Urgent Matters

Recent events underscore significant market impact of LMR-LTE convergence


Many of the key trends that were displayed and discussed during IWCE 2017 promise to have a significant impact on the critical-communications industry throughout the rest of the year and into the long-term future.

When FirstNet was created, many first-responder representatives complained that the organization’s board included more members with a background in commercial broadband than in public safety. Indeed, such tensions existed as FirstNet started, resulting in some well-chronicled rocky times.

But the commercial board members soon grasped the gravity of the public-safety mission and why first-responder representatives were unwilling to compromise certain core values. Meanwhile, public-safety board members quickly recognized that commercial expertise would be needed to meet their technical and economic goals. By working together, FirstNet has a contract to develop a public-safety system that promises to be financially self-sustaining for 25 years, despite appearing to be severely underfunded at the outset.

And such expertise recognition also can be found at the vendor level, as well. One of my favorite examples is Pepro, a private Pennsylvania-based company that makes hardened deployable towers that are designed to provide coverage in locations where coverage is unavailable. After years of providing solutions for the LMR industry, Pepro worked with Nokia to develop an LTE deployable tower—including a Faraday cage that protects equipment against lightning strikes and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks—that was demonstrated at IWCE 2017.

When I asked Pepro CEO Vic Garmong whether Nokia would have found—much less worked with—Pepro, if FirstNet did not exist, Garmong quickly replied, “Probably not.” Garmong acknowledged that a small LMR company like Pepro normally would not have been on the radar screen of a commercial wireless infrastructure giant like Nokia, a global company with a market cap of more than $35 billion.

However, with the need for hardened solutions to address public-safety needs as part of FirstNet, Nokia and Pepro were able to collaborate on a new system. And, while the Pepro tower was designed to address public-safety needs as FirstNet is deployed, the solution also could prove to be useful to commercial carriers that have system outages or coverage gaps.

My hope is that this scenario is repeated many times in the future. As society becomes increasingly dependent on wireless technology—most households do not have a landline phone, according to a recent report—wireless technology simply has to work. Critical-communications vendors have understood this reliability dynamic for decades and can provide valuable insights to the commercial sector that can be beneficial to everyone in a converged environment.


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Insights from Donny Jackson concerning the most important news, trends and issues.


Donny Jackson

Donny Jackson is editor of Urgent Communications magazine. Before joining UC in 2002, he covered telecommunications for four years as a freelance writer and as news editor for Telephony magazine....
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