Mission-critical push-to-talk (MCPTT) over LTE is scheduled to be demonstrated and deployed later this year in South Korea, which is one of multiple international efforts to determine the viability of transitioning mission-critical voice for first responders from land mobile radio (LMR) technologies to LTE, a Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) official said yesterday.

While the development of FirstNet in the United States has attracted considerable attention to public-safety LTE, other countries have expressed intentions to deploy the technology sooner, according to Andrew Thiessen, deputy program director for PSCR. Because of their accelerated timelines, these countries are helping to ensure that 3GPP—the standards body for LTE—establishes a standard for MCPTT by the middle of next year, he said.

“South Korea is expecting to see live demonstrations and deployment of mission-critical push-to-talk over LTE by the end of this calendar year,” Thiessen said. “The United Kingdom is looking to transition from TETRA to mission-critical push-to-talk like [South] Korea is, but at the end of 2016.

“So, there are other governments that are working on the same things that we are—with very aggressive time schedules—so they’re actively participating across the board in these standards-development efforts.”

Thiessen made the statements yesterday during an IWCE online College of Technology session entitled “Voice over LTE for the Enterprise and Public Safety.” During the paid online session (click here to register to view the archived version). Thiessen discussed the development of the LTE standard for public safety. Emil Olbrich, vice president of networks at Signals Research Group, provided insights into the deployment of commercial voice over LTE and unveiled research findings regarding the voice quality of VoLTE solutions under different network-congestion scenarios.

Last month, Daejung “DJ” Kim—chief of the radio and broadcasting department standardization division for the Telecommunications Technology Association in South Korea—outlined South Korea’s strategy for deploying public-safety LTE while speaking at the PSCR’s annual Public Safety Broadband Stakeholder Meeting in San Diego.

South Korea’s urgency to revamp its first-responder communications system was initiated in May 2014, one month after the tragic sinking of the MV Sewol ferry, which resulted in 304 deaths among the 476 passengers and crew aboard the vessel.

Most of the passengers aboard the Sewol were high-school students, who were more successful communicating during the incident with their commercial broadband wireless devices than public-safety entities using narrowband LMR, Kim said.

“The students in the boat were using an LTE broadband network to broadcast the situation to their parents and friends, using instant messengers,” Kim said in June. “Public safety could not use the narrowband technology, but the teens used the advanced technology—I say that this is some kind of a digital divide,” Kim said during the PSCR event.”

Known as SafeNet, the South Korea initiative has selected LTE as its next-generation public-safety technology. A proof-of-concept pilot project is scheduled to be finished this year, Kim said. Next year, public-safety pilot projects will be deployed in eight of the nine provinces in South Korea, and plans call for SafeNet services to be available to first responders throughout South Korea in 2017, he said.