The recent developments in the discussion about future broadband solutions for public safety have been quite alarming. We hear arguments like "frequencies save lives" and "dedicated broadband is the only solution you can trust your life on". These demands to allocate natural resources and tax money to totally new networks are same as asking for dedicated road infrastructure for public safety.
There are two concerns in public safety about mobile broadband that lead to these demands. The first one is availability. If broadband networks were roads we would already have 3-4 road providers in each country. All of them assure the roads to be available in the populated areas. Simultaneously they also overlap quite nicely. If one road owner does not guarantee a road to your remote summer cottage, it is very likely that one of the 3-4 have made the road for you. Of course, there might be some areas where there are no roads, but there's a reason for that: no one lives there! If a plane crashed into an area with no roads, one would just use helicopters and vehicles designed for terrain to access the crash site.
The second argument for dedicated networks and frequencies is congestion. This demand means that if the roads were full of traffic, we would need to have separate roads for police and ambulances so they would not be blocked by other traffic. Think of the use of natural resources (land) and the investment into building these extra roads. And all just for these occasional jams. How about the idea of giving priority to ambulances by letting them easily by when they have emergency? How about organizing green lights for their path as they are driving to and from a site?
We have, of course, solved the issues of public safety when it comes to road infrastructure. It's because the issues is comprehensible to a common man. The broadband network infrastructure is not much different. Broadband networks can be operated and handled actually very similarly to road infrastructure.
As we already have 3-4 network infrastructure providers in most countries, it makes sense to use a combination of networks for best possible availability. As the infra is already there, why to build it? Solutions like multi-channel routing with 3-4 simultaneous connections enable the usage of the. It's a bit like why we have two eyes. Not any single network is ever resilient enough anyhow! How about areas with no networks then? Remote road to a non-inhabited destination because of a possible plain crash has never been argument to build a road, but seems to be for public safety networks. Also with broadband one can always use satellite or build temporary networks when necessary.
Congestion can also be avoided already with current infra. Prioritization is already possible and implemented for LTE networks. You can even accomplish dynamic prioritization where you use it only for certain users and allocate the traffic only when necessary. Just like with normal traffic: when the situation requires, you stop other traffic.
Dedicates networks and allocated frequencies are not the answer to resilient, redundant and safe broadband infrastructure. Special solutions for public safety are required, since always online connectivity in critical situations is a must. Dedicated network and frequencies can in some cases be seen as an additional insurance. But giving away natural resources or investing into a unnecessary infra is the same as building dedicated roads only to be used by public safety.
More on the topic by Juhani Lehtonen soon to be published in a new white paper about public safety broadband development.