Motorola Partners with Verizon Wireless on Public-Safety Broadband (2/23/11)
Wednesday, February 23, 2011 | Comments

By Sandra Wendelken
Under an alliance announced today, Motorola Solutions and Verizon Wireless partnered to address the technical issues to allow public-safety users to eventually roam seamlessly from a private broadband public-safety network to Verizon Wireless’ commercial Long Term Evolution (LTE) network.

The partnership will allow public-safety users to benefit from economies of scale, site sharing and device selection available with the largest U.S. wireless carrier, company executives said.

“When Motorola and Verizon looked at all the complexities of a roaming situation for a public-safety network for the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) spectrum and carrier spectrum, we knew we had to streamline the process for public-safety services,” said Richard Keith, Motorola senior director, LTE product management.

Keith said officials from the two companies looked at the roaming interfaces in the LTE standards and worked out technical details to offer enhanced roaming for public safety. “The standards provide interfaces for ways to roam and hand off between different networks,” Keith said. "Although those standards are well defined, they’re not used often because LTE is a new technology, so a lot of roaming hasn’t been baked yet. We got together to work out all the technical details, so we can offer enhanced roaming details.”

The companies will offer an integrated provisioning portal that allows public-safety users to directly provision a broadband device to work on the Verizon Wireless network. “With this new feature, it gives a lot of control to public safety,” Keith said. “Imagine a device was stolen; the provisioning portal allows you to stop service to that device.”

The two companies still advocate reallocating the 700 MHz D block spectrum to public safety. Dominic Demark, director, Verizon Wireless public-safety strategy, said the carrier can’t offer pre-emption or ruthless pre-emption to public safety. “We’ve got forms of priority service, but when it comes to pre-emption or removal of other customers on our network, we need to deliver service for our subscriber base,” he said.

In addition to roaming, the agreement will enhance the portfolio of devices available to public-safety users, Demark said. “There will be an array of devices that will interoperate on the band 14 private network and on the Verizon Wireless LTE and CDMA networks, so coverage becomes quite expansive for public safety,” he said. “Initially there will be band 14 dongles that will operate with Verizon’s band 13 spectrum … and we can start things rolling with public safety very quickly.”

Keith said Motorola’s public-safety LTE device rollout plans are still on track after its prototype demonstration in November. He said the first prototype LTE vehicular modems for public safety will arrive this week.

Site sharing is another key tenent of the agreement. “A lot of our customers have LMR coverage that is extensive, but with LTE, you don’t have that coverage capability; the site density has to be thicker,” Keith said. If available, the partnership will allow public-safety users to share site facilities or backhaul capability available on Verizon Wireless sites.

Industry analyst Andy Seybold said infrastructure sharing is vital to public-safety broadband networks. “Motorola and Verizon are saying they can help by making sites available, by doing backhaul, which is an important thing,” he said. “If I can connect to Verizon’s backhaul and backend, I don’t have to pay cap ex to do that; it becomes an op ex item. Therefore, I’m not having to invest in infrastructure. We now have a lot of options.”

From a financial perspective, Keith said the partnership will work with public-safety users to adjust services based on their funding levels and models, balancing capital expenditures with the operational investment. “Not all customers are built the same,” he said.

Keith said testing has been conducted on a test network in Schaumburg, Ill., that Motorola has operated since November. In addition, the San Francisco Bay Area has operated its Motorola-supplied one-site LTE network since October, and it was also used for the tests. Verizon Wireless’ commercial LTE service is available in 38 U.S. markets and at more than 60 airports.

The agreement isn’t exclusive. “If public-safety customers elected to work with a different carrier, then Motorola could work with them and provide a similar type of solution,” Verizon Wireless’ Demark said.

Seybold said he expects this announcement is the first in a series of similar partnerships between public-safety technology vendors and wireless carriers. “There are a lot of things going on in the background,” he said. “I’m sure Harris is talking to carriers. The value of this one is that Motorola has LMR feet on the street, so they know the public-safety community better than the carriers do for sure.”

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