In the past, essential mission critical communication features were only
available on LMR networks. But in the near future, even public cellular
systems will deliver mission critical features. If your communication
system is close to the end of life, should you invest in LMR, or should
you wait to see what happens in LTE?
critical communications, nor deliver other essential
features like Direct mode, PTT or Group mode to a level
that first responders could rely on. Attempts to "bolt"
these on failed.
LTE Releases 12 and 13 offer substantial support for
precisely this mission critical functionality. And perhaps
more significantly, the core LTE network itself is being
improved to the point where it can offer the resilience
and robustness that mission critical needs.
“ WHAT ARE LTE CELLULAR STANDARDS
PROMISING FOR MISSION CRITICAL
Currently, LTE networks deliver really fast data, and
newer ones also deliver voice, albeit without mission
critical features. Releases 12 and 13 support true mission
critical functionality. Release 12 is probably the biggest
single standard that 3GPP has ever released, and around
70% of the new features directly benefit mission critical
users one way or another.
Of course, not all of these features are there to support
mission critical users. For example, the new proximity
services have a wider application. Retailers can see that
you are in the vicinity and send targeted ads directly to
your phone: “Last time you visited us you bought this.
Now we’ve got a special on these items.” Crucially though,
it does a very good job of direct mode functionality – an
important feature for mission critical users.
The content of each release is signalled well in advance,
so vendors can take advantage of new features as they
evolve. The new LTE releases will provide significant
benefits for mission critical communications.
“ WHAT’S THE ROLE OF CELLULAR IN
MISSION CRITICAL COMMS? ”
Although current cellular networks and devices are
designed for commercial use, for a decade or more,
mission critical organizations around the world have
been using cellular technology pretty much ubiquitously.
Have you ever been at a big game when you can’t access
your cell network because everyone else is? Imagine
what happens in an emergency! At times of peak load,
even first responders can’t get onto the cellular system.
New LTE releases will fix this.
Despite the public safety community lobbying 3GPP
to include features that directly support mission critical
functionality, previous generations of cellular technology
have not been able to adequately prioritize mission
“ WHAT IS LTE, WHO IS BEHIND IT, AND HOW
DOES IT WORK? ”
LTE (Long Term Evolution) is a global cellular standard
created to deliver high bandwidth mobile data using
a completely redesigned core and RAN (Radio Access
Network). Many smartphones have LTE already –
it allows your phone to stream video, for example.
The LTE standard is controlled by 3GPP (Third
Generation Partnership Project) and almost every part
of the creation of these standards is open. So you can
see clearly what the new standards will deliver, and even
contribute to them if you wish.
3GPP doesn’t operate like the old-style standards bodies
that you might be familiar with. Part of its evolutionary
philosophy is a forward pipeline of new functionality
which builds on already-deployed systems. They’re a bit
like the Borg on Star Trek. It’s not quite “resistance is
futile”, but they certainly assimilate anything of value
from other standards, rather than reinvent the wheel.