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Guest contribution: The beginning of the future

Bharat Bhatia | April 25, 2013
4G for a new era of public protection and disaster relief

Unique Demands of Public Safety

Mission-critical demands of public safety agencies impose unique demands on communication networks, which commercial networks are not intended to meet. Public safety networks, be they existing networks, or future 4G networks require to be built for 'worst case scenarios', while commercial networks are designed for 'best effort'. Public safety networks, by necessity, are generally hardened to guarantee a certain level of coverage to ensure first responders are never without the ability to communicate.

With the roll-out of networks would come the need to choose 4G devices.  Here again, commercial devices are not built to meet the unique demands of public safety agencies. In fact, a study by VDC Research Group found that buying ruggedised devices deliver a savings of about US$2000 per year per device thanks to reduced equipment failure and downtime.

The deployment of mission-critical 4G networks would also need to consider the applications to be used as some applications are bandwidth intensive and require more capacity while others involve real-time transmission and very low network delay.

Standardisation Imperative
2013 will be the first year when many Asian countries will start spectrum allocations for 4G or LTE services. Countries such as Australia, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, who have recently started the process for allocation of much needed 4G spectrum, will make the critical allocation decisions and auctions in 2013. These services are extremely useful and efficient for providing mobile video and internet as billions of mobile phone users switch to smart phones and tablets.

Recognising the importance and the benefits of video and broadband communications for public safety services (commonly called the PPDR -Public Protection and Disaster Relief -services), many Asian countries will also commence spectrum allocations for broadband PPDR, enabling the police, fire and emergency responders in these countries to also start using the latest 4G LTE technology.

Most of these allocations will be in 700 or 800 MHz bands that have been harmonised by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) for broadband for public safety in Asia. Such harmonised of spectrum helps lower equipment prices and ensures expanded equipment availability. 

In emergency and disaster relief situations, the benefits of spectrum harmonisation also include enhanced cross-border circulation of equipment and increased potential for interoperability of communications when a country receives assistance from other nations.

What it requires is a break from Pavlovian responses of the past, and adoption of a whole new approach to prepare for disasters that are increasingly striking with global ramifications.

Bharat Bhatia is the Head of Asia Pacific Government Affairs and Public Policy matters for Motorola Solutions.


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