Public-safety agencies worldwide are in the process of migrating away from proprietary mobile technologies in a global switch to LTE. 4G LTE extends a wide range of benefits, including a massive vendor ecosystem and a cost structure designed to work on a global scale. As more and more verticals turn to LTE, the overall costs go down and adoption becomes possible for even smaller agencies. Public safety is enabled to take advantage of innovation which had formerly been unattainable.
The US FirstNet network was supported by Congress, which earmarked roughly $7 billion of spectrum auction proceeds to support it. However, that is far less than the amount required to create a network spanning every inch of US soil. Like many other verticals, public safety’s goals and its budget are a world apart.
Public safety agencies are therefore taking a big tent approach to the problem, accepting the hand extended by utility networks, who bring to the table a vast array of resources and finances, and simply want access to public-safety networks in return. By providing a vital service and helping to support those networks by funding and/or providing access to infrastructure, they pave the way for new, improved base station equipment and everything that comes with it.
Mobile operators have also been attracted by FirstNet’s 700MHz spectrum, and the race is on to see if a model can be developed that enables sharing without putting operators and customers in the position of relinquishing their right to access during a catastrophic event in favor of public safety networks commandeering the available bandwidth.
Another possibility for public safety agencies is the potential to increase their use of commercial cellular networks; in the US, commercial cellular could turn out to be an important part of the puzzle. As the 63% global coverage threshold is neared, public safety divisions may come to depend solely on 4G LTE and enabled devices, like rugged tablets, for communication in the field.
LTE driven mobile communications for public safety makes perfect sense in terms of cost structure, innovation and capabilities. While implementation across the country may still be a work in progress, and coverage can be spotty in rural areas, larger cities are getting on board with 4G LTE and mobile as the tool of the future.