Debate has raged over what role commercial mobile networks ought to play in the rollout of the national public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) that the First Responders Network Authority (FirstNet) is charged with crafting. A similar debate is happening in Europe, where a lack of dedicated, harmonized spectrum for public safety is opening opportunities for mobile operators to provide shared access to their infrastructure.
According to Frost & Sullivan, emergency services users are becoming more open to the idea of having mobile network operators (MNOs) serve as providers of mission-critical data services. "MNOs have an opportunity to monetize their LTE investments, directly through providing premium managed network services or via MVNOs and/or hosted evolved packet cores," said Sheridan Nye, senior industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan.
Nye suggests European operators of public-safety networks, which operate dedicated networks based on terrestrial trunked radio (TETRA), could establish MVNOs for 3G and LTE data services. The added broadband capabilities could enable use cases such as body-worn cameras, advanced navigation and augmented reality applications.
One major problem with relying on commercial mobile networks for first responder communications is that those networks have not been designed with the kind of resiliency and advanced voice features, including VoLTE, that critical communications users require. This problem has been cited in Europe as well as in the United States, where critics say FirstNet should not rely upon vulnerable commercial mobile networks that are not designed with disaster-hardiness in mind.
Nye noted it will be up to mobile operators to decide if it is worth it to them to upgrade their networks to serve public safety, which is a niche market in comparison to their consumer customer base.
"MNOs and LTE vendors across Europe are partnering with their counterparts in the traditional professional mobile radio space to address this specialized market," Nye said. "Operators must assure potential customers that they will make the necessary investments in LTE coverage, resilience, capacity and functionality, even outside densely populated areas."
- see this Frost & Sullivan release
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