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How to guarantee mission-critical multimedia for public-safety networks

First responders will benefit from the situational awareness provided by real-time video and other multimedia applications, but it is important that public-safety agencies ensure that they design their networks properly to ensure that their networks have the appropriate capacity and reliability to be used in a mission-critical environment.

By Tim Egan

For first responders in an emergency situation, every second counts. They need to quickly convey situational awareness to remote command and control centers, streaming real-time high-definition (HD) video as events unfold, so that those in charge can assess what’s happening and dispatch the right team to the right place at the right time,.

However, public-safety communication networks are challenged to provide this expanded functionality. They currently use Land Mobile Radio (LMR) systems such as Project 25 (P25) or Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA), which only support voice and low-bandwidth data.

The recent emergence of broadband public-safety networks can provide the high capacity that mission-critical multimedia applications require. In fact, this migration is already occurring, but will require wireless backhaul that is highly optimized for broadband technologies such as LTE

When upgrading a public-safety network and optimizing for LTE, organizations must consider a number of criteria to ensure a smooth transition.

Any new solution needs to be fast and simple to implement in situations when time is of the essence.

Of course, organizations must also consider the transition from P25 networks to LTE networks. Vendors ought to demonstrate the ability to operate both simultaneously, to ensure uninterrupted communications, as well as provide the utmost security and reliability.

And in the end, as always, any solution must meet the budgetary constraints of a public-safety organization.

The following checklist of questions that focuses on the main requirements for public-safety networks:

Is the solution optimized for public safety’s rigorous multimedia needs?

As mentioned, most public safety networks are still voice-centric, with narrow bandwidth. They are reliable but lacking some modern-day security requirements, like real-time images and total voice clarity in any circumstance. Powerful new solutions offer real-time visibility and low latency, providing first responders with embedded cameras that can send real-time HD videos back to command centers quickly.

Will the transition to LTE be a smooth one?

In one sense, public-safety agencies moving to LTE are making a major investment in their networks' capacity, but they also are taking a risk. This is not a transition that can be rushed; rather, efforts must be taken to ensure that it is executed safely and reliably, without any service interruption. 

After all, public safety does not take a break—a major event can take place at any point. Thus, old networks must remain fully active until the new network is 100% flaw proof, and organizations still need to be able to maintain their T1 links and packet networks while deploying the new network.

Is the new network secure?

A new solution needs to eliminate any risk of unwanted visitors eavesdropping or attacking the network. A good product will offer several layers of protection—this means physical protection, as well as data encryption and management-interface security

As agencies continue to adapt to growing public-safety network needs, bandwidth capacity for rich multimedia applications—available in ever-more-compact form factors—will grow, and smooth transitioning to next-generation technologies will ensure continuous communication.

And then, security organizations will be able to better focus on their main role: protecting us.

Tim Egan is the VP of Channels at wireless backhaul specialist Ceragon. Find out more about how to enable HD mission-critical multimedia for your public-safety organization by visiting

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