FirstNet is facing technological challenges as it careens toward key decisions for the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network. That was the key takeaway when APCO held its Public Safety Broadband Summit in Washington D.C., May 13-14. In that context, backhaul continues to be a hot topic. Typically more of an afterthought in commercial telecom systems, backhaul becomes the 900-pound gorilla in the room when defining high reliability telecom networks such as mission-critical public safety networks. This is due to the extremely high cost of fiber—CAPEX for new runs and OPEX for leasing—as well as its proven lack of survivability in worst-case scenarios.
For example, during Superstorm Sandy, 25 percent of all affected commercial mobile sites were down, and most had to be propped up by temporary microwave radio backhaul solutions due to the lengthy time needed to replace the damaged fiber. Chief Dowd of NYPD provided insight into the situation stating that the network’s reliability is defined during worst-case conditions, not during sunny days.
Aviat Networks’ APCO presentation, below, from the Broadband Summit dives deeper into these issues:
Or we can talk to you directly about your concerns for your mission-critical Public Safety network requirements.
Director, Business Development
IWCE 2013 (International Wireless Communications Expo), March 13-14, was a tale of two different but related stories. The first was the continuing enhancement of legacy P25 voice-centric products/features/ applications and the second was discussion of the LTE broadband data-centric network plan/products/ solutions of the future.
P25 continues to be the only source of mission-critical voice, and the consensus is that will not change for maybe 10 more years—or longer. We saw really cool product enhancements from Motorola and Harris. Clearly, there is plenty of investment continuing in P25, and vendors believe they will get a return on that investment. There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done on going from analog to digital systems and wideband to narrowband.
In contrast, LTE broadband will probably take another 1.5 years just to get to the stage of RFQs. However, we did see a lot of innovative technology and interoperability demonstrations. Who would have thought that Harris handheld radios would be located in the Alcatel-Lucent booth and Motorola in the Raytheon booth?
There were many talks on FirstNet strategy and planning. Chief Dowd said FirstNet would announce a general manager within a couple weeks…let’s hope it is a public safety professional with many years of experience in setting up mission-critical networks. Of course, the industry pundits were there to discuss their view of this enormous challenge…unfortunately it appears the thinking is still very divergent…which can only mean that someone is going to be disappointed by the decisions FirstNet will make.
Many provider-based discussions were also held. For example, Aviat’s own Gary Croke gave a presentation on the considerations that any organization must make for high-speed backhaul and how microwave fits into those.
Lastly, we heard some excellent talks on engineering this network. Skilled network designers like Bob Shapiro gave us some insight into how the LTE network will look different from P25 networks (e.g., number of basestations, capacity of traffic, complexity of design). Good news is the industry is developing some excellent design tools to aid in designing the network.
The signs are positive for the public safety industry. IWCE show attendance was good, vendors showed up with real innovation and investment in new products, the Public Safety Broadband Network continues to move ahead…cannot wait for APCO in the fall!
Director Business Development