Urgent Matters

Next-gen 911, FirstNet LTE visions appear to be a promising match


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Many think of next-gen 911 and public-safety LTE as separate initiatives, but they actually have a lot in common. In addition, each initiative will provide much greater functionality and efficiency if the other is in place at a given location.

Many of the biggest public-safety-communications initiatives in decades are deployments designed to enable the transition in two key areas: next-generation 911 (NG-911) and public-safety LTE, which is being overseen in the United States by FirstNet.

Discussions of these key efforts tend to focus almost solely on one part or the other. A conversation regarding next-gen 911 may include an acknowledgement or two about FirstNet, but it is rare to have details about public-safety LTE get addressed. The reverse is also true; an LTE-centric person often talks about next-gen 911 only as an afterthought.

This is understandable, because the standards for each component are being developed through different bodies and the funding mechanism are completely separate. In addition, it’s hard enough to find a person who can stay updated on either next-gen 911 or FirstNet; finding someone who is “fluent” about both is very difficult, particularly for those who have a day job.

However, the reality is that there are a lot of similarities in next-gen 911 and public-safety LTE. Both represent efforts to make a transition from voice-centric legacy systems to IP-based architectures that will allow first responders to leverage information via multiple media—data, photos and video, as well as voice. Both next-gen 911 and public-safety LTE require broadband connectivity that will be available in even the worst circumstances, requiring planning for hardening of network assets and redundancies that ensure connectivity when failures do occur.

Given this, I still believe it would be wise to consider having PSAPs serve as public-safety LTE sites when possible—both need to be connected to big pipes that need to be hardened and redundant, so why duplicate this cost at separate sites, if you can avoid it?

Next-gen 911 and public-safety LTE also are extremely complementary—so much so that having one without the other can be limiting in many scenarios.

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

on Jun 13, 2014

It seems that the most dynamic actions being taken in the PSAP arena are cost driven consolidations. Planners will be challenged to keep up with these opportunistic actions and the net gain considering all other site related and liability issues may not be worth the effort.

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Insights from Donny Jackson concerning the most important news, trends and issues.


Donny Jackson

Donny Jackson is editor of Urgent Communications magazine. Before joining UC in 2002, he covered telecommunications for four years as a freelance writer and as news editor for Telephony magazine....
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