Public-safety agencies desperately need dedicated broadband connectivity to effectively move data and video to the right responders at the right time. Private LTE is a technology that promises to deliver the key services first responders have been wanting. But it doesn't have to be a choice between private and public networks. Indeed, in certain circumstances, there is a clear advantage to using both.

Cost, risk management and flexibility are significant factors in evaluating deployment alternatives, particularly when deciding whether a mix of carrier-based and private LTE networks makes sense. Any combined solution needs to provide the connectivity that first responders need to provide prioritized public-safety services, and should meet their budget requirements as well. Agencies are evaluating implementation approaches that fit all of their needs, and thus are making decisions that balance the capital investment in owning an LTE network versus the operational expenses of leveraging a carrier-based solution. There is a clear advantage in using both.

When evaluating the technology and services that comprise a balanced solution, agencies should consider:

Control. Agencies need to maintain control of the network by clearly defining performance metrics that ensure high service levels. This includes 24/7 monitoring, dispatch thresholds, service level agreements, and compliance to security and regulatory standards.

Coverage. Responders must have coverage throughout their jurisdictional area, with the ability to add coverage areas as needs evolve. This includes a framework to allow for the development of carrier-based roaming capabilities while performing a long-term network build out of the private LTE network.

Capabilities. Agencies need real-time provisioning of new users and user services for rapid incident response involving external agencies. The network needs to support existing and new agency applications and data systems. Security applications need to be compatible with LTE network services while ensuring agency control of traffic.

Capacity. The solution must be able to handle the communications load during normal daily conditions, but also be capable of prioritizing and managing overload conditions during mutual-aid and disaster response covering a variety of emergency situations.

Cost. The solution must provide the full capabilities listed above within a capital and operational cost structure that meets community needs. This includes consideration of personnel, hardware, software, maintenance, support and management.

Compliance. The deployment of any new LTE network must meet the requirements of the various standards facilitating nationwide interoperability — not only with other private LTE systems but also with public broadband and private LMR networks.

Public-safety agencies exist to protect our communities. State and local officials prefer the implementation model that provides the best fit to their procedural strategy and the most efficient use of limited funds. LTE technology arrives at a time when budget constraints and system implementation policies are changing. In many cases, not only are agencies combining their investments to deploy LTE as a group, but some are investigating converged systems that cover multiple states.

As a result, administrators and CIOs are seeking assistance to design, implement, support and manage solutions that provide a clear path toward next-generation public-safety capabilities. IT expertise can make the difference in the moment first responders take action. By partnering with expert IT professionals from industry-leading providers, agencies can benefit from decades of experience in serving the unique needs of public-safety communications.

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Rick Keith is the senior director of LTE product management for Motorola Solutions.

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