The world’s migration path to LTE

The TCCA is an association of manufacturers, operators, users and those interested in global critical communications. It is driven by the desire to ensure that users always have the best technology available to them. Today that means TETRA and P25. TETRAPOL can be a choice for some, PDT in China, but DMR is not designed for critical communications. So what next? Is there a future for these PMR technologies or will we be replacing them with LTE?

LTE is a consumer point-to-point broadband data technology. The public safety community around the world has recognised it as the solution to enhance their current services with broadband capability. The US, UK and other European governments, supported by the TCCA and others, have been working for the LTE standard to include critical communications functionality. 3GPP, the organisation responsible for the standardisation, has supported us in our ongoing efforts despite there being over seven billion consumers and fewer than 42 million critical communications users.

The US has been at the forefront of the evolution towards broadband, both in standardisation and in bringing it to reality. FirstNet was set up to provide a national LTE network for its critical communications. It was promised some initial funding which was realised in recent spectrum auctions and is currently consulting with users in all states. This network will not replace the current P25 networks still being implemented across the country but will provide broadband data. It will subsequently also offer voice.

The US government is not planning to provide any further funding. The shortfall must be found by sharing capacity or similar arrangement with commercial operators.

There is a lot of talk about what is happening in the UK, which is well into a national procurement program to replace its existing TETRA service with a broadband service from a network provider on a public network. But the UK is unique. It does not have its own PMR network. It buys services from Airwave. Those contracts – there is a range of different contracts with different users – expire between 2016 and 2020. The UK is looking to replace this service with another service, but not on a dedicated network this time. The timescales are very ambitious but I am confident that the Home Office will make decisions in the best interests of the users.

South Korea has announced that it also intends to have a nationwide LTE network. Driven by last year’s ferry disaster and supported by its own world-renowned LTE industry, it is looking to provide a dedicated public safety network in the shortest possible time.

In the Middle East there has been an LTE pilot in Qatar for the last couple of years. It exists alongside the nation’s TETRA network. It is reported that users are very happy with the data being provided. There are no plans for it to replace the TETRA network, which continues to provide mission-critical communications.

Some of the first adopters of TETRA were national public safety networks in Europe. Their approach is to refresh and update their existing networks with the latest TETRA products for their critical communications and use public networks to provide additional broadband services. This is seen by some as a long-term migration path towards broadband services when functionality is standardised and proven, when suitable spectrum is identified and when the necessary funding becomes available.

Clearly LTE will be a significant part of the solution for critical communications users worldwide whatever the chosen migration path.

Phil Kidner is the CEO of the TETRA and Critical Communications Association, based in the UK.

Source: Critical Comms

April 13, 2015 1:07 am Published by

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