Every four years, young athletes compete to displace the contestants who represented their countries in the last Olympic Games. Of the 530 athletes on the 2012 United State Olympic Team, 228 of them participated in the 2008 games in Beijing. I find this encouraging as it shows older and experienced talent can still compete at the top level. As you can tell from the last sentence, I'm not a rookie in this business. I won't tell you my age, but when I started working at Motorola, Bruce Jenner was famous for being the reigning decathlon gold medalist instead of the Kardashians' stepfather on a reality TV series.
Public safety communications has a new technology competing for a place on your team in 2012. The newcomer is Long Term Evolution, also known as LTE or 4G. Your existing two-way radio networks use the proven Land Mobile Radio technology known as LMR. But you won't see LTE and LMR competing in the same public safety events this year. They're two technologies that complement each other – LTE isn't going to bump LMR from your team.
You Need More Than Speed to Succeed
Two of my favorite Olympic events are the 100-meter dash and the 110-meter hurdles. Unless you are watching the decathlon, you're unlikely to see the same athlete competing in both races. Speed alone isn't enough to win a competition that combines running and jumping, so you won't see Usain Bolt on the medal stand at the end of a hurdles event.
The skill sets for a police officer and firefighter are different as well. The officer who can chase down a fleeing purse-snatcher may not do well in the hose-hoist portion of the Firefighter Combat Challenge.
LTE is a technology with broadband speed that leaves narrowband LMR data rates in the dust. But like Olympic athletes and first responders, you need more than speed to succeed. LTE excels in broadband video and high-speed data applications but can't compete with LMR technology for world-class first responder voice communications.
Will LTE become a technology decathlete in the future and replace LMR on your team? Here are three hurdles that LTE needs to clear before it can qualify for public safety mission-critical voice events.
Hurdle #1 – Push-to-Talk Voice Standards
Olympic swimming events have a strict set of rules. There are standards for the length of the pool, the width of the lanes, and the types of strokes in each event. You'll be disqualified if you swim a crawl stroke during the 200-meter butterfly race.
There's no freestyle interoperability event for first responders. Communications planners have worked for years to define public safety interoperability standards. The Project 25 common air interface for push-to-talk voice determines how everyone with a digital radio communicates during an emergency. A push-to-talk standard for voice over LTE (VoLTE) has yet to be developed. Until this standard is completed and approved, LTE will be treading water in any of your interoperable voice events.
Hurdle #2 – Dispatch Calls (Multicast)
Do you know the term for the person on a rowing team with the megaphone? He or she is the coxswain. (Don't' feel bad if you didn't know, I had to look it up). The coxswain keeps everyone rowing in sync by shouting out commands to the team. The dispatchers at your command center perform a similar task when they call out to your first responders. Your LMR system uses a one-to-many (multicast) protocol to ensure everyone in the same working group or talkgroup gets critical information simultaneously. LTE uses a one-to-one (unicast) protocol – the multicast standard is currently in development. If you want all of your first responders to get their voice messages in sync, you need Project 25 LMR in the coxswain's seat of your command center.
Hurdle #3 – Direct Unit-To-Unit Communications (Talkaround)
In a tennis doubles match, the players have to know what to do when a ball is hit between them. They have to communicate directly in a split second to determine who will return the shot. When a gunshot rings out, your SWAT team doesn't have time to wait for instructions from the command center. LMR provides a direct unit-to-unit or talkaround mode that's frequently used for SWAT teams and fireground operation. LTE technology requires a connection back to a central site or core – there's no direct or talkaround mode available. LMR technology will continue to serve you well whenever your SWAT team is returning a volley of shots.
In the first responder Olympics, you need more than speed to succeed. The technology teamwork you get from P25 LMR and LTE working together will give your team gold-medal performance for mission-critical wireless voice, video, and high-speed data. Now could you please tell me why the Kardashians have a reality TV show?
Rick Pollak is a Business Development Manager for Motorola Solutions, Inc.
Read more blogs by Rick Pollak, including "The Procrastinator's Guide to Narrowbanding – Part 2" and "How to Increase the Speed Limit for Wireless Broadband."
Next week I'll be in Denver for the IAFC's Fire-Rescue International Conference. Every year, Fire department leaders from around the world gather at FRI to exchange information, learn new things, see new products, and meet with the many brave men and women in the Fire Service. At Motorola Solutions, we're proud to be a sponsor of FRI 2012, and also to contribute to the event.
The 43rd annual International Benjamin Franklin Fire Service Award for Valor will be presented Friday, August 3. This is the most prestigious award from the IAFC, and according to the IAFC website "recognizes the spirit of service, courage and heroism that is a tradition among the world's fire and emergency service." Motorola Solutions is proud to co-sponsor and present this award every year at FRI. Please be there to see this year's recipients.
A Public Safety Broadband panel on Wednesday, August 1, from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. with Chief Dave Paulison (former U.S. FEMA Administrator), Chief Jeff Johnson (Chief Executive Officer of Western Fire Chiefs Association), Gregg Riddle (current president of APCO International), and myself will discuss the current status of public safety broadband. This panel will include an update on important provisions in legislation adopted earlier this year to help enable a new broadband interoperable public safety network. We look forward to discussing a number of key topics about the planned network, including how the fire service can benefit from broadband communications, the economics of funding, the spectrum, governance provisions, and next steps in the process.
The Institution of Fire Engineers U.S. Branch Annual General Meeting will be Friday, August 3, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and we will be discussing some key communications issues, including public safety broadband.
Motorola Solutions will be showcasing our leading-edge communication solutions for firefighters today, and highlighting developing solutions for the future based on our Public Safety LTE commitment. There will be great demos to see in our booth, #13037, including a firefighter mannequin modeling Future Fireground Solutions that keep firefighters safer, smarter and faster. Please stop by to say hello and experience everything we have to offer.
See you in Denver!
Stu Overby is Senior Director of Spectrum Strategy at Motorola Solutions, Inc.
For more details about FRI 2012, please see the FRI website.
Visit our website to learn more about Motorola's Fireground Solutions.
With the January 1, 2013 FCC narrowbanding deadline only a few months away, licensees in the VHF (150-174 MHz) and UHF (421-470 MHz) Part 90 radio frequency bands that have not yet started narrowbanding their communications systems are trying to better understand their options. Many associations have implemented excellent awareness programs to help get your agency or entity in compliance with the FCC mandate. The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) is helping to lead narrowbanding educational efforts on its web site, through webinars featuring narrowbanding experts, and at the upcoming APCO Annual Conference.
On Tuesday, August 21, at 1:15 at APCO, in Minneapolis this year, I am moderating a panel entitled "Narrowbanding Panel – What You Need to Know to be Compliant." Joining me will be Roberto Mussenden, the FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau point of contact for narrowbanding, and Jill Stoffel, Communications Administrator for Polk County (Wis.) Sheriff’s Office. Roberto is an FCC narrowbanding expert who will focus on the Commission’s requirements and consequences for failing to meet them, waiver request details, licensing modifications, and the new FCC Order which waives the narrowband deadline in the T-Band (470-512 MHz). The Sheriff’s Office completed its narrowbanding conversion and is already compliant with the mandate. Jill will share how they evaluated options, addressed challenges, benefited from the migration to 12.5 kHz digital technology, and maintained interoperability with other agencies.
We will also address the recent Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) Petition for Clarification and/or Declaratory Ruling in the T-Band. The FCC granted a waiver in the T-Band, allowing licensees to continue using 25 kHz efficiency after the January 1, 2013 deadline, and permitting manufacturers to continue manufacturing and importing 25 kHz capable equipment (only in the T-Band) beyond that deadline. However, the FCC was ambiguous on whether it will allow manufacturers to continue certifying new products that include a 25 kHz efficiency mode. TIA requests that the FCC clarify that it will include and accept this mode in new applications for equipment certifications in the 470-512 MHz band. Licensees in the T-Band include many of the nation’s largest and most sophisticated public safety organizations that require state-of-the-art communications capabilities. Given the possibility of another 11 years of operation (as recently legislated by Congress) , the FCC should make certain that these systems continue to be supported with full-featured technology, including the benefit of new features and capabilities that are part of the normal design process for new products and associated accessories.
We all look forward to addressing your specific narrowbanding questions at the APCO Narrowbanding Panel.
Learn more about narrowbanding at www.motorolasolutions.com/narrowbanding
Al Ittner is Senior Manager of Spectrum Strategy at Motorola Solutions, Inc.
This growing importance of data communications is confirmed in responses to the 2012 Motorola Public Safety Study. Almost 90 percent of the 832 responding government professionals (government administration, command staff, first responders and IT management) reported that they believe data communications are important for their public safety operations. Furthermore, more than half of respondents say they consider data communications to be at least as important as voice communications.
Even more telling, of respondents planning to invest in data technology in the next five years, almost 70 percent are planning on implementing public safety grade broadband technology including LTE networks, point-to-point backhaul systems and WiFi hotspots.
The study also revealed that high-speed data communications are fast becoming essential to first responders. Respondents noted that almost 90 percent of their first responders expect to have data access — to a variety of databases, to up-to-date maps, diagrams and building plans, to live streaming video and more — during at least some incidents. More than half expect data to be available during every incident.
Public safety is clearly looking for the next generation in data communication technology and they would prefer to control access to when and where it is needed. It's not about replacing voice communications; it's about adding to them. It's about supporting first responders and operations personnel with high-speed wireless data communications that bring deeper, clearer and more actionable information to field officers in real time. And it's about delivering this information on ruggedized equipment that ensures reliability in challenging mission-critical situations. For example:
The FirstNet network, being proposed as a result of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, will be instrumental in providing an interoperable nationwide public safety broadband network and helping to answer the needs for data. For more information, check out the D Block Spectrum Act and the FirstNet Broadband Network white paper that talks about what you need to know.
Download the full 2012 Public Safety Industry study here.
Rick Neal is Vice President of Government & Commercial Markets for Motorola Solutions.
If you talk to anyone who works in law enforcement or fire, they will tell you that safety is the highest priority of any department. Safety of the police officer or firefighter, and safety of the citizens they are protecting. Calls for service tend to increase around holidays such as the 4 th of July, so what new trends in technology are public safety agencies implementing to improve safety this summer?
Technology as a Force Multiplier
This is a technology that has been in play for a while, but it wasn’t until broadband technologies became readily available that it became easier to deploy and support live feeds for specific or ad-hoc events. A great example of using video as a force multiplier to increase safety was this year’s St. Patrick's Day Parade in Cleveland. I anticipate that upcoming summer festivals such as 4th of July parades and fireworks shows, as well as annual events such as the Taste of Chicago, have been and will continue to leverage this type of technology.