Broadband communications driven by LTE have the power to change the game for public-safety personnel. There is great demand for data connectivity and reliable voice to help offload today’s cellular subscriptions. Connectivity, improved device compatibility and real-time access to information also mean better situational awareness for officers and ultimately, better protection of citizens and property.

The past year brought many exciting innovations in public-safety LTE technologies and the network partnerships that provide them. Agencies around the country are beginning to test, evaluate and integrate LTE mobile broadband with their existing private networks. They also are investigating the funding and spectrum availability that will be required to make it a reality.

Public-safety funding will not have to bear the burden of LTE network development and the sector’s broadband deployments will leverage the same technology that provides the backbone for commercial 4G networks. More importantly, LTE offers immediate availability of the ecosystem — not just advanced devices coming in a variety of shapes and sizes, but also new, innovative public-safety applications and interoperability between agencies.

Over the last several months, we have been talking to hundreds of public-safety customers to learn how private broadband will impact their operations. While much of the discussion about the benefits of broadband access has centered on incident response, one of the most overlooked — and perhaps most compelling — aspects of bringing broadband to first responders involves daily communications to the home office and the way time-consuming daily procedures are executed — such as filing reports, reviewing crime-scene information, and distributing AMBER Alerts and BOLOs. This not only will help first responders become more efficient, it will enable them to stay in the field longer.

Even though LTE adoption is moving at an accelerated rate, that doesn’t mean police, fire and EMS procedures will be able to embrace it overnight. Current economic conditions demand careful investments that augment and enhance existing land-mobile-radio infrastructure. But change has certainly begun, and agencies are looking at where they need to go — what are the capabilities they need to do their jobs more effectively, to protect officers and citizens, and how they can get there most cost-effectively.

There are several tipping points that ultimately will fuel LTE deployments, including viewing network carriers as connectivity partners and learning to leverage all assets — both public and private — in a balanced way. Other key factors include the ability to secure the funding that will be needed to build out the proposed network for first responders, and whether the vital D Block spectrum is reallocated to public safety. Finally, there will be a need to integrate with existing infrastructure the myriad purpose-built, innovative devices borne of this effort that will leverage standards-based components to deliver economies of scale in a ruggedized form and deliver a user experience that is meaningful for critical operations.

Today, more than at any other time, next-generation partnerships and the communications they enable fundamentally will change how public-safety agencies operate. Smart, reliable connectivity will help prioritize data access, support any deployed device, enhance interoperability, and help officers in the field become more productive and keep them safer — no matter where a call takes them.

Darren McQueen is Motorola Solutions corporate vice president of private broadband and iDEN.