TechZine – Alcatel-Lucent

Business

LTE Cloud Enhances Public Safety Communications

Highlights

  • LTE helps public safety agencies evolve, standardize and interoperate
  • LTE cloud as a service brings new communications capabilities at predictable costs
  • The right LTE cloud provider combines scope, expertise and flexibility

Ideal for public safety

LTE enables faster, more efficient communications and new applications that improve safety for the public and public safety personnel. Higher speeds accelerate data sharing. New applications, such as real-time video and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, accelerate access to people, documents and information. Public safety agencies can be more responsive. Their situational awareness improves, and interoperability between agencies and across jurisdictions is enhanced.

4G LTE is increasingly recognized as the right wireless technology to evolve and standardize public safety communications. In January 2011, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States selected LTE as the data standard for a nationwide public safety network. LTE’s ability to enable nationwide interoperability was a key factor in the FCC decision.

LTE cloud infrastructure brings benefits

Many public safety agencies like the capabilities LTE can deliver but are concerned about equipment costs and their lack of experience with the technology. Moving to an LTE cloud infrastructure for data communications and applications brings benefits that alleviate many of these concerns.

The LTE cloud is an end-to-end LTE network. It gives each public safety agency access to a private wireless broadband network within an overall cloud infrastructure that is shared among multiple agencies and jurisdictions. Agencies pay a monthly fee to access the LTE data network and applications. Land-mobile radio (LMR) voice communications remain separate but, in the future, could evolve to voice over LTE (VoLTE).

Figure 1: The LTE cloud, an end-to-end wireless broadband network for public safety

LTE cloud infrastructure gives public safety agencies:

  • Faster access to advanced services and applications. Because it’s a multi-tenant platform, when a service or application is enabled for one agency, every other agency on the platform has the opportunity to access it.
  • Lower costs. A shared platform means shared costs. Agencies can avoid the upfront costs of buying equipment themselves and also avoid the unpredictable costs incurred throughout the network lifecycle. They enjoy a consistent, predictable cost for the service.
  • Lower risks. Agencies don’t have to worry about finding LTE experts, managing the network or resolving problems with the network, technology or platform. The pressures of equipment maintenance, upgrades and staff training disappear.

Assess your needs

As a first step, public safety agencies considering moving to LTE cloud infrastructure should evaluate their current platform and consider:

  • Where do they want to be in 1, 5 and 10 years?
  • What capabilities do they wish they had?
  • What gaps in capabilities could be hindering their ability to perform?
  • What areas in their current wireless communications would they most like to improve?

Agencies should also talk to their peers, particularly early LTE adopters, to learn more about their motivation and approach. Getting involved in national organizations that are working on LTE communications for public safety and attending industry events also helps agencies learn more about broader considerations and requirements, including:

  • Urban versus rural considerations
  • Application roadmaps
  • Investment and cost factors that influence timing decisions

Find the right provider

When choosing an LTE cloud provider, the first priority for every public safety agency is to ensure their mission-critical communications needs are met. As a result, they should look for an LTE cloud provider that:

  • Understands both LTE technology and mission-critical public safety communications requirements. The provider must have a proven ability to operate and manage an end-to-end, multivendor network for public safety. This expertise improves service uptime and quality. It also simplifies and accelerates deployments and problem resolution. Off-loading of problems to other vendors and finger pointing should never be an issue.
  • Ensures security and privacy. Encryption locally in the jurisdiction as well as the point where information traverses the network into the core is crucial. A dedicated public safety platform is also important. This ensures there are no network resource contention, security or privacy issues with businesses or residences that are sharing the platform.
  • Works with a strong partner ecosystem. The best LTE cloud providers work closely with application partners to develop and deliver the right public safety applications at the right time. They use their knowledge of the public safety market and agency requirements to influence application development.
  • Offers different levels of network control. The LTE cloud provider should offer each agency a level of control that matches their comfort level. This could range from no involvement at all, to the ability to add and remove users, to full visibility of network status and real-time updates on network issues.
  • Offers clear, measurable and relevant service level agreements (SLAs). SLAs define vendor performance levels and deliverables. Agencies should look for a well-defined project management structure to ensure the platform is successfully deployed. They should also look for well-defined operations processes and a clear and consistent plan for ongoing communications between themselves and the provider.

Trust is another crucial factor. Public safety agencies need to feel comfortable that the provider has the infrastructure, people, processes and tools to deliver the services they are promising on day 1 and in year 5.

Advance with the LTE cloud

LTE is a relatively new technology that will progress over time. Providers that offer a dedicated platform for multiple public safety agencies will have to ensure that applications and services are kept current. Providers that offer a single-tenant platform or a platform that is not dedicated to public safety won’t necessarily have the same motivation.

Public safety agencies that adopt the LTE cloud on a dedicated, multi-tenant platform will have better opportunities to advance their communications in step with the technology.

To contact the author or request additional information, please send email to techzine.editor@alcatel-lucent.com.