LTE Public Safety Devices getting ready for Mission Critical Apps

LTE Public Safety devices are coming recently into play in several modes, either as a tablet, or a smartphone or even a module in a modem. All these devices are aiming to serve different advanced needs of the agencies that today heavily depend on voice and LMR (Land Mobile Radio) systems.

By Elias Aravantinos, Leading Analyst, ExelixisNet.

Whether it is high-priority broadband data or streaming real-time video, an urgent dispatch update or interoperable push-to-talk, there is a growing portfolio of Public Safety LTE infrastructure, devices, and services that should allow the use of advanced mobile broadband technology. So far LMR and LTE are integrated together in a common platform that sounds to be acceptable from the Public Safety industry and agencies. However the choice of the devices’ operating system could not be anything else except of Android, which is an open platform compared to the other locked i.e. Windows Phone, iOS etc. From our recent discussion with Jani Lyrintzis, Elektrobit’s Vice President and General Manager, discussing the Android OS’s potential security weaknesses, he commented, “Android is a Linux based OS, an open platform allowing us to develop and fix any security weaknesses, developing an attractive and robust platform for our customers”.

What are some mission critical applications? Awareness applications mainly that will demand high speed data guaranteed access and connectivity to remote resources. Hundreds of applications will run based on video that will be the key and data hungry application which is going to enhance the Safety and the First Responders’ role.

There is a specific path that needs to be followed on the mission critical apps and LTE devices. Today there is lack of Public Safety features in the standard, a fact that is intensively highlighted from all Public Safety Associations, motivating agencies and experts to discuss needs and specifications in order the next LTE release to be properly completed. As soon as the first LTE release is standardized by 3GPP, then chipset and OEM companies will release the first LTE rel 10 devices and later multiple 3GPP devices will be commercially available in the market. These multiple devices should not only cover the Band 14 (700 MHz) but also all the other 6 LTE bands that at least are available from the mobile operators such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless and per case in Europe.

The cost of these devices could become a barrier in the next 5 years by the time that LTE will be fully deployed and connected to the Public Safety Networks. From our current discussions with experts we concluded that the cost of thousand smartphones will range between $1100-1200, a figure that could be reduced as volume or order goes up, such as in a millions scale. Today CIA and FBI have showed interest to potentially adapt the use of such LTE equipped smartphones that will enhance and add more intelligence to their agents’ missions and work, forming a niche market.

FirstNet has an ongoing dialog with all the LTE Public Safety device providers in North America, but some other markets in Asia or Latin America are ahead, having many issues solved due to private infrastructure funding which is one of the major headaches in North America. Another still open FirstNet’s question is who will manage those advanced Public Safety Networks. There are three choices, either people will be hired and trained for internal management, or the task will be outsourced to a 3rd party agency, per state if it is North America. The least favorable choice so far is to be outsourced to a mobile operator for privacy reasons. However mobile operator will generate revenues from roaming services among states and from spectrum lease agreements, a topic that still needs clarifications on the terms of sharing and use.

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