Public safety broadband investments to exceed $5.7bn by 2026

SNS Telecom & IT
Wednesday, 24 January, 2024


Public safety broadband investments to exceed $5.7bn by 2026

SNS Telecom & IT’s latest research report indicates that annual spending on public safety broadband infrastructure and devices will exceed $5.7 billion globally by the end of 2026.

With the commercial availability of 3GPP standards-compliant MCX (mission-critical PTT, video and data), HPUE (high-power user equipment), IOPS (isolated operation for public safety) and other critical communications features, LTE and 5G NR (New Radio) networks are increasingly gaining recognition as an all-inclusive public safety communications platform for the delivery of real-time video, high-resolution imagery, multimedia messaging, mobile office/field data applications, location services and mapping, situational awareness, unmanned asset control and other broadband capabilities, as well as MCPTT (mission-critical PTT) voice and narrowband data services provided by traditional LMR (land mobile radio) systems. Through ongoing refinements of additional standards — specifically 5G MBS/5MBS (5G multicast-broadcast services), 5G NR sidelink for off-network D2D (device-to-device) communications, NTN (non-terrestrial network) integration and support for lower 5G NR bandwidths — 3GPP networks are eventually expected to be in a position to fully replace legacy LMR systems by the late 2020s. National public safety communications authorities in multiple countries have already expressed a willingness to complete their planned narrowband to broadband transitions within the second half of the 2020 decade.

A myriad of fully dedicated, hybrid government-commercial and secure MVNO/MOCN-based public safety LTE and 5G-ready networks are operational or in the process of being rolled out throughout the globe. The high-profile FirstNet (First Responder Network) and South Korea’s Safe-Net (National Disaster Safety Communications Network) nationwide public safety broadband networks have been successfully implemented. Although Britain’s ESN (Emergency Services Network) project has been hampered by a series of delays, many other national-level programs have made considerable headway in moving from field trials to wider scale deployments — most notably, New Zealand’s NGCC (Next-Generation Critical Communications) public safety network, France’s RRF (Radio Network of the Future), Italy’s public safety LTE service, Spain’s SIRDEE mission-critical broadband network, Finland’s VIRVE 2.0 broadband service, Sweden’s Rakel G2 secure broadband system and Hungary’s EDR 2.0/3.0 broadband network. Nationwide initiatives in the pre-operational phase include but are not limited to Switzerland’s MSK (Secure Mobile Broadband Communications) system, Norway’s Nytt Nødnett, Germany’s planned hybrid broadband network for public safety organisations, the Netherlands’ NOOVA (National Public Order & Security Architecture) program, Japan’s PS-LTE (Public Safety LTE) project, Australia’s PSMB (Public Safety Mobile Broadband) program and Canada’s national PSBN (Public Safety Broadband Network) initiative.

Other operational and planned deployments include the Halton-Peel region PSBN in Canada’s Ontario province, New South Wales’ state-based PSMB solution, China’s city and district-wide Band 45 (1.4 GHz) LTE networks for police forces, Hong Kong’s 700 MHz mission-critical broadband network, Royal Thai Police’s Band 26 (800 MHz) LTE network, Qatar MOI (Ministry of Interior), ROP (Royal Oman Police), Abu Dhabi Police and Nedaa’s mission-critical LTE networks in the oil-rich GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) region, Brazil’s state-wide LTE networks for both civil and military police agencies, Barbados’s Band 14 (700 MHz) LTE-based connectivity service platform, Zambia’s 400 MHz broadband trunking system and Mauritania’s public safety LTE network for urban security in Nouakchott. There are also local and regional-level private LTE networks for first responders in markets as diverse as Laos, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Lebanon, Egypt, Kenya, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Cameroon, Mali, Madagascar, Mauritius, Canary Islands, Spain, Turkey, Serbia, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Trinidad and Tobago, as well as multi-domain critical communications broadband networks such as MRC’s (Mobile Radio Center) LTE-based advanced MCA digital radio system in Japan, and secure MVNO platforms in Mexico, Belgium, Netherlands, Slovenia, Estonia and several other countries.

Even though critical public safety-related 5G NR capabilities defined in the 3GPP's Release 17 and 18 specifications are yet to be commercialised, public safety agencies have already begun experimenting with 5G for applications that can benefit from the technology’s high-bandwidth and low-latency characteristics. For example, the Lishui Municipal Emergency Management Bureau is using private 5G slicing over China Mobile’s network, portable cell sites and rapidly deployable communications vehicles as part of a disaster management and visualisation system.

In neighbouring Taiwan, the Kaohsiung City Police Department relies on end-to-end network slicing over a standalone 5G network to support licence plate recognition and other use cases requiring the real-time transmission of high-resolution images. The Hsinchu City Fire Department’s emergency response vehicle can be rapidly deployed to disaster zones to establish high-bandwidth, low-latency emergency communications using a satellite-backhauled private 5G network based on open RAN standards. The Norwegian Air Ambulance is adopting a similar private 5G-based NOW (network-on-wheels) system for enhancing situational awareness during search and rescue operations.

In addition, first responder agencies in Germany, Japan and several other markets are beginning to utilise mid-band and mmWave (millimetre wave) spectrum available for local area licensing to deploy portable and small-scale 5G NPNs (non-public networks) to support applications such as UHD (ultra-high definition) video surveillance, control of unmanned firefighting vehicles, reconnaissance robots and drones. In the near future, SNS Telecom & IT also expects to see rollouts of localised 5G NR systems — including direct mode communications — for incident scene management and related use cases, potentially using up to 50 MHz of Band n79 spectrum in the 4.9 GHz frequency range (4940–4990 MHz), which has been designated for public safety use in multiple countries including but not limited to the United States, Canada, Australia, Malaysia and Qatar.

SNS Telecom & IT estimates that annual investments in public safety LTE/5G infrastructure and devices reached $4.3 billion in 2023, driven by both new projects and the expansion of existing dedicated, hybrid government-commercial and secure MVNO/MOCN networks. Complemented by an expanding ecosystem of public safety-grade LTE/5G devices, the market will further grow at a CAGR of approximately 10% over the next three years, eventually accounting for more than $5.7 billion by the end of 2026. Despite the positive outlook, some significant challenges continue to plague the market. The most noticeable pain point is the lack of a D2D communications capability.

The ProSe (proximity services) chipset ecosystem failed to materialise in the LTE era due to limited support from chipmakers and terminal OEMs. However, the 5G NR sidelink interface offers a clean slate opportunity to introduce direct mode D2D communications for public safety broadband users, as well as coverage expansion in both on-network and off-network scenarios using UE-to-network and UE-to-UE relays respectively. Recent demonstrations of 5G NR sidelink-enabled MCX services by the likes of Qualcomm have generated renewed confidence in 3GPP technology for direct mode communications.

Until recently, another barrier impeding the market was the non-availability of cost-optimised RAN equipment and terminals that support operation in spectrum reserved for PPDR (public protection and disaster relief) communications — most notably Band 68 (698–703/753–758 MHz), which has been allocated for PPDR broadband systems in several national markets across Europe, including France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Italy, Estonia, Bulgaria and Cyprus. Other countries such as Greece, Hungary, Romania, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands and Belgium are also expected to make this assignment. Since the beginning of 2023, multiple suppliers — including Ericsson, Nokia, Teltronic and CROSSCALL — have introduced support for Band 68.

The report ‘The Public Safety LTE & 5G Market: 2023 – 2030 – Opportunities, Challenges, Strategies & Forecasts’ presents an in-depth assessment of the public safety LTE and 5G market, as well as global and regional market size forecasts from 2023 to 2030. It will be of value to current and future potential investors into the public safety LTE and 5G market, as well as LTE/5G equipment suppliers, public safety and government agencies, critical communications service providers, mobile operators, MVNOs and other ecosystem players who wish to broaden their knowledge of the ecosystem.

Image credit: iStock.com/Talaj

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