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Long Term Evolution (LTE): Join the "revolution" in public safety communications
There’s no question that advancements in wireless technology mean greater situational awareness for public safety personnel. But many public safety networks today are still unable to stream multimedia data to responders in the field. Some only have voice communication, and those that can transmit video, maps, etc., can’t do it quickly enough. Agencies need mobile broadband networks that let them share multimedia data at high speeds that narrowband simply can’t handle.
Long Term Evolution (LTE) is a hot topic in public safety IT right now. LTE is the latest standard in mobile network technology. It is a project of the third 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 since 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. What all 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 (AVL) 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 a 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.
Still, advances are being made. Alcatel-Lucent completed the first data call using an LTE network operating on the 700 MHz spectrum reserved for public-safety use in the United States. Alcatel-Lucent teamed with Cassidian/ PlantCML to jointly develop a next-generation public-safety communications solution based on LTE and U.S. public-safety standards (see page 26). Motorola and Ericsson are also partnering to make communications a snap for public safety agencies via an LTE-based voice and data mobile broadband system (see page 33). To learn more about LTE and migrating public safety networks to IP/MPLS, see page 22.
LTE is a technology that companies as well as public safety agencies need to embrace in order to communicate without interruption or interference. Lives are at stake, and we must keep up with the technology in order to survive. After all, if today’s teenagers are using the latest technology in their smartphones to communicate with their friends, why shouldn’t public safety professionals have the same capabilities to use in matters of life and death?
Published in Public Safety IT, Sep/Oct 2010
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