Report: Public Safety To Emerge As Key Domain For Wireless Broadband Providers

Over the next few years, the public safety application segment is likely to emerge as a key domain for wireless broadband technology providers. Governments worldwide have clearly understood the role of advanced communication technologies after numerous unforeseen terrorist attacks and unanticipated natural disasters over the last decade revealed the loopholes in emergency communications. Consequently, many governments have eased their regulatory environments by lowering the barriers to entry for foreign companies and releasing dedicated spectrum for public safety.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Assessment of Wireless Broadband for Public Safety, finds that emerging wireless technologies such as WiMAX and LTE offer immense promise in enhancing the standard of public safety communications globally.

"IP-based communications is one of the most significant drivers of wireless broadband for public safety communications, as it solves one of the fundamental challenges faced in this segment - interoperability," said Technical Insights Research Analyst Anirudh S. Srinivasan. "Besides its ability to connect disparate radio systems and frequency bands, the IP platform also enables future technologies to be incorporated as and when required, without getting stuck with a single vendor or protocol."

IP-based communications enables efficient use of the public safety network in terms of bandwidth usage. This is where WiMAX and LTE enter the picture, as they offer an IP-based network, and are more suited to provide broadband data services to both fixed and mobile public safety users. It is evident that the near future is more likely to witness an integrated infrastructure with P25 Phase2 or TEDS, alongside WiMAX or LTE. A multilayer network capable of supporting disparate technological standards by using multiple nodal radios capable of operating in several frequency bands would offer the best environment for offering a versatile wireless broadband network.

Developments during the next three to six years are anticipated to be crucial for wireless broadband technologies. Analogue television spectrum is anticipated to be cleared by most countries and auctioned off for mobile broadband operators. A part of this spectrum is likely to be used for public safety communications in many of these countries on the same lines as in the United States. Moreover, LTE deployments are likely to have gained traction by 2011, beginning to offer stiff competition to WIMAX, ending speculations on what might be used for public safety communications in various regions. Most importantly, the economic recovery is expected to be underway, triggering a new growth wave.

While wireless connectivity provides greater flexibility and near-ubiquitous coverage, security issues still pose a major roadblock to wider adoption in this segment.

"Wireless communications are still prone to interception and security breaches regardless of advances in encryption techniques and wireless security protocols," adds fellow Technical Insights Research Analyst Archit Subramanian. "The difficulty of ensuring security in commercial Wi-Fi networks is well known, but with mission-critical public safety communications, this challenge is compounded manifold."

Counter-terrorism agents and law-enforcement officials cannot risk the prospect of having criminals and terrorists gaining access to critical information. Apart from this, the need to integrate high standards of resilience and on-the-move mobility adds to the complexity of wireless broadband deployment.

"The seriousness of an unreliable communication network for mission-critical public safety operations, is clearly evident; particularly, reliable connectivity cannot be compromised within critical indoor environments such as during fire and rescue operations," Srinivasan said. "Vacating parts of the 700 MHz television spectrum for public safety communications in the United States is a step in the right direction, as frequencies in this band offer better penetration and consequently better connectivity and improved reliability."

Synergistic partnerships between the industry and governing bodies can help deal with such impediments dogging the market landscape. The onus is on companies to garner support from public safety agencies, governing bodies, such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and decision makers in the government, to understand and bridge the capability gap.

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