5G Standard Evolution and Its Public-Safety Impact
By Philippe Agard
Tuesday, November 03, 2020 | Comments
The arrival of 5G has a lot to offer the public-safety community. With its faster speeds, greater capacity, ultra-low latencies and advanced support for IoT, 5G will enable massive adoption of new public safety applications. These will include remote-controlled devices, field delivery of telemedicine and improved situational awareness using drones and video analytics complementing current LTE/4.9G mission-critical networks.

In anticipation of this new technology, and to prepare for how they will deploy it, public-safety organizations need to have a clear strategy for transitioning to full 5G capabilities. This requires understanding how the 5G standard is evolving and when it will make the most sense to adopt it for increased public safety use.

Traditionally, public-safety networks have relied on narrowband mobile private radio systems such as TETRA and Project 25 (P25) for mission-critical communications. These systems will continue to be an important part of public safety services, but they lack the ability to handle large amounts of data and multimedia. Recognizing these limitations, many public-safety networks have already integrated mobile broadband into their communications toolkit.

As part of this, LTE/4.9G networks already represent a big step forward for most public-safety agencies. Used for a decade in public mobile networks worldwide, LTE is a mature technology that offers high levels of reliability and the security features needed for public-safety use. It also delivers data and multimedia capabilities such as push-to-video, real-time body-worn camera streaming, bio-vital sign monitoring and database access as well as supporting applications, such as push-to-talk (PTT) services.

In regards to 5G evolution, the group that sets the 5G standard is the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). As the 5G standard evolves, so do the specifications that tailor it to meet the demanding requirements of specific public-safety applications. The transition to 5G will likely be gradual over the coming decade, starting with deployment of 5G hotspots to enhance mission-critical LTE/4.9G capacity in specific locations. But with its ability to meet the low-latency and reliability requirements needed for critical communications of the future, 5G will eventually become the de facto standard in the longer term.

Standout 5G features
In terms of wireless radio technology, the most significant improvement on the wireless front is the 5G New Radio (NR) standard, which offers the widest range of usable radio spectrum, from 410 MHz to 90 GHz. The higher bandwidths support larger capacities, the lower bandwidths greater range. For instance, millimeter wave spectrum (mmWave), which is above 20 GHz and much higher than current frequencies, supports very high bandwidth for improved speeds and capacity operating locally using small cells.

5G radios also use an improved version of multiple input multiple output (MIMO), a multi-antenna system that uses 16 or more antennas for simultaneous transmit and receive streams, which is what enables 5G to achieve gigabit peak data rates that will support very high-definition video.

When paired with certain kinds of IP-optical backhaul networks, 5G will also reduce latency to one millisecond or less, which is important for automation and machine-to-machine communications. These lower latencies will improve the responsiveness of remote-controlled devices, such as robots and drones using haptic/tactile feedback, being used for situational awareness and executing tasks in areas posing danger or out of immediate reach to first responders.

Benefits of network slicing
Finally, 5G has been designed for network slicing. This means that the same network infrastructure can provide end-to-end, separate virtual networks at the same time, each with different performance specifications. This will allow public-safety networks to operate on public 5G mobile networks using some of the secure mobile virtual network model (S-MVNO) approaches that have already been developed for LTE.

Public-safety networks are so mission critical that the idea of sharing them with other verticals has met with some hesitancy. While LTE/4.9G brings a first implementation of slicing, it becomes inherent and more adaptive in 5G. For example, slicing enables public-safety applications to be separately configured, providing quality of service (QoS) parameters to handle push-to-talk and push-to-video mission-critical communications. Consequently, there is no possibility that other applications or virtual network users can affect the performance of the public-safety network slice or compromise its security.

The value of slicing is also evident in the example of emergency field network deployments, where public authorities set up a temporary network to provide connectivity to first responders in an area impacted by a natural disaster. Here, several agencies can share different slices of the temporary network. Local administration communications, or even temporary public internet services, can be provided alongside mission-critical communications without affecting either the security or reliability of the public-safety slice of the network.

A work in progress
The process whereby 5G is being made available is via a series of 3GPP releases. There are three releases of the 5G standard that cover features of most interest to public-safety users. Release 15 is the current release, and it supports extreme mobile broadband, which is of most interest to consumer mobile smartphone users. It gives them improved video support, as well as enabling augmented and virtual reality.

Release 16 will bring additional interesting features. Its main feature is ultra-reliable, low-latency communication (eURLLC), which provides 99.9999% uptime in addition to MIMO enhancements, vehicle-to-everything communications (V2X), and support for low-powered internet of things (IoT) devices. 5G R16 will allow the use of a multitude of video surveillance wireless cameras, remote control of drones and unmanned vehicle capability at the same given location while guaranteeing the right level of reliability and performance. Not only supporting improved situational awareness, these capabilities also allow public-safety authorities to communicate with affected populations on the ground. For example, Sendai City in Japan has recently conducted tests deploying drones during a simulated tsunami event. As well as providing video and infrared images to the command and control center, the drones communicated via loudspeaker to direct the evacuation of the affected communities.

While the Sendai City test was supported by a private LTE/4.9G network, 5G will expand the number of cameras that can be deployed as well as higher resolution imagery. Remote control of drones or unmanned vehicles will also be much improved by 5G’s low latencies, allowing haptic (tactile) feedback to the remote operator. The massive broadband aspect of 5G also allows the implementation of self-backhauling for deployable solutions that are rolled out in areas with no coverage. Drones can be used to relay such temporary backhauling. This self-backhauling is known as integrated access and backhaul (IAB).

Another exciting application of the Release 16 feature set will be to connect vehicles and field operators with hospitals to provide telemedicine support. Ultra-reliable and low-latency communications will enable patient monitoring and diagnosis in support of paramedics. It is even possible that it will enable remote field surgery using very high-definition video and precise haptic feedback to aid the remote surgeon.

In addition, 5G’s support for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications is intended to support autonomous vehicle applications. For public safety, that means automated vehicles can be used to deliver food, fuel and logistics for intervention in disaster-stricken areas. 5G also allows vehicles to connect to road infrastructure, so other drivers can be alerted to dangers at junctions and avoid collisions when ambulance and fire trucks exceed urban speed limits during emergencies.

Looking ahead
Releases 17 is still a work in progress, and the standard is not expected to be finalized until late 2021. According to current plans, it will bring the full set of critical machine communication features, such as the integration of time-sensitive networking, to fulfill industrial machine-type communication requirements. Release 17 will also feature the portability of the Mission Critical over 5G Services (MCOver5GS), such as proximity services, use of multicast for group communications and the management of mission-critical quality of service (QOS), to allow seamless interworking between 4G and 5G mission-critical services.

Looking even further ahead, Release 18 will support massive IoT capabilities for extremely large sensor arrays and other advanced IoT applications.

Massive IoT capabilities will enhance augmented reality (AR) and other immersive applications that use the streaming data from IoT sensor networks to provide multimedia information to first responders. This will help, for example, in low visibility situations to navigate and find their objectives, avoid known hazards and generally act with greater efficiency and safety. As massive 5G-enabled sensor networks are deployed in smart cities over the coming decades, this will include accessing real-time sensor data on environmental hazards in the areas that they are operating.

As public-safety authorities look ahead, they can expect 5G Release 16 and Release 17 devices to arrive in the next two to four years. How then can they best accommodate 5G in their future plans? As we have seen, 5G features, such as network slicing, will make it much easier for public authorities to deploy services over public mobile networks. Partnering with local mobile network operators will allow governments to adopt 5G broadband and IoT capabilities faster and more smoothly. This model can be complemented by deployable broadband wireless systems to provide coverage in case of disaster/recovery, where commercial networks might be down or for operations in remote areas not covered by MNOs.

5G is a journey, and it’s likely that in the near future most public-safety operators or agencies will continue to rely on LTE/4.9G, which is already supporting the majority of innovative broadband use cases for public safety. The adoption of 5G will be incremental, complementing LTE/4.9G in hotspots, initially to enhance capacity and video quality. 5G will then not only improve existing applications, but also enable ones that haven’t yet been imagined.

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Philippe Agard is vice president of public-safety and defence markets at Nokia. Leading the sector since 2013. He chaired the Critical Communications Broadband Industry Group, part of TCCA, where he also is a board member.

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On 11/4/20, David Marutiak said:
No mention of FirstNet planning and extension in these areas. Why not


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