The future for Public Safety LTE is more than just database queries and dispatch. We are seeing the sharing of text messages, maps and location tracking, sensor information, photos and videos. Adoption of new technology is accelerating - consider police video. For decades, it consisted of a camera in a car, recording to a videotape, then putting that tape in storage. A few years ago, technology made it possible to record video digitally, embed dispatch information, and retrieve it in seconds. Today, we’re talking about the future of live video streaming and analysis software, which for Public Safety is cutting-edge technology, but tomorrow will be indispensable.
This is why we are seeing public safety organisations around the world planning how to leverage Public Safety orientated LTE networks, and trying to figure out what model they will adopt.
When Public Safety agencies are evaluating how to access LTE, there are two key things to consider: Spectrum and Network. Is the spectrum dedicated, or shared? Is the network dedicated, or shared?
I would like to propose that rather than there being one or two deployment options, the choices users are making could better be described on a continuum. The ends of which are easy to define: private dedicated, public shared; but the variations between these ends are many and the decision on which approach to take will depend on the key aspects of spectrum, timing and resources.
THE DEDICATED NETWORK
Several organisations in the United States are deploying dedicated networks on dedicated spectrum. LA-RICS, the LTE network serving the emergency services in Los Angeles County, operates using dedicated 700 MHz spectrum that was allocated for use by Public Safety in 2011. FirstNet, the nationwide first responder LTE network planned for the United States, is also expected to follow this model. It’s a logical choice as spectrum has been made available and it sits next to frequencies dedicated to the existing narrowband Public Safety radio networks.
The advantage of the dedicated approach is obvious: Control. With full ownership of spectrum and network, organisations can decide how the network is deployed, who gets to participate and how bandwidth will be allocated. The network can be custom-designed for the needs of public safety agencies and infrastructure can be deployed where needed. The challenge is the availability and cost of the spectrum and the ability, time and cost, to roll out a completely new network infrastructure.
THE SHARED NETWORK
The converse approach is shared spectrum and shared network. In this space the UK is paving the way with their LTE Emergency Services Network (ESN) that the UK Government announced contracts for in December 2015. Leveraging network infrastructure and spectrum supplied by the commercial carrier, EE, the ESN will have to meet strict service level agreements to ensure it provides the coverage, capacity and availability needed by public safety users. There are also plans to extend connection into other networks to provide Extended Area Services that will deliver coverage to geographies that are currently uncovered, such as underground metro systems or air traffic above the reach of the carrier network.
The benefit of this approach is that it provides immediate access to an existing LTE network – including infrastructure, devices, and support personnel – and is the only option where there isn’t spectrum available to dedicate to public safety LTE. This approach obviously requires cooperation and negotiation between the government, Public Safety agencies and commercial carriers.
OTHER NETWORK MODELS
There are other models to consider. For example, Mexico is looking at a hybrid approach with dedicated spectrum and a shared network. In Australia, TELSTRA, Ericsson and Motorola announced that they are developing next-generation push-to-talk communications for the Public Safety market, integrating and extending traditional radio networks via LTE broadband.
No matter the approach, the deployment of a Public Safety LTE network will require spectrum, resources, and importantly, collaboration.
David Parry is Director, EA Marketing.
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