The future of public safety communication will be based on 4G LTE. This is now more a question of how and when rather than if.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) selected LTE (News - Alert) as the data standard for a nationwide public safety network in January of last year. The reasons are fundamental. As explained in a recent Enriching Communications article, “LTE Cloud Enhances Public Safety Communications,” by Kevin Wendt of Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert), LTE enables public safety agencies to be more responsive, situationally aware and coordinated with other agencies by providing faster data sharing, new applications and real-time video, as well as machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. In short, LTE is the enabler of next generation communications for public safety.
The challenge is that implementing that future is cause for some concern among some public safety agencies. While the benefits are clear, potential equipment costs and lack of staff expertise to roll out LTE is not as clear or as tidy.
Cloud can be the answer
Given the concerns, the case can be strongly made that LTE cloud services are a good solution. It brings an end-to-end LTE network to public safety agencies without the need for hardware investment and maintenance, nor the need for as much deep LTE technology expertise, according to Wendt.
Cloud LTE gives access to a private wireless broadband network within an overall cloud infrastructure that is shared with other public safety agencies, Wendt said.
Agencies “pay a monthly fee to access the LTE data network and applications. Land-mobile radio (LMR) voice communications remain separate but, in the future, could evolve to voice over LTE (VoLTE),” he explained.
The three main reasons that public safety agencies should seriously consider an LTE cloud approach are:
- Faster access to the latest technologies and services because the technology is rolled out by the cloud provider
- Lower total cost because there’s no equipment and maintenance investment
- Lower risks since the headaches of running and maintaining the technology are outsourced to the LTE cloud provider
Public safety agencies considering an LTE cloud solution should evaluate their current platforms by determining where they want to be in one, five and 10 years, what capabilities they want to have, what gaps in their capabilities mean in terms of public safety service, and what areas in their current wireless communications strategy they would like to improve.
They should also talk with public safety agencies that have been LTE early adopters, and look at broader requirements such as urban versus rural considerations, application roadmaps, and investment and cost factors, Wendt advised.
If a public safety agency does go with a cloud infrastructure for its LTE communication, it is critical that the agency pay close attention to which provider they select.
A good LTE cloud provider for public safety agencies will meet five key requirements, Wendt explains. They will:
- Understand mission-critical public safety requirements and be able to offer and operate an end-to-end, multi-vendor network with good uptime and troubleshooting.
- Ensure security and privacy, and offer encryption both locally and along the network.
- Have a strong partner ecosystem.
- Offer different levels of network control, supporting both agencies that want to remain hands-off and those that would like to dig deep into the network’s daily operations.
- Offer clear, measurable and relevant service level agreements (SLAs) that define performance and deliverables.
When all these requirements are met, and an agency has confidence in the provider’s infrastructure processes, LTE cloud services provide a compelling path for public safety organizations looking to improve their responsiveness as facilitated by moving their communications infrastructure onto a next generation solution.
Edited by Peter Bernstein