Worldwide LTE infrastructure market for first responders to reach $800M this year: analyst

LTE networks for first responders are coming online around the world.

Annual investments in LTE infrastructure for public-safety workers has become a hot topic in the United States as FirstNet and AT&T try to persuade every state and territory to use the network they will build for first responders. But public safety LTE infrastructure initiatives are being pursued around the world, and the segment will surpass $800 million by the end of the year, according to SNS Research.

“Until recently, LTE has predominantly been considered a supplementary mobile broadband technology in the public safety sector, to provide high-bandwidth data applications that cannot be delivered over existing narrowband LMR (Land Mobile Radio) systems,” the market research firm said in a press release. “However, with the standardization of capabilities such as MCPTT (Mission-Critical PTT) by the 3GPP, LTE is increasingly being viewed as an all-inclusive critical communications platform for the delivery of multiple mission-critical services ranging from PTT group communications to real-time video surveillance.”

And while construction of FirstNet’s towers isn’t expected to occur until early next year, multiple LTE networks dedicated to public safety are already in use around the world. Nationwide systems are up and running in the oil-rich GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) region, SNS said, and citywide networks are online in Spain, China, Pakistan, Laos and Kenya. “Early builder” networks are operational in the United States and will eventually merge with the FirstNet system, and early pilot LTE networks are being commercialized in South Korea.

“However, the use of LTE in the public safety sector is not restricted to dedicated networks alone,” SNS continued. “For example, the United Kingdom Home Office is in the process of deploying an ESN (Emergency Services Network) that will use British mobile operator EE’s commercial LTE RAN and a dedicated mobile core to eventually replace the country’s existing nationwide TETRA system. The secure MVNO model is already being used in multiple countries, albeit at a smaller scale—to complement existing TETRA networks with broadband capabilities. In addition, this approach is also beginning to gain traction in other parts of the world, such as Mexico.”

Meanwhile, in the United States, FirstNet and AT&T continue to garner commitments from states while Verizon and Rivada Networks plead their cases. Georgia recently became the 31st state to opt in to FirstNet’s offering, but New Hampshire is reportedly leaning toward opting out of that offering. Rivada also recently won a request for proposal (RFP) to service emergency workers in Colorado, and California recently issued an RFP seeking alternatives to FirstNet’s service.

Verizon is also competing in that market and reportedly already serves roughly 70% of emergency workers in the U.S. with wireless services.