White paper: Broadband voice not ready yet for public safety
Broadband voice will not replace LMR for “many years, if ever,” according to a recently released white paper written by Harlin McEwen, chairman of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) technology committee.
McEwen, who also is chairman of the Public Safety Spectrum Trust, said he wrote the white paper in response to misinformation he was hearing among policy-makers in Washington, D.C., particularly the notion that broadband voice could replace LMR, which would allow public safety to use narrowband spectrum for a broadband network in the near future.
“We know that IP-types of services are giving us new opportunities to do things and that they’re going to be the way of the future,” McEwen said. “The problem is that it’s just not ready for prime time.
“People say, ‘Just as soon as broadband is available …’ But the problem is that we don’t know when it’s going to be available; we don’t even know when the products are going to do what we need.”
Indeed, current versions of LTE do not enable broadband voice with VoIP, although a version that should be released in 2011 should support voice, McEwen said. In addition, public-safety users require peer-to-peer and one-to-many capabilities — functionality that may be technically possible but is not being considered yet for broadband wireless VoIP.
“You’ve got to have a plan to do that, and there isn’t any right at the moment,” he said.
Peer-to-peer capability is particularly important. Without it, a public-safety user could be left with a worthless device when responding to an incident that makes the network unavailable, which could be dangerous for the first responder, McEwen said.
“I’m more cautious [about technology] than some, because I have to be,” he said.