UC’s top stories of 2013 (Part 2)
On Tuesday, we presented five stories that we think are among the most compelling of 2013. Here are five more.
International community embraces public-safety LTE—Once an initiative unique to the United States, making LTE a long-term global communications standard for first responders gathered significant momentum during 2013, with one result being that public-safety requirements are expected to be addressed in the next two releases of LTE. Canadian officials have expressed confidence that the country’s 700 MHz broadband spectrum allocations for public safety will mirror the airwaves usage in the U.S. Meanwhile, a United Kingdom representative expressed a desire to have LTE replace the TETRA system in the UK as early as 2016. Officials from Australia and Germany have expressed similar long-term goals, but they did not have such an aggressive timeline as the UK.
TETRA gains a toehold in U.S.—Since the FCC approved the use of TETRA in the U.S., observers had been anticipating a rush of activity—particularly in the utility sector, because the digital technology generally is less expensive than Project 25 technology, and regarded as more feature-rich and robust than Digital Mobile Radio (DMR). It also is spectrally efficient, as it leverages four-slot TDMA to deliver 6.25 kHz channel equivalency. Though the rush has yet to occur, the logjam looks as if it’s starting to break. Early in the year, a TETRA system deployed by New Jersey Transit went live. That was followed in July by an announcement from Cobb EMC—an electrical cooperative that serves metropolitan Atlanta and southeast Georgia—that it would deploy a TETRA system, which is believed to be the first such deployment by a U.S. utility. Indeed, in an article published by UC last May, Klaus Bender, director of standards and engineering for the Utilities Telecom Council (UTC), said that more TETRA activity is occurring than people realize. “Utilities don’t publicize their purchasing efforts as much as some of the other organizations,” he said. We suspect he’s right.
Here’s looking at you—No matter how you look at it, video has reached a state of ubiquity from coast to coast. From fixed and mobile video-surveillance systems to wearable cameras to red-light and speed cameras, law enforcement has a cornucopia of tools that enable it to solve and prevent crimes—and generate an enormous amount of revenue generated by fines. And it’s not just the big cities that are doing this—even small towns are getting into the act. For example, the St. Louis suburb of Moline Acres, population 3,000, installed a speed camera and saw speed-limit violations plummet from 77 per hour to 8 per hour. Given successes like this—and given that speeding-related deaths nationwide account for nearly a third of all traffic fatalities each year, claiming almost 10,000 lives, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)—expect to see more of the cameras.
The growth of cloud and hosted services—Government, public-safety and enterprise organizations increasingly are embracing cloud-based and hosted solutions. These services provide operational and financial efficiencies, and enterprise fears concerning access and security rapidly are diminishing. For example, Hallmark was able to simulate the Valentine’s Day experience—the single most important event in its retail year—to test its systems well in advance of the big day, something that would have been too expensive to do without the cloud-based test solution it leveraged. Another example concerns New Jersey 211, which used a cloud-based call-center solution to route inbound human-services calls in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to home-bound workers and to facilities as far away as Houston and Palm Beach, Fla. Expect to see much more of this in the future—it simply makes too much sense.
Unexpected progress in public-safety LTE—Typically, the hype for technology is much greater than reality, particularly during initial deployments that often are completed several months behind schedule. But LTE has been an exception, as the ecosystem for the technology has matured rapidly, and U.S. wireless giants Verizon and AT&T both declared nationwide LTE coverage during the summer of 2013—six months ahead of schedule. On the public-safety LTE front, Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Program Manager Dereck Orr told Congress that he believes prototype devices that are designed to deliver mission-critical voice will be in PSCR labs for evaluation in 2015. In fact, proprietary solutions to the three key features needed for public safety—functionality to support group calling, push-to-talk and off-network operations—are in the market today, and LTE standards for these capabilities are expected to be finalized during the next two years.