DETECON Consulting

Opinion Paper

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LTE for Public Safety

Cost efficient upgrade from narrowband to broadband – is it possible?

Public safety networks have been deployed to offer robust, fail-safe mission critical communications. On their proper functioning depend many government and public agencies around the world. Since the 1990s these networks have evolved to offer secure digital communications for voice and basic data (messaging). 

Nowadays the emergency situations as well as the daily routine of the public safety agencies require more and more broadband services so that life-saving information is securely and reliably transmitted between control centers and responders on the field. Unfortunately todays public safety networks were not designed to support such broadband requirements.

The answer to the demand for broadband public safety network is utilizing LTE technology. LTE is a mature mobile broadband technology (4th generation). It has been in commercial use since 2009. The technology is standardized by the 3GPP organization. In its latest standard release (release 13) the technology includes the foundation of functionalities needed to support public safety services. 

Having the right technology is not the only prerequisite for an efficient deployment of broadband public safety network. Compared to traditional narrowband networks (e.g. TETRA based) the broadband networks will require much denser network grid (more basestations).    

To overcome those constraints public safety agencies have the choice to seek cooperation models with existing commercial mobile network operators and explore the possibility of network sharing in various sharing models.  Thus synergies for both sides can be realized.

In this study we therefore present the key differences between narrowband and broadband public safety networks. We quantify the impact on network size when the network is built for broadband services. We also outline a variety of deployment models that can support an efficient deployment as well as migration steps to broadband public safety networks.