Feb 1, 2016

Public Safety Broadband and Mobile Operators: what if (when) the networks fail?

Public safety operations always concentrate on ‘what-if’ – scenarios. The most important one, when talking about mobile broadband, is the scenario of network failure. What happens if the used networks are be down? Too often this question leads to postponing the investments to wait for the perfect solution: “We want guaranteed 100% availability and we don’t do anything before that can be offered.” This leads unfortunately to development paralysis that keeps public safety applications and services tightly in the inefficient working habits of the past. Instead of searching a solution that’s never going to realize, the decision makers should invest into smart modern solutions that enhance the operational capabilities today. You can always, as you should, improve the used solutions to meet the strictest standards also later when you know more about the applications’ demands.

The typical approach for public safety mobile communication has been to build dedicated networks for public safety use. Tetra, Tetrapol and P25 have been the answer to communication in the past and are currently also serving well. You still hear once in a while comments like: “Tetra is the only technology you can rely your life on.” Or like: “Narrow band is the only way to guarantee critical connectivity needs.” For everyone’s information, these networks, like anything we humans do, are never 100% sure either. But what we are certain of, is that PMR solutions don’t provide for the broadband capacity required by modern public safety applications.

Single operator broadband availability in vehicle vs. multichannel router availability

The modern way to enhance the capabilities and to introduce modern working methods and services is to ensure the highest possible broadband availability by using several networks. These networks can be either commercial or a mixture of commercial and dedicated (government owned) networks. This approach gives huge monetary benefits, but also increases the resilience of the solution to a level unseen before in mobile access. The new approach is a paradigm change in our industry. Instead of spending billions in new networks, one can use smartly existing infrastructure and invest only into areas where commercial targets do not support investments.

Juhani Lehtonen