Next Generation Public Safety
Emergency Comms talks to Vincent Kennedy, Strategy Director, Motorola Solutions Europe & Africa about the future of public safety communications, LTE and spectrum harmonisation
Strategy Director, Motorola Solutions Europe & Africa
Dublin-based Vincent Kennedy is a core-member of the Senior Leadership Team for Motorola Solutions in Europe & Africa. Vincent is responsible for business strategy across the region including the development of the public safety business and the incorporation of broadband technologies as they evolve.
Vincent has a strong background in both business and technology and works closely with dedicated Public Safety operators across Europe on the questions of spectrum, future technologies and the evolution from land mobile radio to technologies such as LTE. In addition to his Strategy role for Motorola Solutions, Vincent also sits on the Board of a European Public Safety Operator company and acts as a Director of one of Motorola Solutions’ operating companies in the region.
Motorola Solutions connects people through technology. Businesses and government agencies around the world turn to Motorola Solutions innovations when they want highly connected teams that have the information they need throughout their workday and in the moments that matter most to them.
Motorola Solutions products and services can be found from the retail floor to the warehouse floor and from the small town police station to the most secure government offices. The company’s products support customers who make up the diverse global economy and enable mobile transactions of all kinds, as well as contributing to the safety and security of citizens everywhere.
Can commercial networks fulfill public safety needs?
This question is at the heart of the issue when it comes to the provision of public safety communications for countries worldwide. Ultimately, Motorola Solutions believes that delivering high speed data at the point of maximum impact enables intelligent decision making and as such, has the potential to revolutionise public safety organisations and practices. But to do this the service must be permanently available, secure and resilient. 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. 365 days a year.
Research by the Henley Business School1 estimated in the context of frontline policing in the UK that for each reduction of one per cent in network service availability there is a potential socio-economic cost to society of £1.6bn. Public Safety organisations often utilise commercial mobile phone networks to compliment their radio networks. However, mobile phone networks are designed for a commercial grade of service and as such are simply not suited to meet the mission critical requirements built into specific public safety networks.
History shows that commercial mobile phone networks become congested and can fail during major incidents when instant communications are vital. Events such as New Year's Eve, a key sporting event, terrorist incidents or even smaller events such as a traffic accident can result in delayed access and dropped calls due to congestion on commercial networks.
In the last few years during major events such as fires in the Australian outback, floods in Germany, earthquakes across the Asia Pacific region or terrorist attacks in Madrid and London, major communications disruption has been caused by the failure of commercial phone networks.
Given these real-world situations it is therefore reasonable to assume denial of service and security hardening presents significant challenges to the carriers’ management of public safety networks. Furthermore, while SLAs have yet to be defined by most public safety user communities a typical greater than 99.9 per cent demand for coverage and capacity at the time of need drives stringent requirements in terms of network component, antenna and power resilience issues.
|Photo: © Motorola Solutions Inc.
Which frequency band, 400 or 700MHz, is the way forward or can we look at dual band solution?
In this region, the bands in the 400MHz range (above 380 MHz) are coordinated amongst many countries for the Narrow Band/Wide Band Public Protection & Disaster Relief (PPDR) Services. As these bands are expected to serve this purpose for at least the next 15 years for mission critical voice/data, it is anticipated that PPDR agencies and their operators will seek to find solutions to the upgrading of the current narrow band 400 MHz networks to offer also broadband facilities and applications in 700MHz.
The band 694-790MHz represents a unique opportunity to design effective and lower cost infrastructures and handheld devices as an extension to existing broadband networks for multiple suppliers with economies of scale and innovation. Consequently the allocation of parts of the band 693-790MHz to broadband public safety is of the highest priority.
700MHz is considered by many to be the sweet-spot for next generation mobile broadband with the distinct advantage of wide area coverage coupled with in-building penetration. On the other hand, the impractical 400MHz antenna and MIMO portable radio limits portable reception and data rate delivery to a limited European handset market.
LTE works better with 10Mhz channels; so how can we find 10Mhz in both bands, uplink and downlink or do we need it?
The Law Enforcement Working Party, ETSI and CEPT FM49 has recommended a minimum of 2 x 10MHz of spectrum to maintain integrity of data communication at the instant of need. Its allocation at country-level relies on ESMCP’s clearly defined SLA/G’s. At European level, one of the findings of the recently adopted ECC Report 199 based on user needs is that 2 x 10MHz of spectrum will be needed.
In Motorola Solutions’ experience, whereas public safety and commercial mobile services share a similar load profile at the ‘golden hour’, carrier services will throttle capacity at the time of need. In everyday situations, Motorola Solutions’ tests show that Public Safety services demand ad-hoc heavy data upload compared to the video download proliferation by the mobile operators.
700MHz band plans for mobile broadband are still under discussion in CPG PT D and ECC PT1. Alternative plans aimed at progressing the work forward towards a single, inclusive and flexible channelling arrangement are under development in a timely manner such that both the mobile broadband market aimed at the society at large and the Government and Emergency Services can start planning a new advanced broadband addition to current narrowband voice services in operation.
Is it possible to have the spectrum harmonised in Europe and what is the best path forward?
There is significant global momentum building for dedicated LTE Public Safety networks in 700Mhz 2 x 10Mhz which could mean that Europe is left behind.
Europe or an entire Region can enjoy the benefit of harmonised conditions for broadband public safety if for instance the WRC-15 under agenda items 1.3 decides to add a 700Mhz range as applicable.
Motorola Solutions strongly believe that conditions for the harmonisation of public safety LTE can be created. It would be ideal if a frequency range can be identified (for instance 693-790Mhz) from which national administrations can allocate spectrum according to national needs.
Increasing focus and a joined-up approach is needed at EU and Member State Regulators to determine spectrum re-use and to support the EU Commission program to ensure sufficient harmonised spectrum is made available to develop services, devices and innovative interoperable solutions2.
The TETRA & Critical Communications Association commissioned WIK3 to follow-up its 2010 socio-economic benefit study in 2013. WIK’s interim June report reinforces the benefits that tend to arise from the harmonisation of public safety spectrum including:
- Economies of scale in terms of production, and also in terms of staff training, together with the network effects benefits that flow from expanded equipment availability;
- Interoperability of equipment for incidents that involve multiple countries (either because they occur at a border, or because they are geographically large); and
- The ability to seamlessly loan to public safety teams from one country to another in times of need.
When disaster strikes in a border area it is of the utmost importance that first responders can freely cooperate and move across the border and use the PPDR terminals in neighbouring networks to assist in the operation.
So what conclusions can we draw?
Ultimately, the world is in a protracted period of economic stagnation which has triggered a consolidation of public services in most countries. This has driven transformational change with the emphasis on improving efficiency and effectiveness as countries seek to get more for less. In addition, social unrest, organised crime and the continued threat of terrorism increase the risk to public safety: In short, solutions are needed, not optional.
Public safety spectrum is already exhausted in some countries and this clearly negatively impacts the development of data solutions for public safety – simply put, more spectrum is necessary for short-term growth as well as eventual migration to next generation broadband for multimedia services. It is worth noting that European countries generally have less than one per cent of spectrum allocated to Public Safety. Contrast this number with the United States which allocates more than ten per cent.
It is accepted that mobile data communications transforms the efficiency and effectiveness of all those for whom communications are a normal part of working life. It is unsurprising therefore, that representatives of the PPDR community have been considering how to provide sufficient spectrum for their future mobile broadband needs.
To those people who are unfamiliar with the manner in which critical communications operate, it would appear obvious to utilise commercial cellular networks. However, there are many hidden pitfalls to such a solution. In times of crisis it is not acceptable for high network load to limit the ability of public safety and other critical services to communicate. It is also unacceptable for commercial imperatives to limit the resilience of a network that is used by mission critical users and such networks should not be operated simply on the basis of commercial gain.
Mission critical broadband services are a vital and increasingly urgent requirement for PPDR and other critical communications users, including but not limited to national security, vital infrastructure management and protection, utilities and transportation operators and others.
Unless the necessary harmonised and dedicated spectrum to operate PPDR services becomes available throughout the region, it will not be possible to implement critical services that are vital to the safety, security and well-being of citizens, communities and nations. Public Safety cannot be reliant on commercial networks, even if the terrorists are.
For more information visit:
1 Henley Business School, J J Johur (2013),”Benefits of mission-critical mobile broadband to UK Police Service”.
2 OJ L 81 of 21.3.2012 Radio Spectrum Policy Program.
3 WIK (2013), “The Need for PPDR Broadband Spectrum in the bands below 1GHz”.