SAN DIEGO—As FirstNet evaluates bids to build a nationwide public-safety broadband network in the United States, public-safety LTE deployments in South Korea and the United Kingdom (UK) are expected to be completed next year, according to speakers at last week’s Public Safety Broadband Stakeholder Meeting conducted by Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR).

Jeong-ki Kim, South Korea’s minister of public safety and security, announced that the pilot network for SafeNet—South Korea’s public-safety LTE effort—is scheduled to be completed this month. Deployment of the nationwide SafeNet system is set to begin in October, with the project expected to be finished in December 2017.

Richard Hewlett, deputy director for the UK’s Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP), said that contracts for the emergency services network (ESN) have been signed with EE—the British commercial wireless carrier purchased in January by BT—for network services and with Motorola Solution for mission-critical systems integration and functionality.

“The ambition is to replace our existing national TETRA-based [network] with a better, more flexible, low-risk solution that keeps our users with the 21st-century capabilities that they’re asking for,” Hewlett said during his presentation last Thursday.

Indeed, when UK officials announced plans to have first responders migrate from analog VHF radio to the Airwave TETRA system, the notion was met with notable resistance from the British public-safety community, Hewlett said. That has not been the case with the LTE-based ESN, he said.

“This time, it’s very different; they’re saying, ‘Can we have it [public-safety LTE] earlier?’” Hewlett said.

Unlike FirstNet, the UK system does not have dedicated public-safety spectrum. Instead, the 1-billion-pound system will leverage EE’s commercial spectral assets in several bands, including 800 MHz, 1.8 GHz and 2.7 GHz.

“If you look at the combined spectrum that they’ve got, it’s huge,” Hewlett said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications after his presentation.

British first responders will have a separate PLMN ID from commercial users, so ESN traffic can be prioritized on a preemptive basis on the EE network, Hewlett said. In addition, UK officials would like to see greater use of 800 MHz spectrum for ESN traffic in rural areas, where better signal-propagation characteristics are beneficial.

Deployment of the ESN already has begun, Hewlett said.

“EE took a gamble and started building before we actually signed the contract,” Hewlett said. “The reference systems are being built now, and they’re both sitting on an Ericsson foundation. They’re working, but they’re not fully featured yet. We did our first test PTT [push-to-talk] call last week.

“What we need to do is probably spend a couple of months optimizing to play around with the parameters and figure out the best way to configure both the device spec and also the eNodeB spec to make sure that we got the optimized solution for capacity management.”