In many wireless networks, transport engineering looks after the microwave radio function while the IT department has domain over IP equipment. These two organizations started independently and grew separately over many years. It did not seem that there was any problem with this arrangement.
However, it led to the selection of equipment—radios and routers—that worked really well on their own but had no awareness of one another. Not surprisingly, these technology solutions did not perform together optimally.
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