Motorola Solutions and Verizon Wireless today announced an alliance between the two companies to provide a solution that is designed to ease public-safety agencies' transition to their own private LTE broadband networks operating in the 700 MHz band.

While Motorola is working with more than 200 public-safety entities to deploy LTE networks, funding issues have caused many agencies to delay construction entirely or drastically reduce the scale of their initial broadband wireless buildouts. Through the new alliance, Motorola plans to provide public-safety customers with an opportunity to leverage LTE applications across Verizon's commercial network as a coordinated supplement to a private LTE network and/or a roaming partner when the private network is not available.

"The solution that we've worked out with Verizon is to … offer customers the ability of a nationwide, enhanced carrier roaming package that pre-negotiates the technical and some of the business interfaces between private and public networks," said Rick Keith, Motorola Solutions senior director of LTE product management. "So, we can facilitate nationwide roaming, we can put in real-time device application control and management and be able to facilitate procedural operations on handsets, whether they're in public networks or in private networks, so they get a very similar experience."

Although the standards for roaming between networks have not been finalized, enough work has been done that Motorola is comfortable offering a roaming arrangement and will work to ensure that public-safety customers make investments that are compatible with finalized standards, Keith said.

To roam between private public-safety networks and Verizon's LTE systems, Motorola devices will have the capability of operating on public safety's Band 14 spectrum, as well as Verizon's Band 13 frequencies in the 700 MHz band, Keith said. In addition, the devices will be able to access Verizon's 2G/3G networks and will include Wi-Fi connectivity, he said.

Public-safety entities would need subscribe to Verizon's 4G service, but the carrier plans to offer multiple tiers of service at varying rates, based on the needs of first responders — needs that are expected to be influenced greatly on the progress of private LTE buildouts on behalf of the public-safety agency, said Dominic Demark, director of LTE strategy for Verizon Wireless.

"There's a bit of continuum until a [private public-safety] network is built out," Demark said. "We're inviting people to utilize the Verizon Wireless network today, get firsthand experience on 4G LTE, so they can port or develop applications in it that will transition into their own network.

"We're creating a rate plan to allow for that transition very flexibly, so the migration path really works well for public safety and allows them to somewhat seamlessly move into that private network."

While public-safety agencies will have full control of bandwidth capabilities when users are on their private networks — including pre-emption, if needed — Verizon will remain in control of its network, which serves myriad consumers and will not allow public-safety pre-emption, Demark said. However, through the work being done by the Motorola-Verizon alliance, dispatchers would be able to make prioritization requests to the Verizon network, so a first responder entering the Verizon network during an emergency is not just treated as another commercial user by the carrier network.

"[Verizon officials] don't offer control of their network to other parties, but they will at least consider giving some prioritization capability to that user to be able to give them the ability to get onto the network more conveniently than a normal consumer," Keith said.

In addition to service and roaming opportunities, public-safety agencies can work with the Verizon-Motorola alliance to explore the possibility of sharing cell-site assets to lower the deployment costs associated with the buildout of private public-safety LTE networks, Keith said.

"If Verizon has the extra footprint and their backhaul has enough capacity, and if I just have to put in a network-interface card — the power supplies are there and the towers are there — it takes a significant amount of upfront capital expense out of the deployment," he said.

For more information on LTE, attend these sessions at IWCE in Las Vegas, March 7-11, 2011.