Evolution of Public Safety Communications

Evolution of Public Safety Communications

  • April 2018 •
  • 217 pages •
  • Report ID: 5439216 •
  • Format: PDF
Development of Public Safety Communications (PSC) is an important part of governmental efforts to keep first responders well informed and safe in disastrous situations. The dynamics of technologies that support PSC require periodic review of multiple technical contributions and related markets’ changes.

This report updates information on the development of PSC and on recent standardization efforts to support integration of commercial and private communications to provide cost efficient and feature-rich networking for first responders.
The report reflects the history of PSC and follows the road of their evolution. Two major groups of standards – P25 and TETRA – define specifics of PSC worldwide. These LMR standards are being in the development for at least twenty-two years and they supported and continue to support voice and relatively low-speed data that first responders’ communications required. At the present time, P25 and TETRA standards are mostly completed and moved to the stage of maintenance and some enhancements.

In the last several years, commercial cellular communications achieved a significant progress in enhancing performance and economic characteristics, such as the speed of transmission, reliability, ability to communicate with fast moving objects, the cost factor and other. 4G technologies (such as LTE and WiMAX) proved their attractiveness; and the industry, especially R&D, is looking for introduction 5G technologies in 3-4 years.

The PSC community, which requires to enhance connectivity to support video and massive data files with high-speed reliable transmission as well as to improve other characteristics, such as network economics was investigating applicability of LTE for PSC; and this effort led to decision to adapt this commercial cellular technology that provides the economies of scales for critical communications and to build PSC networks based on the LTE technology. One such a network – the FirstNet – is being deployed as the U.S. nationwide first responders system. The FirstNet development is in the evolving stage; and its implementation has begun. Other countries are also experimenting with LTE network structures built specifically for PSC (in this report, we addressed such developments in England and other countries).

The report provides the detailed technical and marketing analysis of P25/TETRA LMR together with the survey of related industries. Then, it is concentrating on the specifics of LTE as a commercial technology that has to be adapted to carry PSC tasks; LTE technological and marketing specifics as well as the industry (as they relate to the report subject) are analyzed.

The 3GPP standardization work in this area is detailed. The report shows that the industry is already developing LTE-PSC equipment, though the complete set PSC-LTE standards is expected from the 3GPP only in 2019-2020. 

The report also provides a detailed analysis of the current status of the FirstNet – the nationwide U.S. LTE-based PSC network. The process of the network design, its technical specifics as well as the structure of its governing are analyzed. Even in these early stages of LTE-PSC development, there is already competition on the nationwide scale. 

The U.S. is not alone in adapting LTE for PSC – England and other countries are also involved in the construction LTE-PSC networks. The most advanced is S. Korea, which has already deployed such a network mostly utilizing Samsung equipment.

The report concludes that LMR and LTE-based PSC infrastructures will co-exist in the foreseeable future (7-9 years), complementing each other to provide high-speed data communications with narrowband voice, making communications rich with features and more reliable and cost-effective. Looking further in time, it seems that LTE-PSC will prevail (though, rapid progress in telecommunications may present even better future solutions).

The report also contains the survey of LTE-LMR-PSC related patents for 2016-2018 time frame.

The report is written for a wide audience of technical and managerial staff involved in the design and implementation of PSC networks as well as for users such networks.