Public safety infrastructure a $2 billion opportunity

SNS Telecom & IT
Tuesday, 06 December, 2022


Public safety infrastructure a $2 billion opportunity

SNS Telecom & IT, a global market intelligence and consulting firm, has released a research report indicating that annual spending on client and application server platforms associated with mission-critical push-to-talk (PTT) and group communications, for public safety broadband subscribers over both commercial and dedicated 3GPP networks, will reach nearly $1.8 billion by the end of 2025. The report also claims that annual investments in public safety LTE and 5G network infrastructure will exceed $2.3 billion by the end of 2025.

Mission-critical PTT and group communications

Many commercial and dedicated public safety broadband networks already utilise some form of PTT technology to support group communications for first responders and other critical communications user groups, and dozens of vendors have developed both client and application server implementations that are compliant with the 3GPP’s mission-critical PTT (MCPTT), mission-critical video and mission-critical data specifications, collectively known as MCX. In addition, a number of suppliers — including Ericsson, Samsung, Nemergent Solutions, Etherstack and Streamwide — have launched LMR-3GPP MCX interworking function solutions that bridge traditional land mobile radio (LMR) systems with MCX services over 3GPP networks to support standards-based communications interoperability between narrowband and broadband networks.

Production-grade deployments of 3GPP standards-compliant MCX services, beginning with MCPTT functionality, are continuing to accelerate in national markets across North America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Early adopters range from national public safety networks — such as South Korea’s Safe-Net, the United States’ FirstNet and the UK’s Emergency Services Network — to mobile operators such as Verizon, Southern Linc, Telus, SFR, KPN, Swisscom, Telia, Føroya Tele and STC (Saudi Telecom Company). In the coming months, France’s Radio Network of the Future, Spain’s SIRDEE public safety broadband network, Finland’s VIRVE 2.0 mission-critical broadband service and several other national-scale public safety broadband projects are also expected to introduce MCX services as well as LMR-3GPP interworking capabilities where required.

In conjunction with the commercial maturity of additional 5G-focused 3GPP Release 17 and 18 features — specifically multicast-broadcast services, 5G NR sidelink for off-network device-to-device (D2D) communications, non-terrestrial network integration and support for lower 5G NR bandwidths — MCX services are expected to drive 3GPP networks to a position to be able to fully replace legacy LMR systems by the mid-to-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 2020s.

Public safety LTE and 5G network infrastructure

With the commercial availability of 3GPP-standards compliant MCX, high-power user equipment (HPUE), isolated operation for public safety (IOPS) and other critical communications features, LTE and 5G NR 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 voice and narrowband data services provided by traditional LMR systems. A myriad of fully dedicated, hybrid government–commercial and secure multi-operator core network (MCON)/mobile virtual network operator (MVNO)-based public safety LTE and 5G-ready networks are already operational or in the process of being rolled out throughout the globe (South Korea, the US, the UK); moving from field trials to wider-scale deployments (France, Spain, Finland, Sweden, Hungary); or in the pre-operational phase (Switzerland, Norway, Germany, Japan, Australia, Canada).

Even though critical public safety-related 5G NR capabilities defined in the 3GPP’s Release 17 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 Hsinchu City Fire Department is using an emergency response vehicle that can be rapidly deployed to disaster zones to establish high-bandwidth, low-latency emergency communications by means of a satellite-backhauled private 5G network based on Open RAN standards.

In addition, first responder agencies in Germany, Japan and several other markets are beginning to utilise mid-band and mmWave spectrum available for local area licensing to deploy portable and small-scale 5G non-public networks to support applications such as ultrahigh-definition video surveillance and control of unmanned firefighting vehicles, reconnaissance robots and drones. In the near future, we also expect to see rollouts of localised 5G NR systems 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.

A number of significant challenges continue to plague the market. One of these is the lack of a D2D communications capability, as the ProSe (Proximity Services) chipset ecosystem has failed to materialise in the LTE era due to limited support from chipmakers and terminal OEMs. However, the 5G NR sidelink interface offers an 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.

Another barrier impeding the market is the non-availability of cost-optimised commercial off-the-shelf RAN equipment and terminals that support operation in certain frequency bands such as Band 68 (698–703 MHz/753–758 MHz), which has been allocated for PPDR (public protection and disaster relief) broadband systems in multiple European countries.

Nevertheless, SNS Telecom & IT estimates that the market for public safety LTE and 5G infrastructure will grow at a CAGR of approximately 13% between 2022 and 2025, from $1.6 billion at the end of 2022 to more than $2.3 billion by the end of 2025. Meanwhile, annual investments in MCX-related client and application server platforms will grow at a CAGR of approximately 20% between 2022 and 2025, from >$1 billion at the end of 2022 to nearly $1.8 billion by the end of 2025.

More information can be found in the company’s report ‘The Public Safety LTE & 5G Market: 2022 – 2030 – Opportunities, Challenges, Strategies & Forecasts’, which presents an in-depth assessment of the public safety LTE and 5G market including the value chain, market drivers, barriers to uptake, enabling technologies, operational models, application scenarios, key trends, future roadmap, standardisation, spectrum availability/allocation, regulatory landscape, case studies, ecosystem player profiles, strategies and forecasts. The report’s key findings are available at https://www.snstelecom.com/public-safety-lte.

Image credit: iStock.com/xavierarnau

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