2015 ‘a pivotal year’ for critical communications

Steady progress with LTE, TETRA continues worldwide growth, 
but spectrum issues loom large

Critical decisions taken this year could impact the safety and security of millions of people worldwide. With many regions yet to decide whether to safeguard spectrum for Public Protection and Disaster Relief (PPDR) use, 2015 could be the last chance the mission critical community has to ensure that political decisions continue to allow  first responders priority  access to bandwidth for their mission-critical communications needs. 

TETRA, the world’s most successful mission-critical communications standard, operates in dedicated spectrum, ensuring that police, fire and ambulance users don’t, for instance, have to fight with Facebook users for communications capacity – but will this be the case for LTE? Steady advances with the LTE standard mean the technology looks likely to be ready to support hybrid critical communications networks* over the course of the next decade.   The decisions that will be taken at the World Radio Communications Conference in November will impact the effectiveness of first responders, if harmonised protected spectrum is not agreed. Individual governments will subsequently have to decide for or against dedicated LTE spectrum or solutions for mission-critical communications. 

“This is a pivotal year, when regulators decide whether the emergency services should continue to have the ability for uninterrupted communications during major incidents once the LTE standard is ready to support mission-critical applications,” said Phil Kidner, CEO of the TCCA.

“TETRA networks provide unrivalled availability, resilience and efficiency for their users. Many governments intend to continue investing in their existing TETRA networks, supplementing them with non-critical broadband data services using LTE. However, without guaranteed availability, LTE cannot claim to be a mission-critical bearer – assured spectrum is the key.”.

Although work to develop the LTE standard to support mission-critical users is progressing steadily with the creation of the new dedicated SA6 working group within 3GPP, the global TETRA user base continues to grow. IHS predicts a seven per cent increase by 2018. 

“Europe will remain the key region for TETRA, as the national TETRA networks across many European countries continue to expand to new users,” said Thomas Lynch, Associate Director, Critical Communications, IHS Technology.  “However, North America is set to be a large potential market for TETRA as the penetration of the standard into commercial sectors such as transportation increases.” 

*A combination of TETRA voice and LTE data using private and commercial networks

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