Public Safety Communication Evolution

The Public Safety Communications Evolution graphic illustrates the evolution of public safety communications as it transitions from today’s technology to a desired long term vision of convergence. This evolution provides a conceptual framework for building wireless broadband communications while maintaining land mobile radio networks to support mission critical voice communications. This section further describes the elements of this framework, including a description of the desired converged environment and the requirements that must be met in order to achieve this desired evolution.

The graphic provides three lanes to illustrate the parallel evolution of LMR networks, commercial broadband networks, and a public safety broadband network. The graphic highlights the current state of communications, a transition period of unknown length, and the desired evolution end-state. As communications evolve, public safety will continue to use the reliable mission critical voice communications offered by traditional LMR systems; at the same time, agencies will begin to implement emerging wireless broadband services and applications. During the transition period, public safety will begin building out a dedicated broadband network. As the public safety wireless broadband network is built, public safety organizations will begin to transition from commercial broadband services to the public safety dedicated network. If and when the technical and non-technical requirements can be met and are proven to achieve mission critical voice capability, it is desired that over time agencies will migrate entirely to this broadband technology. Since broadband technology does not support a mission critical voice capability (talk around/simplex/direct mode), there will be a significant period of time where both wireless broadband and traditional LMR networks are necessary.

The top path shown in the graphic illustrates the continued use of land mobile radio networks for mission critical voice and data communications. Mission critical voice communications have historically been delivered using LMR systems built to public safety requirements and operated by individual agencies or jurisdictions.

The lower path shown in the graphic illustrates emergency responders’ increasing use of commercial and unlicensed broadband networks to augment their mission critical communications. Although not built to public safety standards, commercial and unlicensed networks are valuable as a complement to reliable LMR voice networks. As commercial broadband capabilities are made available, public safety agencies will begin to use these services to complement their current LMR communications. Agencies will use their LMR networks for mission critical voice communications, and will use commercial wireless broadband for non-mission critical data communications. Over time, reliable public safety broadband networks based on LTE technology will be built to public safety requirements. As a nationwide public safety wireless broadband network is built out, real-time mission critical broadband applications are likely to migrate to this network.

The center path shown in the graphic represents a dedicated network built to public safety requirements using dedicated spectrum. The public safety community has identified Long Term Evolution (LTE) as the standard technology for development of this network. As this capability is built out using LTE technology, public safety will continue to work with industry and all levels of government to advance the technology and address the requirements necessary to reach the desired evolution. During the transition period, public safety will begin using LTE for mission critical data applications. In the future, the public safety community will seek wireless broadband technology that can support all of public safety’s mission critical communication needs including voice.