Urgent Matters

Where is voice over LTE heading? Tune in Thursday to find out


When mission-critical voice over LTE will be available is hot topic, so listen to what a knowledgeable panel of experts has to say on the subject during a webinar that will be part of the IWCE virtual trade show on Thursday.

Recently, I had lunch with a former Motorola engineer whose perspectives I respect. We engaged in spirited debate about when FirstNet would be able to deliver mission-critical voice over its nationwide public-safety LTE network. I said that I thought the puzzle would be solved within five years and as soon as two years. Not that it would be deployed, but rather, that they would know how to do it.

When I said this, she gave me a look similar to the one that I used to get from my kids when they were teenagers—you know, the one that screams, “You are an idiot.” She explained that the challenges of delivering mission-critical voice over LTE are far more complicated—and far more daunting—than I realize and predicted that it would be a couple of decades—at least—before this hurdle was cleared.

I came away unconvinced. While I do believe that the challenge is more complicated and daunting than my non-engineering brain can contemplate, I learned long ago not to bet against the technologists. I’m sure that, somewhere along the line, someone told Alexander Graham Bell, Guglielmo Marconi, Philo Farnsworth and Marty Cooper—the inventors of the telephone, radio, television and cellular phone, respectively—that the fantastic inventions they were mulling couldn’t be done.

There’s another reason for my thinking: the federal government wants mission-critical voice and data to converge over the FirstNet network. This is evidenced by the following graphic, which was pulled from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s November 2011 report entitled, “Public Safety Communications Evolution.” The key driver of this convergence will be cost containment—it simply will be far less expensive to operate and maintain one converged network than two separate voice and data networks. This is no small motivator, as everyone knows how cash-strapped the public-safety sector is right now—a situation that isn’t going to improve dramatically any time soon.

Public Safety Communications Evolution

Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security

So, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and if there’s enough interest in delivering mission-critical voice over LTE—and the federal government clearly is interested, as is the United Kingdom, which is seeking to replace TETRA with mission-critical LTE as early as 2016—then it will happen, and likely far sooner than anyone thinks.

A case in point is the story in today’s e-newsletter in which Donny Jackson reports that the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) branch of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) believes that mission-critical voice-over-LTE prototypes will be available for testing—in about two years.

How about that?

Of course, there’s much more to the voice-over LTE story than what appears above. For instance, it’s pretty much assumed at this point that public safety will at the very least use voice-over-LTE technology to offload non-mission-critical voice traffic from their strained land-mobile-radio systems. Utility and transportation entities are expected to do the same.

On Thursday, as part of our third annual virtual trade show, we are presenting a webinar—one of five on the day—that will examine the various use cases in these sectors. Panelists for this session—which will be moderated by our Donny Jackson—include the following:

·         Craig Farrill, FirstNet board member and acting CTO for FirstNet

·         David Boyd, director, Office for Interoperability and Compatibility, DHS Science and Technology Directorate

·         Patrick Mallon, executive director, LA-RICS Project Team

·         Harlin R. McEwen, chairman, IACP Communications & Technology Committee, and chairman of the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC), which is advising FirstNet

I’ll be tuning in to this session and hope you will too. In fact, I hope that you’ll avail yourself of all that this FREE event has to offer: more than 20 exhibitor booths, five webinars, a new App Center and the opportunity to network with industry peers. The event is positioned as a sneak preview of IWCE 2014 in Las Vegas, which will be held March 24-28, and I am confident it will deliver.

In fact, I am certain that attending Thursday’s virtual trade show will be time well spent—and you can’t argue with the price. 

Discuss this Blog Entry 2

Lima Echo Sierra (not verified)
on Dec 4, 2013

It will take a lot to convince me that having public safety to rely on a private companies network is a good idea. How many times do I look at my cellphone and @#$% when I have no coverage and relying upon a network that relies upon landlines to work doesn't compute either, will the sites have a fall back to in-cabinet repeat and will the power of the user end item increas from a few milliwatts if requred to go simplex. Also I don't want my tax dollars going to a private industry to beef up their network either.

on Dec 9, 2013

Oh, yeah, they might just have voice over LTE in 5 years or so, but with the government involved, it will be about as usable as obamacare.

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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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