LTE rollouts to begin this year
ORLANDO — LTE, the fourth-generation mobile wireless technology favored by public safety for a proposed 700 MHz broadband network, currently is being trialed and will be deployed in earnest by the end of this year, officials from Verizon Wireless and Alcatel-Lucent said yesterday during the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) Winter Summit.
Verizon’s existing third-generation CDMA EV-DO data networks provide customers with data rates between 0.6 Mb/s and 1.4 Mb/s, but LTE networks are expected to provide users with almost 10 times the data throughputs, between 5 Mb/s and 12 Mb/s downlink, said Diane Wesche, director of product development-government for Verizon Wireless.
Perhaps more important to public safety is that LTE’s uplink data rates will be between 2 Mb/s and 5 Mb/s, which typically is enough bandwidth to allow the transmission of video from an incident scene, Wesche said. In addition, Verizon Wireless is interested in working with public-safety agencies seeking access to this type of broadband performance, whether the network is dedicated solely for the public-safety agency or in some sort of public-private arrangement, she said.
“We’re open to partnering with you and talking with you in a variety of ways, depending on the path you want to take,” Wesche said. “One is to leverage a lot of our infrastructure. We have tens of thousands of base stations in locations that might make sense if you’re going to build out a private network — to collocate them in those and saving that cost in building out.”
Verizon Wireless is conducting trials of LTE in Boston and Seattle, and the carrier expects to begin deployment in 25 to 30 U.S. markets by the end of this year in what will be the beginning of a three-year LTE deployment schedule, Wesche said.
Len Fatica, director of public-safety LTE solutions for Alcatel-Lucent — a key vendor in the Verizon Wireless rollout plans — said he believes LTE is a logical technology for public-safety use, because it promises global economies of scale, high data speeds, low latency and high-speed mobility.
Initial LTE deployments will be data-only networks, but a commercial voice component is expected to be finalized in the standard during the next few months, allowing the fourth-generation networks to include voice offerings in 2011, Fatica said.
Of course, public safety is particularly interested in one-to-many voice solutions and push-to-talk functionality. Fatica said he believe broadcast/multicast can be available in 2012 or 2013. Push-to-talk features could be included in the same time period if a market demand is evident.
Establishing a public-safety market quickly is critical to ensuring that first-responder needs such as these and intrinsically safe devices are incorporated into LTE, said wireless consultant Robert LeGrande, the former chief technology officer for the District of Columbia.
“One thing we can certainly do to speed that along is to get started,” LeGrande said. “It’s good that we’re taking our time, as we should. But the longer it takes us to deploy the networks, the longer it takes us to invest in it, the slower the features [will be developed]. To actually inspire these guys to put this type of technology … into their roadmap, there has to be sales at the end of it. Consequently, we have to get started with this, or we’re going to continue to push those features out and delay the progress we can really make.”
In terms of making LTE public-safety-ready in terms of reliability, many options can be considered to decrease the likelihood that a network would fail, including providing additional backup power beyond commercial standards, Fatica said.
“It’s going to be whatever the budgets will allow,” Fatica said.