Public safety finally is getting its wish, as some big-named vendors are beginning to jump into the LTE public-safety market. The question is, can they effectively sell their wares to public safety?

Last week Motorola, which is selling off its wireless network business to Nokia Siemens Networks for $1.2 billion, announced it is partnering with Ericsson, which will supply the LTE access equipment, parts of the packet core and related services to combine with Motorola's public-safety LTE core and interoperability platform. Interestingly, Motorola passed over its own infrastructure business by not partnering with Nokia Siemens Networks.

Motorola CTO Paul Steinberg said that there's an explanation for that. Ericsson has momentum and global reach along with an infrastructure deal with Verizon Wireless to deploy LTE in the 700 MHz band, giving the vendor experience with those airwaves.

NSN also recently made its own partnership with Harris, which introduced the BeOn push-to-talk solution for enterprises that utilize commercial mobile networks; the solution has been engineered for future use on LTE networks. As such, the partnership is designed to usher in mission-critical voice over broadband.

Then of course there is Alcatel-Lucent, which is heavily targeting more niche markets with LTE, including public safety and the oil and gas industries. It teamed with EADS Defense and Security to jointly develop a next-generation, public-safety communications solution based on LTE and U.S. public-safety standards. Alcatel-Lucent recently completed what the company describes as the first data call using an LTE network operating on Band 14 spectrum — the 700 MHz frequencies earmarked for public-safety broadband use in the United States.

I expect to see significantly more partnerships among commercial players to target public safety, which offers both the opportunity for infrastructure contracts but also managed services contracts, the growth driver for many of these vendors today. Eventually we'll see a slew of device makers along with applications developers targeting the communication needs of first responders.

But Peter Jarich, analyst with Current Analysis, brings up a good point. "What these guys need and probably don't even realize yet is a public-safety sales primer," he said. "All of a sudden we're seeing companies like Alcatel-Lucent and NSN trying to sell public-safety stuff. ... They need a whole new level of understanding when it comes to knowing how to sell to this market."

He's right. How vendors tie in LTE with existing Project 25 equipment will be a key, and we haven't seen too much information on that front, although Motorola has given some clarity. And certainly these vendors won’t be selling to an operator's chief technology officer. There will be skepticism on behalf of public safety as well as a need for education on both sides.

In short, public safety won’t be a market that these vendors leverage simply by tweaking their LTE networks. Often, there's a long procurement process. Vendors need to be fully committed, which will soon separate the serious players from the ones that merely think they can make some good money from the sector.

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