Will LTE Replace LMR?
Tuesday, September 10, 2019 | Comments

The question of when Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks might replace LMR systems is an ongoing industry debate. During recent months, I have covered several industry stories that lead me to think full replacement might never happen, and if it does, it’s going to take a long time — at least 20 years.

The FCC is looking to realign the 900 MHz band for LTE services. I read most of the comments and reply comments filed with the FCC, mostly by utilities. Unless Americans can adapt to life without electricity or water, I don’t see narrowband voice systems for these utilities going away anytime soon. The utilities agree they need broadband data services to complement their mission-critical voice networks, but they can’t offer reliable services to consumers without LMR communications.

Our August print issue has two articles on complex, robust and expensive Project 25 (P25) networks that are taking advantage of advanced interfaces built as part of the P25 standard. The networks are currently being built and expanded, so these jurisdictions have no plans to do away with narrowband voice. The agencies have separate LTE strategies, but the LMR networks are central to their jurisdictions’ work and officials’ safety.

In addition, P25 networks are becoming more vital and ingrained into overall communications for more users because the Inter RF Subsystem Interface (ISSI), Console Subsystem Interface (CSSI) and Digital Fixed Station Interface (DFSI) are tying in additional agency networks, control centers and even groups such as railroads. The utility of LMR is improving and expanding, not diminishing.

So, while LTE is becoming more important and 5G is on the horizon, I don’t see LMR going away. The individuals touting LMR’s demise generally work for or are tied to an LTE-related business or service, so it’s in their best interest to talk about the imminent transition from LMR to broadband.

However, the people I hear from who use P25 and LMR networks on a daily basis do not think replacement will happen, at least not anytime soon. They find LTE helpful, but LMR is what they need day to day to do their jobs and keep themselves and the public safe.

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Comments
On 9/18/19, Tero Pesonen said:
Looking into the past, when digital LMR/PMR technologies were introduced at the end of the previous millennium, one believed the analog technologies would disappear in a matter of a few years. There are plenty of analog conventional and trunked radio systems still out there. In a similar way, the transition from narrowband digital systems to broadband systems will be gradual.
The TCCA broadband roadmap forecasts nationwide public-saefty radio networks, as well as GSM-R networks, to move to broadband services in large extent over the next decade.
At the same time, TETRA continues to provide excellent voice and messaging services for those that need dedicated networks and have perhaps only access to narrowband spectrum.

On 9/13/19, Mario Micheli said:
Dear Sandra
It is refreshing to read about your point of view. The 12 million Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) radios in operation worldwide and the steady growth of the market are a proof of what you say.
Kind regards
Mario Micheli
DMR Association Chairman

On 9/11/19, Mike Miller said:
Good job – right on.

On 9/11/19, Randy Jones said:
Sandra

Great response to the LTE replacing LMR debate. I particularly enjoyed the living without electricity or water part.

Radio Randy


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