Maravedis: Will carriers capitalize on the emergence of LTE in vertical solutions?

By Ann Howe, Senior Analyst, Maravedis Inc

Ann Howe

The stage is set for 4G LTE as the large U.S. carriers' roll out moves forward. Consumer device adoption continues and data use from real-time entertainment to P2P file sharing finds new converts.  For the enterprise verticals and industrial sectors, accommodating LTE may require more than the latest consumer smart phone and fastest pipe.

A larger question is who will profit most from verticals requiring complex delivery? In the past, U.S. operators have ceded services revenue to integrators or vertical specialists. Testing apps, test beds and cloud solutions are in play among carriers now. But will the big U.S. and international operators pursue verticals to reclaim and generate new integration revenue or maintain their traditional connectivity model? It is to the advantage of the carriers to step up and pursue a larger share of this LTE vertical services market. Verticals are already growth areas and have the potential to pay back the expenditures on 4G LTE network upgrades.

A good example is the large but fragmented public safety sector.  Firefighters require in-building communications in basements or stairwells.  Due to propagation characteristics, 2.4 GHz does not go through walls well while 900 MHz does not do well in urban canyons and steel buildings. Although 450 MHz cuts through construction better, it does not do as well as 150 MHz. There is nostalgia for older analogue communications which handled in-building needs for basement environments.

Police roaming not only uses voice but may require image for suspect identification, documents such as warrants, or video of in progress events. Laptops mounted on dashboards may combine with mounted in-vehicle voice to dispatch and also with mobile handhelds to other officers when an officer leaves a vehicle. Camera surveillance, alarm notifications, and 911 calls routing to officers may come from diverse systems.

Police and fire chiefs tasked with purchasing are justifiably facing a tough process of technical evaluation, many in constrained fiscal environments. U.S Federal government funded markets have greater expertise but wider coordination has been a challenge. Every disaster or threat adds urgency. So too does having a shot and winning federal funding. To this, LTE adds another layer of complexity for the professional whose primary role is not technical.

Recently, Harris in partnership with NSN began field testing its VIDA Broadband LTE solution that integrates existing narrowband public safety communications systems, creating a single unified broadband and narrowband communications solution. Tested in the Dallas Ft. Worth Airport, it is the kind of effort linking LTE to P25 networks that marks increased acknowledgement of the U.S. LTE rollout touching this vertical.

Motorola Solutions has partnered with Ericsson and Verizon Wireless in the P25 arena. Ericsson's LTE technology backbone with Motorola's devices, video security and command and control solutions targets the public agencies. The Verizon offering proposes that with Motorola, Verizon Wireless will provide public safety agencies the option to select available existing Verizon Wireless sites to deploy private LTE network equipment. Under the arrangement, by sharing carrier sites, public agencies can shift from the upfront capital spend associated with acquiring and developing new agency-owned LTE sites to a monthly cost-sharing relationship with Verizon Wireless.  The impact here of the recent NSN acquisition of portions of Motorola remains to be seen.

On the international scene Samsung has partnered with Thales to craft a C4I solution based on LTE 4G.  Alcatel-Lucent and Cassidian launched a joint development of a mobile broadband solution for emergency response and security communications systems operating in the 400 MHz spectrum band using LTE technology.

Ann Howe is a senior analyst with research firm Maravedis. Maravedis is a leading analyst firm focusing on 4G and broadband wireless technologies and markets.

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