The TETRA + Critical Communications Association (TCCA) defined the key focus points for governments looking to implement public-safety networks based on Long Term Evolution (LTE) in a new white paper. Spectrum, security, ownership and funding are the four critical areas that governments must consider for their public-safety users.IHS Markit: Critical Communications LTE Market to Hit US$2.6B by 2020
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Commercial mobile network operators already offer broadband service and have the ability to deliver mobile broadband to public-safety services. Many public-safety organizations are taking advantage of this capability but only for non-mission-critical applications, with the traffic carried by a “best efforts” commercial service.
However, for safety critical applications, such as dispatching ambulances, passing details of terrorist suspects and dealing with major incidents, it is essential that networks are employed that are suited to mission-critical communications, taking four key areas into account.
Spectrum. The availability of spectrum is essential to enabling choice in the provision of broadband data services. For a public-safety operator to build its own infrastructure anywhere in the country, it will be necessary to obtain suitable spectrum. Those responsible for public-safety communications must review the opportunities for obtaining spectrum and engage with the appropriate government ministries and the national regulator to establish how spectrum can be made available for public safety.
Security. Secure communications are essential to enable confidential information to be passed safely over a network, and broadband data services will likely carry more confidential information than existing voice networks. Security mechanisms are being designed into future LTE standards, but the standard is not at a security level to match purpose-designed professional mobile radio (PMR) standards. Qualified staff should review the security arrangements available in LTE systems and in any commercial network that is used.
Ownership. As with any commercial business, commercial mobile networks are subject to being bought and sold. Such transfers of ownership may be to companies in any region of the world. Some governments are cautious about critical national infrastructure being owned by foreign companies. Those responsible for public-safety communications should consider the national government policy with regard to foreign ownership and operation of telecommunications infrastructure.
Funding. Assuming that spectrum has been secured, the degree to which dedicated infrastructure can be built will be dependent on funding. Nationwide infrastructure will be relatively costly in many countries, and an optimal balance between dedicated and commercial networks will need to be found. The use of commercial networks can significantly reduce the capital investment for public administrations and the time required to implement public-safety services. The use of commercial networks will, however, incur ongoing service charges. It is likely that the reuse of existing base station sites and sharing infrastructure can mitigate some of these costs.
Mobile broadband services are likely to bring significant benefits for many public-safety users, enabling faster and more targeted responses to incidents, as well as efficiency savings. Commercial broadband networks are already operational in many countries and rollout accelerates as new spectrum is made available.
There is no simple answer to how mobile broadband should be provided to public-safety users. Every nation will be in a different part of the lifecycle of their current communications networks and each will have a different set of local circumstances. Hybrid Infrastructure is used to describe a combination of dedicated infrastructure and service provided by commercial mobile network operators.
The white paper is called “Hybrid Study – A Discussion on the Use of Commercial and Dedicated Networks for Delivering Mission-Critical Mobile Broadband Services” and is available here.
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