More recently, Pro-Solve has engaged with an AsiaPac company to produce a passive mobile interception solution that can monitor entire networks.
They’re also good at finding new applications for their core product. Pro-Solve IMSI catchers are often found in prison settings where they are used to locate illicit mobile devices. As of 2016, the company’s Paul Canning is also Director of a new venture, Prison Technologies Ltd. to pursue opportunities in that segment to the full.
With offices in Hong Kong and India, where production takes place, Pro-Solve has the geographic reach to explore new markets, both for clients and to find the best partners. Pro-Solve may never reach the scale of a company such as Harris Corporation, but by their very presence they provide an invaluable service beyond the ones the sell: Keeping pressure on competitors to innovate and be price competitive.
Insider Surveillance rating for Pro-Solve: 4 Stars.