Long-Term Evolution (LTE) should be an international broadband standard for public safety, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) Global Alliance declared in a recent policy statement. If this notion is realized, it could benefit first responders in multiple ways.

Entitled, “4G Broadband Technologies for Emergency Services,” the formal policy statement was approved unanimously by delegates from Europe, North America, Asia Pacific and elsewhere at a recent APCO Global Alliance meeting.

One problem for U.S. public-safety agencies could face when trying to deploy 700 MHz LTE networks is that the first-responder market in the United States is very small when compared to the global commercial LTE user base. For this reason, many are concerned that public-safety-specific requirements could be overlooked by vendors and standards organizations. This lack of scale could result in public-safety solutions being slow to reach the market and potentially being more expensive than comparable commercial products.

Some have noted that public safety still needs to clarify its requirements, but the issues regarding the public-safety market size are very real. To increase the user base for proposed LTE networks within the United States, there is growing interest to extend access beyond traditional public safety to other governmental personnel and even critical-infrastructure employees.

But to capture the attention of bodies that oversee development of the LTE standard, many industry experts believe public safety needs to demonstrate a global reach — something the APCO Global Alliance is advocating with its latest policy statement, said Richard Mirgon, former APCO President.

“That’s exactly what our goal is, not only to get [standards bodies] to work on it, but it significantly drives the costs down, because you’re creating a larger market,” Mirgon said.

Mirgon said “there’s truly a need for international standards within public safety,” noting that firefighters from Canada and Australia have traveled to the western U.S. to help fight wildland fires in that portion of the country. In addition, Mirgon said officials in Canada are trying to get regulators in that country to allocate 700 MHz broadband spectrum to public safety, in an effort to make future broadband interoperability easier along the northern U.S. border.

Of course, actually getting the world to adopt LTE as the public-safety broadband standard promises to be easier said than done. But good ideas have to start somewhere, and the APCO Global Alliance should be applauded for taking this step down a path that has the potential to significantly improve the standards, economics and interoperability aspects of mobile broadband for future first responders.

What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.