This article by Steve Crutchfield first appeared on LinkedIn here.
First responders have long relied on land mobile radio networks to manage their daily responsibilities safely and efficiently. While next generation technologies including mobile broadband are changing the public safety landscape, it’s important to realise that voice communication remains the primary need for first responders.
Unlike many industries, public safety agencies operate each day in an environment that is “mission-critical” – in other words, any failure or disruption to systems relied upon by first responders have the potential to cause turmoil, especially if those systems are not available when needed most.
This extends to the communications technology used by public safety and explains why these organisations require service and performance that typically exceed the levels needed by enterprises and consumers. In public safety, these needs include the ability to:
- communicate clearly and without delay.
- withstand the impact of natural disasters and emergencies.
- uphold the highest levels of security.
- ‘interoperate’ and share information between organisations.
Without question, broadband technology, including greater use of video and more sophisticated applications, is transforming public safety. However, public safety is a “voice” centred environment where clear verbal commands are absolutely essential to ensuring the right outcomes.
We only need to imagine the potential impact of a police officer mishearing a critical instruction in a high pressure situation to understand how much our first responders depend on reliable voice communication. Broadband-based communication will eventually provide the reliability needed to ensure the right outcome in every situation, but not before technology and technology standards mature to the same levels that public safety radio communications provide today.
That’s why there is continued investment in land mobile radio (LMR) technology in Australia and globally. Most Australian states and territories plan to use radio communication for at least the next decade, while in Europe, some public safety radio contracts have been extended to 2040 and beyond.
Investment in radio communication also extends to research and development to improve the communication experience for radio users as well as the capability of radio networks, devices and applications.
This week we announced our partnership with the New South Wales Telecommunications Authority (NSW TA) to upgrade the state’s 150 existing radio sites used by public safety organisations, as well as expanding the network to 23 new sites in the north west of the state.
The upgrade will improve the communications infrastructure used by New South Wales’ emergency services every day, ensuring the state is better equipped to deal with major emergencies and natural disasters. Our team, with help from our partners, will ensure the network provides enhanced voice and data communications, extensive coverage, interoperability and resilience to support daily operations for New South Wales’ public safety agencies.
Recognising the growing importance of smart devices as a communications tool for public safety officials, NSW TA is also deploying our WAVE application within its network. This technology enables radio network access and communication to be securely extended to team members carrying smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices.
The continuing evolution of public safety mobile broadband is a positive development. It will enable public safety agencies to combat more complex threats to safety, to overcome constraints on their budgets and resources and provide them with new capabilities in response to growing community expectations. We developed our vision for smart public safety, Next Generation Mobile Intelligence, to help public safety agencies make the right technology investments to achieve their goals.
As an industry, we have an important role to play in guiding public safety agencies through a time of significant change, and ensuring that any new technology introduced does not compromise the operational outcomes first responders deliver each day. That’s why today and for the foreseeable future, only radio communication can provide the mission-critical performance that our agencies require.
Regardless of whether we place radio or data-based communications into the hands of public safety officials, we must ensure those who protect our communities have the best available tools and resources to do their jobs.