One thing that has always been true in the communications industry is that public safety agencies have truly unique needs that rightfully should be addressed with purpose-built and dedicated networks. From the earliest days of walkie-talkie systems on radio spectrum allocated for use by police, fire and medical first response teams to today’s highly sophisticated networks, making sure the right people have the right tools to act quickly during a crisis is the very definition of mission critical.
The good news is that giving first responders the best tools available is an area in which there continues to be innovation. And, when it comes to innovation, looking at taking the best of public LTE (News - Alert) networking and combining it with virtualization techniques such as network functions virtualization (NFV), is really pushing the state-of-the-art forward in ways that are not only remarkable from a technology standpoint but life saving. The announcement from Nokia and SK Telecom (News - Alert) that they have successfully developed a portable all-in-one Public Safety-LTE (PS-LTE) network system is a case in point.
When the partners describe this as “all-in-one” and portable, they are spot on. The system is so small it can fit into a backpack. And, what is in it is an impressive array of technology that includes:
- A base station (eNB)
- Switching system (core network: Evolved Packet Core, Home Subscriber Server, Policy and Charging Rules Function, etc.)
- Push-to-Talk (PTT) technologies – to instantly create an independent communications network to be used by public safety workers/emergency services.
What is noteworthy is the use of NFV for connectivity of core network elements. Coupled with PTT solutions, this enables the new form factor to overcome the challenges of existing portable LTE that could not easily connect to the backhaul network and had other performance challenges.
In addition, as the partners explain, “Moreover, the system offers scalability as it can add other communication solutions (e.g. user management program, group messaging, etc.) needed by public service agencies. With the portable all-in-one PS-LTE system, first responders at the site of emergencies can communicate with each other over the instantly created LTE network. The network deployed with the system provides coverage of five kilometers and accommodates up to 400 users, and has a set-up time of less than three minutes.” Indeed, in thinking about first responder disaster scenarios, this ability to scale quickly and provide high quality connectivity and performance to so many people is impressive.
In addition, the speed at which this was developed is equally impressive. Nokia (News - Alert) and SK Telecom signed an agreement for joint development of disaster communication technologies in October 2015. It covered the portable LTE system and also a real-time Group Communication System Enabler (GCSE) based on mobile evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (eMBMS) for simultaneously transmitting heavy multimedia content to massive numbers of users.
SK Telecom will trial the portable LTE system this year, and states that it will actively utilize the system to expand the South Korean national disaster safety wireless network as well as their LTE for Maritime Wireless Communications (LTE-Maritime)project in 2017.
“The portable all-in-one PS-LTE system is a ground-breaking solution that enables communication among first responders by setting up an independent LTE network when regular communication networks are disrupted by disasters, said Lee Jong-bong, executive vice president and head of Infra Division of SK Telecom. “SK Telecom will not only utilize the innovative system to build disaster safety wireless networks in Korea, but also plans to share its expertise and know-how with many other countries around the world.”
“This world’s-first portable LTE solution will be invaluable when critical services are needed to respond to all kinds of disasters and emergencies, commented Andrew Cope, head of Korea at Nokia. “We are very pleased to customize our all-in-one Ultra Compact Network in cooperation with SK Telecom and local small and medium-sized enterprises to suit their individual needs. Nokia will continue to take the lead in PS-LTE related standardization activities by collaborating with Korean companies and offering advanced PS-LTE solutions to our customers.”
The Public Safety-LTE (PS-LTE) network system has obviously been purpose-built. However, it illustrates how leveraging, to a very significant extent, the innovations in LTE and NFV that are driving communications service provider and enterprise network transformations can be quickly and successfully applied to meet highly customized needs in important vertical markets.
Edited by Alicia Young