South Korea Plans for Dedicated LTE Public-Safety Network by 2017
Tuesday, October 07, 2014 | Comments

In July, the South Korean government adopted plans to build a broadband network dedicated to public safety using Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology to be deployed nationwide by 2017. The plan calls for 20 megahertz of dedicated spectrum in the 700 MHz band, although the specific frequencies have not been defined yet.

“The April’s Sewol ferry disaster brought attention to the urgent need for establishing a nationwide public-safety broadband network for sharing information and communicating among public-safety agencies,” said Dujeong Choi, Telecommunications Technology Association (TTA) of Korea. Choi is a member of the National Task Force for Korea Public Safety Broadband Network under the Ministry of Science, ICT [Information and Communications Technology] and Future Planning (MSIP).

On 16 April, 2014, the Sewol ferry capsized off the Korean coast while carrying 476 people. There were 172 survivors. Response efforts were hindered by a lack of interoperability from responding agencies.

The goal of the project is to build an integrated network that supports various multimedia services and coincides with the evolution of technology trends, Choi said. In principle, the network will be used for voice and data. There are multiple solutions being considered as an interim solution to substitute mission-critical voice services before the mission-critical push-to-talk (PTT) standard is finalized, which is slated for Release 13 of the LTE standard from the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), he said.

The MSIP selected the technology and recommended the frequency band and establishment method. A new agency, By Ministry of National Security, will soon be announced and charged with national security matters, including the network. Until that is established, the Ministry of Security and Public Administration (MOSPA) will oversee the network plans.

Close to three months after the plan’s inception, the government is in the request for proposals (RFP) process to select a company to create the information strategy plan (ISP). The proposal submission deadline is 30 September 2014. The ISP creation timeline is scheduled for October 2014 – 31 March, 2015. The ISP will address many important questions, including expected cost, network site specifics and vendor involvement.

The specific frequency band will be decided soon, before the ISP work, by a government authority known as the National Frequency Police Control Committee, said an MSIP official. And while a funding source has not been identified yet, the government will invest in the network build costs 100 percent, the official said.

The network will be a private, dedicated network used by about 200,000 users from 324 mandatory agencies including police, fire, EMS, Coast Guard, military, provincial administrative offices, electricity, gas and the forest service.

Currently these mission-critical organizations all operate their own voice-oriented networks on a variety of frequency bands and a variety of technologies including TETRA, iDEN, VHF, UHF and AM/FM. “Therefore, they are not interoperable with each other,” Choi said. “That’s why the Korean government wants to deploy a unified/integrated nationwide public-safety network so that every mandatory agency can communicate with each other.”

The network will be always operational, rather than just during emergencies and will be designed to provide full coverage to the nation, the official said. The network will be rolled out in phases, focusing on the rural provinces first. Phase one will be established in the Gangwon Province, which is where the 2018 Winter Olympics, Pyeongchang, is located. The network will then be extended from rural to urban. Phase two will cover other provinces, and phase three will cover metropolitan cities. Rural areas will get the network first because unlike the urban areas that already have unified LMR networks based on TETRA technology, the rural areas do not currently have a unified network.

The aggressive timeline places phase one to begin in 2015, phase two to roll out in 2016 and the completion of phase three in 2017. At that point all eight provinces, one self-governed province, seven metropolitan cities and one self-governed city that make up South Korea will have access and coverage on the network.

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