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4G is here: LTE and WiMAX take public safety communications into the future

Long Term Evolution (LTE) and WiMAX are hot topics in
public safety right now.

The latest standard in mobile network technology is 4G. Following is a look at some of the 4G offerings from some of the leaders in the wireless industry and what it all means for the nation’s first responders.


LTE is a project of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), operating under a name trademarked by one of the associations within the partnership, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute. The current generation of mobile telecommunication networks is collectively known as 3G (for “third generation”). Although LTE is often marketed as 4G, first-release LTE is actually a 3.9G technology because it does not fully comply with the IMT Advanced 4G requirements. The pre-4G standard is a step toward LTE Advanced, a fourth generation standard (4G) of radio technologies designed to increase the capacity and speed of mobile telephone networks.

LTE Advanced is backward compatible with LTE and uses the same frequency bands, while LTE is not backward compatible with 3G systems. Just as 3G was an improvement over 2G, LTE is an improvement over 3G (more than 15 times faster).

The overall objective for LTE is to provide an extremely high performance radio-access technology that gives users the same capabilities in a mobile setting that they normally get only on fixed networks. In addition, it can readily coexist with High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) and earlier networks. Because of scalable bandwidth, operators will be able to easily transfer their networks and users from HSPA to LTE over time.

What this means is LTE meets the mission critical needs of first responders in the field by providing greater data sharing in both directions. This includes: high-definition video streaming; high resolution photos; detailed maps and blueprints; Web, e-mail and text messaging; transfer of large files; access to remote databases; automatic vehicle location and more—all faster than ever before. With LTE, volumes of data can be received in mere seconds.

LTE is endorsed by public safety organizations (APCO, NENA, etc.) in the United States as the preferred technology for the new 700 MHz public-safety radio band. Despite the growing market for regional LTE networks for first responders, there is still a logjam over how best to create a nationwide, interoperable public-safety broadband network using the D Block of the 700 MHz band. Public safety groups are pressing Congress to allocate the spectrum directly to first responders, while the FCC is still advocating a re-auction of the spectrum.

Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility in the U.S. and several worldwide carriers announced plans, beginning in 2009, to convert their networks to LTE. Much of 3GPP Release 8 focuses on adopting 4G mobile communications technology, including an all-IP flat networking architecture. Both carriers said LTE provides a more natural upgrade for their GSM-based networks and subscribers—and GSM is the dominant mobile standard worldwide, with more than 3 billion global customers as of February 2010.

LTE is a modulation technique that is designed to deliver 100 Mbps per channel and give individual users performance comparable to today’s wired broadband. Continuity of operations, i.e., keeping the network up, is a critical part of public safety’s reliance on cell communication in emergency situations. The performance and capabilities of 4G LTE will be unmatched in the marketplace, allowing public safety personnel (as well as commercial users) to do things never before possible in a wireless environment.

Verizon Wireless 

Verizon’s 4G LTE network is currently launching in 38 U.S. markets. This ultra-fast wireless 4G LTE network gives first responders immediate access to important, large data files from the field (video, mapping and GPS applications, etc.). Some of the advantages that Verizon Wireless’ implementation of 4G LTE will provide include:

Higher data rates:

With Verizon Wireless’ 10 + 10 MHz implementation, LTE will be supporting average data rates per user of 5-12 Mbps in the forward link, and 2-5 Mbps in the reverse link. Both maximum and average LTE data rates are significantly higher in the reverse and forward links than those supported by existing 3G networks. LTE will enable video application on the downlink as well as uplink, including, but not limited to, video sharing, surveillance, conferencing and streaming in higher definition than is possible with existing 3G technology today.


Verizon Wireless’ deployment of LTE in the premier 700 MHz spectrum provides coverage and in-building penetration advantages over existing 3G technologies (and other 4G competitive implementations deployed at higher frequency bands). This enhanced in-building coverage/penetration will make indoor applications even more powerful.

Better multipath, mobility and power performance:

The advanced radio characteristics of LTE address several issues that have traditionally crippled cellular wireless, including multipath and multiuser interference. LTE’s use of Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access and multiple-input and multipleoutput in the downlink transmission effectively eliminates intra-cell multiuser interference and minimizes inter-cell multiuser interference, thereby maximizing performance. Similarly, the single carrier frequency-division multiple access uplink transmission allows for user equipment to transmit low power signals without the need for expensive power amplifiers. Improvement in battery power consumption in end-user devices (UEs) is a side benefit of the coverage and multipath/ power performance advantages offered by LTE.


The user plane latency achieved in LTE is approximately one-fourth the corresponding latency in existing 3G technologies, providing a direct service advantage for highly immersive and interactive application environments, such as multiplayer gaming and rich multimedia communications.

Simultaneous user support:

LTE provides the ability to perform twodimensional resource scheduling (in time and frequency), allowing support of multiple users in a time slot, resulting in a much better always-on experience while enabling the proliferation of embedded wireless applications/ systems. In contrast, existing 3G technology performs one-dimensional scheduling, which limits service to one user for each timeslot.


LTE provides enhanced security through the implementation of Universal Integrated Circuit Card (UICC) Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) and the associated robust and non-invasive key storage and symmetric key authentication using 128-bit private keys. LTE additionally incorporates strong mutual authentication, user identity confidentiality, integrity protection of all signaling messages between UE and Mobility Management Entity and optional multi-level bearer data encryption.

Simplified worldwide roaming:

Verizon Wireless’ chosen migration path to LTE, the widely adopted next-generation 3GPP standard, will provide the greatest opportunities for seamless international roaming.

Mass deployment:

LTE’s inherent support for Internet Protocol version 6 addressing and International Mobile Subscriber Identity-based identifiers makes mass deployments of machine-to-machine applications over LTE possible.

Verizon Wireless is the first company in the U.S.—and among the first in the world—to launch LTE with a sizeable footprint. Verizon commercially launched its 4G LTE network in 38 major metropolitan areas, covering more than 110 million Americans, at the end of 2010.

In addition, the company is launching 4G LTE in more than 60 commercial airports coast to coast— both the airports within the launch areas, plus airports in other key cities. In subsequent years, an equally aggressive growth plan will result in full nationwide coverage in 2013. Verizon’s 4G LTE network will ultimately connect a full range of electronics devices and machines to each other.

Verizon Wireless plans to utilize its nationwide, contiguous 700 MHz spectrum to deploy 4G LTE. This spectrum covers the entire lower 48 states and Hawaii and gives customers the nationwide bandwidth and coverage they need, when and where they need it. Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE network will be backward- compatible with its existing 3G network.

That means the two networks will coexist, and services will be integrated between LTE and the 3G Evolution-Data Optimized Rev A network. Verizon will also support handover to existing mobile networks, thereby providing seamless coverage to Verizon Wireless subscribers right from the start.

To provide access to the 4G LTE network to more of the U.S. population living in rural areas, Verizon Wireless plans to work with rural companies to collaboratively build and operate a 4G network in those areas using the tower and backhaul assets of the rural company and Verizon Wireless’ core LTE equipment and 700 MHz spectrum. Verizon Wireless provides a unique opportunity for selected participants to leverage the company’s technical and spectrum resources.


While AT&T operates the nation’s fastest mobile broadband network today, it’s getting faster in 2011 with 4G. The company announced plans in January to accelerate its LTE network build, to be largely complete by yearend 2013 and plans to begin its launch of LTE service in mid 2011. Additionally, AT&T is the only U.S. company committed to delivering 4G using both HSPA+ and LTE technologies—providing a faster and more consistent experience for customers.

AT&T has completed its deployment of HSPA+ to virtually 100 percent of its mobile broadband network, which enables 4G speeds when combined with Ethernet or fiber backhaul. The company is rapidly expanding Ethernet and fiber to cell sites nationwide—adding new cell sites weekly—and by year-end, expects that nearly two-thirds of its mobile broadband traffic will be on expanded backhaul.

Today, AT&T is already seeing 4G speeds on its existing HSPA+ network with enhanced backhaul in areas of key markets. When combined with enhanced backhaul, AT&T’s HSPA+ software upgrade is expected to deliver speeds up to 4x faster than ordinary mobile broadband. That means a smoother, more consistent mobile broadband experience overall. AT&T continues to boost speed and performance while they drive toward the launch of LTE.

The company also plans to introduce 20 new leading-edge 4G devices by the end of the year, some on an exclusive basis. In the first half of 2011, AT&T will feature a best-in-class portfolio of HSPA+ devices, and in the second half, will add LTE devices including smartphones, tablets, modems and mobile hotspots. AT&T plans to launch two 4G tablets, including its first LTE tablet, by mid-summer. Additional LTE tablets are planned for the second half of 2011.

The key to delivering a true 4G experience is to have the combination of network, devices and applications, which together provide customers the best and most advanced mobile broadband experience. AT&T provides its customers access to more mobile applications than any other carrier and offers a wide array of applications for public safety. These applications efficiently track, facilitate and dispatch first responders via mobile devices, enable personnel to share critical information to decrease response times, remotely enter incident details at the scene, and mobilize processes to reduce paperwork and update systems with real-time information.

Alcatel-Lucent and EADS Defence & Security 

Alcatel-Lucent together with EADS Defence & Security and PlantCML®, the North American subsidiary of EADS, demonstrated interoperability between a live broadband LTE wireless network and digital land mobile radio (LMR) commonly used by local police, fire departments and other emergency responders.

The joint mission critical communications solution was demonstrated at the 2010 APCO Conference in Houston and highlighted a variety of voice, video and data applications. The demonstrations showed previews of new wireless public safety applications including the latest in command and control, interoperable field communications, operations management, mobile video, identity verification and more.

Access to high-speed, broadband wireless networks enhances communications and situational awareness within and between public safety agencies while helping to streamline operations and reduce the costs associated with maintaining multiple non-interoperable networks. By using LTE, the Alcatel-Lucent and EADS Defence & Security solution delivers far more types of information including mobile video faster.

In the short term, LTE-based solutions will provide high-speed remote access to databases, report management systems, e-mail and internal/ external Internet-based resources and will eventually support rich graphics and streaming mobile video. That could give rescue teams instant access to blueprints to help them more quickly locate survivors in an earthquake. It would enable police officers to use digital imaging to catalog crime scene photos or file reports remotely, allowing them to spend more time in the field.

“Real-time access to mission-related information— anytime, anywhere—improves coordination and response time and ultimately saves lives,” said Ken Wirth, president, 4G/LTE Wireless Networks, Alcatel-Lucent.

Alcatel-Lucent is at the forefront of commercial deployments of LTE. At the 2010 APCO conference, Alcatel-Lucent’s “Rover” Incident Command Center was on display. Live LTE demos took place, including: emergency call handling of 9-1-1 calls with LTE-enabled video and automatic number identification; mobile radio dispatch with LTE communicating with PlantCML’s CORP25 VoIP product on the computer; and two fixed cameras within the booth that streamed mobile video with low latency.

Motorola Solutions

The Motorola Solutions business of Motorola Inc. demonstrated live over-the-air (OTA) broadband video in the 700 MHz public safety spectrum band to the world’s first public safety data device using a commercial LTE chipset module in November.

The LTE module used in the demonstration at the 2010 Motorola Digital Users Group Conference is ready for implementation in a broad array of public safety LTE devices in multiple form factors. The compact USB device uses a commercially produced chipset that supports the Band Class 14 public safety spectrum band. The demonstration is a key milestone in the development of open market components to foster a broad selection of LTE devices that are optimized for use by public safety and benefit from economies of scale from carrier LTE deployments worldwide.

The portfolio of LTE devices will include portable data adaptors, vehicular modems and multimedia handhelds, among others. Motorola is making additional investments to fully enhance standards-compliant LTE components to serve the unique requirements of public safety operations. Motorola’s LTE technology demonstration includes dynamic prioritization and preemption for safeguarding LTE capacity for critical resources during an emergency response. Motorola has also developed real-time video intelligence that adjusts video to best match real-time wireless LTE bandwidth capabilities with the device screen size.

Motorola congratulated BayWEB for its first live OTA data session in the San Francisco Bay Area. This live data session marks the first operational use of the public safety broadband spectrum in a true public safety deployment.

“Motorola continues to make technology breakthroughs in the development of communications solutions for public safety. The demonstration of the first 700 MHz public safety broadband-ready module is a testament to our focus on bringing public safety-optimized devices that will provide the advanced communications tools public safety personnel need for officer safety and to serve their communities,” said Darren McQueen, corporate vice president, Private Broadband, Motorola Solutions.


According to Wikipedia, WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is a telecommunications protocol that provides fixed and fully mobile Internet access. The current WiMAX revision provides up to 40 Mbit/s with the IEEE 802.16m update expected to offer up to 1 Gbit/s fixed speeds. The name “WiMAX” was created by the WiMAX Forum, which was formed in June 2001 to promote conformity and interoperability of the standard. The forum describes WiMAX as “a standards-based technology enabling the delivery of last-mile wireless broadband access as an alternative to cable and DSL.”

A few years ago, mobile WiMAX was on the fast track to be the 4G wireless technology of choice for evolving mobile broadband networks. Sprint committed $5 billion to be the first in the industry to offer a 4G mobile broadband network. Cisco bought Navini Networks for more than $300 million to produce mobile WiMAX radio access network equipment, and Sprint and Clearwire formed a $14.5 billion venture to combine mobile WiMAX operations into a new company.

In just a few short years, WiMAX has become a disruptive force in the wireless industry. As the first 4G wireless technology, WiMAX has the potential to do for broadband what the cell phone did for voice and provide high-speed Internet access for millions of users globally. WiMAX combines the performance of Wi-Fi with the range and quality of service of a carrier-grade cellular technology. WiMAX networks can be as small as a single base station with a few subscriber units, to much larger networks with thousands of users.

As the first, all IP-based 4G wireless technology, the applications are endless. In emerging markets and rural areas, WiMAX is being deployed as a fixed wireless technology to provide basic Internet connectivity to residential and business users, without the cost and difficulty of deploying fiber or DSL. In this fixed capacity, the technology can provide backhaul connectivity for Wi-Fi hotspots and other IP enabled devices such as VoIP phones and video surveillance cameras. In more developed markets, WiMAX is being used as a mobile wireless technology by large carriers to provide a first-to-market 4G advantage in handsets and other mobile devices.

WiMAX and 4G technologies are also being utilized by a new breed of non-traditional operators including municipalities, local and state governments, utilities, enterprise customers and other verticals. Interest is being driving by new wireless applications including SmartGrids, remote education, tele-medicine, connectivity for machine-tomachine devices, digital signage, intelligent transportation systems, and much more.

To help decision makers navigate these new technologies, WiMAX. com has developed educational resources including the industry’s first 4G WiMAX Guide, a complete 4G/WiMAX FAQ, WiMAX tutorials, business directory listings and feature articles around planning and building wireless networks.


Sprint 4G is currently available in 71 markets across the country, including Atlanta, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C.. Sprint was the first national wireless carrier to launch 4G, starting with Baltimore in September 2008, and continues to build its 4G service for consumers and business users across the country.

With the recent announcements of the latest products in Sprint’s second generation of 4G-capable devices, HTC EVO Shift™ 4G and MiFi® 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot by Novatel Wireless, Sprint has now introduced 17 4G-capable devices for consumers and business, including three phones, a 4G netbook and notebook from Dell, numerous USB modem options, and several mobile hotspots and routers.

Sprint has repeatedly stated it’s committed to WiMAX as its 4G strategy. Launching WiMAX has given Sprint an incredible speedto- market advantage against the competition. The multi-mode base stations and technology, as announced late last year with Network Vision, simply affords Sprint the flexibility to deploy additional 4G technologies down the road if they choose. Sprint aims to continue its 4G leadership position, regardless of technology choice.

Network Vision is a blueprint to deploy a cost-effective, innovative network plan to further enhance voice quality and data speeds for customers across the U.S. Sprint unveiled its Network Vision blueprint to deploy a cost-effective, innovative network plan to further enhance voice quality and data speeds for customers across the U.S. Sprint’s Network Vision is expected to consolidate multiple network technologies into one, seamless network.

Sprint has awarded contracts to Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and Samsung to bring Network Vision to life by implementing multimode technology to enhance service— coverage, quality and speed—create network flexibility, reduce operating costs, and improve environmental sustainability. The scope of the arrangement between Sprint and these best-in-class vendors includes purchases of hardware, software and services. The awarded suppliers will deploy state-of-the-art technology expected to bring Sprint customers an overall enhanced network experience and deliver financial value to Sprint.

“Network Vision builds on our legacy of wireless innovation and represents the next step in the evolution of our networks to best meet unprecedented growth in mobility services” said Dan Hesse, Sprint CEO.

Today, Sprint uses separate equipment to deploy services on 800MHz spectrum, 1.9GHz spectrum and, through its relationship with Clearwire, 2.5GHz spectrum. Under the terms of the new contracts, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and Samsung will install new network equipment and software that brings together multiple spectrum bands, or airwaves, on a single, multimode base station.

The base stations will allow for the flexibility to offer new technologies using any of the 800MHz, 1.9GHz or 2.5GHz bands, as well as other spectrum bands. Sprint and the three companies expect to finalize the implementation schedule and begin the first stages of deployment in 2011. Completion of Network Vision across the Sprint network is expected to take from three to five years.

In addition to implementing multimode base stations, the Sprint Network Vision plan encompasses next-generation push-to-talk with broadband capabilities and the integration of multimode chipsets into smartphones, tablets and other broadband devices, including machine- to-machine capabilities.

Published in Public Safety IT, Jan/Feb 2011

Rating : 7.0

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