Clearway - LANES broadband aims
Telstra and Motorola have joined forces to promote an enhanced version of LANES.
Globally, there is an aspiration by public safety and security agencies to arrange the provision of a mobile broadband capability, with different endeavours underway in the USA, the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the world. In Australia, Telstra has undertaken to demonstrate how a carrier could potentially provide a public safety mobile broadband capability, in an effort that it calls LANES - the LTE Advanced Network for Emergency Services.
The federal government has announced that the Productivity Commission will be undertaking a business case review of a public safety broadband capability, and there are various options available for its consideration. LANES is one of them. It harnesses Telstra’s extensive carrier assets by providing a capability for a dedicated ‘lane’, solely and exclusively for the police and emergency services. But at the same time, if congestion occurs on that dedicated PPDR (Public Protection and Disaster Relief) spectrum, LANES has the capacity to scale up and get priority on the commercial spectrum allocation available on the Telstra mobile network.
Last November, during the G20 meetings in Brisbane, Telstra demonstrated the capability in what it said was a world first.
“We simply decided to demonstrate how a carrier capability could provide mobile broadband for emergency services, and for the purposes of the demonstration we used our own 900 MHz spectrum,” said Telstra National General Manager, Government and Public Safety and Security Alex Stefan. “We stood up the capability for the G20 and we made it available to the Queensland Police Service for that event. The QPS has extensively deployed iPads and other mobile technology into the field to access their crime reporting system and other services. We made available a number of devices that had access to the LANES capability.”
Stefan said LANES attempts to embrace the best of the various endeavours that are appearing globally. In North America, there has been a dedicated PPDR spectrum allocation for FirstNet; LANES makes a similar provision by having a dedicated lane within the carrier’s network.
“In the event that a dedicated PPDR mobile broadband spectrum allocation is made [in Australia], for the purposes of LANES we’ve simulated that using our own 900 MHz spectrum,” said Stefan. “And at the same time it embraces some of the best elements of the UK model, which is utilising carrier infrastructure and capabilities to enable that service.
“And as part of that, of course, in Australia we’ve taken the unique decision that if the dedicated PPDR spectrum itself becomes exhausted, we’ve demonstrated how it can utilise carrier spectrum capabilities to augment the operational needs of the police and emergency services,” added Stefan.
In some ways, LANES can be said to operate on a similar basis to the priority system for voice calls. “These services already exist on the voice dimension on our network,” said Stefan. “Triple Zero gets priority, followed by the Wireless Prioritisation System Service. That service was enabled on the Telstra mobile network in the post-London bombing environment, so that authorised government officials have pre-emption for voice calling on the network. So in essence we’re taking a model that already exists on the voice dimension, and applying it for the first time to the data domain.
“I think police and emergency services have embraced mobile broadband since its inception in 2006,” added Stefan. “If you look at ambulance officers, they’ve been able to utilise the service for capture of patient information; the fire services have been using it for real-time video streaming from fire fronts; and police have been using it for real-time crime capture.
“My observation is that they’ve been embracing these services for a number of years, and they’re now looking at greater surety of service during times of major incidents or events,” said Stefan. “So I believe that in fact, Australia and the police and emergency services here are leaders in the adoption of technology and they’ll be looking to the evolution of greater surety of provision.”
In October last year, Telstra and Motorola Solutions Australia signed an MOU “to further develop public safety broadband solutions based on the LTE Advanced Network for Emergency Services (LANES) capability, products and services developed by Telstra”, according to the press release put out at the time. Under the MOU, the LANES capability will be “enhanced by Motorola Solutions’ dynamic prioritisation, smart public safety applications, interoperability solutions and public safety optimised devices”.
“What Motorola has added and what we call Enhanced LANES offers a level of dynamic prioritisation that takes it down to a really fine and granular level, down to a user and/or an application level as well,” said Motorola Solutions, Australia and New Zealand Managing Director, ANZ Steve Crutchfield.
“So you can imagine during an extreme incident when things get extraordinarily busy, some agencies are looking for that extra level of granularity around prioritisation down to a specific user or group of users or a specific application they may require to be absolutely available during those highly critical, peak incidents that have very specific requirements. And that’s a level of prioritisation that we bring by working very closely with Telstra from a technology integration standpoint.”
Ultimately, said Crutchfield, it’s the customer’s choice as to who gets what priority when. “That’s essentially what they’re paying for,” he added. “If they’re managing an incident and they say, ‘No, it’s only this team of 10 people who need access at this time using this particular application’, that will be entirely their choice. The customer will have complete control over managing those specific needs.”
The changing nature of comms
The world of communications is seeing a proliferation of different devices, with more tablet and smartphone devices being used for everyday requirements in the emergency services sector.
“Importantly, I think what we’re seeing in the marketplace right now is a real need to have the right device in the hands of the right person so that they receive the best information needed to manage their specific role,” said Crutchfield. “Clearly for operational police, voice will continue to be the default way to communicate for many years into the future, and for these users it’s probably going to be a P25 voice radio.
“However, for the occasional user or someone who needs to plug in during an incident, they may do that from their smartphone and over a broadband environment integrated into that P25 environment, which is a capability that we can offer today,” he added.
Initially, most of the applications that will be running over the broadband environment will be data-based applications, whether that’s video or other information that requires them to consume information in different ways. Over time, voice will become much more predominant in the broadband environment. “As we go through that transition over the next 5-10 years, the interoperability between the two environments will be key, and we have very strong domain knowledge in both areas so the ability to offer them interoperability is a significant capability we can bring to bear today,” said Crutchfield.
Could the Enhanced LANES concept be used beyond the PPDR sector? “In the initial formation of Enhanced LANES, we were very focused on the emergency services space. But clearly there is real opportunity outside of that for commercial sectors,” said Crutchfield.
“We talk about mission-critical communications often in the context of emergency services, but communications in an environment such as an oil refinery, or an LNG plant, or a mine, are just as critical,” he added. “If communications go down, it could mean shutting down the plant, ending production entirely or put the safety of workers at risk. Communications are just as critical in these environments.
“So down the track we can definitely see the application of these mission-critical technologies in the commercial environment.”
“Telstra and Motorola have had a very long and positive relationship in relation to public safety critical communications,” said Stefan. “As an example, we’ve worked collaboratively around the new solutions for the Queensland GWN, a P25 LMR network, and also for the CFA radio network.
“We’ve now taken that partnership into the public safety mobile broadband domain, where we’re looking at bringing the strengths of both organisations - Telstra with its large mobile broadband network capabilities, coupled with Motorola Solutions’ ecosystem of devices and applications - to create a more holistic critical communications capability for the police and emergency services,” he added. “I believe that’s another unique world first.
“We have a world-leading development being pioneered and developed out of Australia in partnership with our partners Ericsson and Motorola Solutions, and it’s wonderful to see Australia once again leading in providing options for providing mission-critical communications,” said Stefan. “Our aspiration has been to contribute to the policy considerations of government, and we look forward to supporting whichever direction is taken in that regard.”
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