First responders can leverage real-time mapping, video and push-to-talk applications with a dedicated LTE network for public safety, even if the expensive network core is located thousands of miles away, Harris demonstrated today during a press event at its headquarters in Chelmsford, Mass.

During the demonstration, Harris transmitted bandwidth-intensive communications to and from Chelmsford — where a dispatcher and an LTE packet core from Nokia Siemens Networks were located — to public-safety officers at LTE pilot locations in the cities of Miami, Las Vegas and Monroe County, N.Y. Although the officers were located thousands of miles away in some instances, they were able to communicate in real time to the dispatcher using the hosted core in Chelmsford.

This represents a significant change for public safety compared to many existing LMR environments, according to Chuck Shaughnessy, vice president of the Harris LTE business.

“Most public-safety entities are used to all of their communications equipment residing within the boundaries of their city or county,” Shaughnessy said during the demonstration. “They have towers they can see, they have a switch often in their precinct, they have dispatch consoles right down the hall, and they can put their hands on all of it.

“With LTE technology, the core has very high capacity — literally hundreds of thousands of people can operate on it — and it’s not practical or necessary for local police chiefs to have their own core down the hall from their office. They operate quite effectively when remotely located, even across thousands of miles. That’s a new paradigm for public safety, but it seems to be being adopted.”

During the demonstration, the dispatcher was able to view the location of the police vehicle, to know whether it was available for communications (communication may not be appropriate during certain surveillance situations), and engage in a push-to-talk call through the Harris BeOn application that provides a P25 feature set over a broadband connection.

This broadband versatility also represents a significant change for first responders, Shaughnessy said.

“When police officers today communicate, largely they talk using voice over this radio to a dispatcher, and the dispatcher talks back in voice mode,” he said. “The great majority of public-safety communications today is voice traffic over radios.”

In February, Congress passed a law allocating 700 MHz spectrum and $7 billion to build out a nationwide public-safety LTE network. To date, early LTE network deployments have been halted until the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board is appointed next month.

All of the LTE pilots deployed by Harris are single-site systems designed to demonstrate “proof of concept” and do not include all nuances that would be necessary in a full-fledged network deployment, Shaughnessy said. But the capabilities demonstrated still represent a “pretty significant step in public-safety communications,” he said.

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