Is LTE the Best Choice for Public-Safety Broadband Technology?
Wednesday, September 02, 2009 | Comments






Joe Blaschka
Adcomm Engineering

Long-term evolution (LTE) has a significant advantage because it’s a leading-edge technology being developed by the commercial wireless carriers that will move the standard along quickly. It would be refreshing to see public safety be a bit more on the leading edge rather than 20 years behind. To remain cost effective, public safety will have to use the commercial technology and not require a significant number of special features. The last thing that should happen is for this process to become like Project 25 (P25) was, and to some degree, still is. LTE may not be cost effective to deploy in rural areas unless it’s done in conjunction with a commercial wireless carrier. Technologies such as LTE are designed primarily for smaller coverage sites and lower power. If public-safety radio manufacturers modify the systems so they are no longer “commercial compatible,” the costs will rise. A laptop card that could handle both the public-safety system and a commercial system would be ideal.


Bob Schassler
Senior Vice President
Enterprise Mobility Solutions

The answer is highly dependent on spectrum availability for public safety and the technology positioning for that spectrum. Major U.S. public-safety associations have endorsed LTE as the broadband technology for the 700 MHz spectrum. The basis for their support are highly favorable economies of scale per Verizon Wireless’ and AT&T’s LTE commitments, the advantage of roaming capability to commercial 700 MHz data networks using a common air technology, and the anticipation of a broad ecosystem of devices and services. There is a high demand for a wide-area broadband solution for public safety, as evidenced by waiver requests from multiple agencies for early buildouts of an interoperable technology, precipitating the need to select a technology now.

LTE, however, may not meet all of public safety’s broadband needs. Many municipalities have interest in building private networks to serve public safety, public works, transit and utility users, as well as on-street surveillance cameras, fixed-control points such as traffic light control, parking meter reading and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA). LTE is a best fit for wide-area mobile broadband deployments for fixed sites, but ad-hoc local area networking is a better fit for 4.9/2.4 GHz mesh technology, while fixed-data needs, such as meter reading and control, may be more cost effectively served via point-to-multipoint (PMP) technologies in various bands. On-street camera surveillance, likewise, may be best served via existing fiber channel or new PMP deployments.

In addition, public-safety customers that want to include enterprise or citizen broadband use to help pay for their networks may not be able to do so at 700 MHz with LTE given the anticipated rules. WiMAX at 2.5 GHz, Wi-Fi or 2.5 GHz mesh are alternatives that wouldn’t be restricted in terms of users. LTE may be available for 2.5 GHz time division duplex (TDD) in the future. Given the likelihood of LTE emerging as the technology of choice for 700 MHz public-safety D block spectrum, it is a best fit for wide-area, high-site mobile services for public safety. Other applications or use cases may be better served by other technologies in other bands.


Dr. John Vaughan
Senior Vice President
RF Communications Division

We believe that LTE is the most comprehensive, advanced cellular technology in the world. Public-safety users deserve to have the best, most dependable and capable wireless broadband technology, and for that reason, it’s the best choice for the industry.


Charles Dowd
Deputy Chief
New York Police Department (NYPD) Communications Division
NYC 9-1-1

We’re big supporters of LTE. For a number of reasons, it looks like many of the major wireless carriers are going that way. It makes sense for 700 MHz networks to be in the same technology and same spectrum. It’s a golden opportunity for small carriers too. They’ll have the opportunity to operate in that space. The concern is public safety needs to come first, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have commercial use, as long as public safety is properly prioritized. We have to know it’s available immediately during an emergency. No one knows when that plane is going to land in the Hudson.


Ron Haraseth
Public-Safety Consultant

At this point in the evolution of advanced wireless technology, LTE appears to be the leading contender. Competing technologies are somewhat ahead of LTE, but based on industry announcements, LTE will be the predominate path. I believe the commercial carriers who will be the primary backers of LTE have recognized the folly of developing proprietary technology niches. In this truly global economy, the act of roaming is a factor that can’t be dismissed. Attempts by commercial entities in the past to establish a “nationwide” presence and lock into a proprietary solution have discovered that it is impossible, monopoly laws not withstanding, to technically provide the service level expected. This includes coverage, capacity, applications and service. It’s way too much for any one or two primary vendors.

Jason Barbour
E9-1-1 Director
Johnston County, N.C.

LTE is becoming a de facto standard. And public safety would benefit from using the predominant technology that works best with broadband spectrum.



John Johnson
Radio System Analyst
Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA)

Johnson: I’m not an expert on LTE, but from the presentations I have seen and from listening to the smart people I know at the National Telecommunications Industry Association (NTIA), I respect their opinion and will go with their recommendation for now. So far, no one has shown a better solution.


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