Public-safety LTE spawning strange bedfellows

Lynnette Luna The adoption of LTE into the public-safety network realm is not only attracting some big-named vendors but spawning some strange bedfellows.

Earlier this week, Motorola (NYSE:MOT), which is selling its wireless network business to Nokia Siemens Networks for $1.2 billion, is passing on its own infrastructure business and partnering with Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC), which will supply Motorola's public-safety LTE core and interoperability platform (what is left after the sale to NSN) with Ericsson's LTE access equipment, parts of the packet core and related services. (See the related story below) Certainly the irony of the deal is not lost on those who have been involved with the public-safety communications community for decades. Ericsson and Motorola were once bitter rivals in that realm.

While it seems odd that Motorola would pass over its own infrastructure business by not partnering with NSN, Motorola's reasoning makes sense. According to Paul Steinberg, Motorola's CTO, Ericsson has momentum and global reach, and, perhaps most importantly, has an infrastructure deal with Verizon Wireless to deploy LTE in the 700 MHz band, the same band public-safety deployments will go in.

In another ironic twist, NSN recently partnered with a fierce Motorola competitor on the public-safety side, Harris. Last month, Harris introduced the BeOn push-to-talk solution that is designed for enterprises on commercial cellular networks and for use on LTE networks. It also announced a deal with NSN to develop Harris' VIDA broadband platform, the platform the BeOn service is based on, for public-safety use on LTE. The partnership is designed to usher in mission-critical voice over broadband.

Moreover, Samsung recently entered the public-safety fray on the other side of the Atlantic, teaming with defense contractor Thales to create what they call the first offer supporting both mobile WiMAX and LTE as well as the TETRA European public security standard.

Then there is Alcatel-Lucent, which is heavily targeting more niche markets with LTE. It teamed with EADS Defence and Security to jointly develop a next-generation public-safety communications solution based on LTE and U.S. public-safety standards.

I suspect this is just the beginning of new partnerships for public-safety contracts. At least 21 different public-safety entities, most of them statewide, are keen on deploying LTE as soon as the technology is ready. They may not be country-wide contracts but they could prove rather lucrative when considering that all will likely have a need for some sort of professional services and network management element as IT departments, accustomed to public-safety radio, are not prepared to run a mobile IP network.--Lynnette

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