In times of great emergency, such as the September 11th attacks, or in Hurricane Katrina, access to reliable, integrated communications and tactical information was found to be an absolutely critical need. Unfortunately, the ability to mount a coordinated inter-agency response to major threats was often hampered by the proliferation of divergent signaling standards and non-aligned spectrum planning. APCO Project 25 (commonly called “P25”) digital radio systems was introduced as a solution to the voice communications aspect of this problem. However while P25 systems might effectively support mission-critical voice and low-bandwidth data applications, they fail to provide the high-speed data performance necessary to support the multimedia applications on which today’s public safety agencies are increasingly relying. The 3GPP 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) and subsequent 5G standards offer a solution to the need for wide-area broadband public safety networks.
Public safety is today undergoing a transition, from voice and low-bandwidth data applications carried on 700 MHz P25 narrowband networks to more advanced data-intensive applications supported by a 700 MHz LTE broadband network overlay. For public safety agencies, the result of combining the two networks is obvious: a unified broadband/narrowband communications infrastructure featuring the strengths of both technologies and on-going access to the continual advances being made with commercial cellular technologies and networks.
By providing access to these types of applications, the LTE overlay further improves communication and collaboration between different public safety agencies and first responders, increasing their response time and efficiency in the field, and improving public safety and security. And, because LTE/5G uses standardized protocols and interfaces, users beyond the range of their home public safety network now have the ability to maintain a connection using a local public safety 700 MHz network or a commercial wireless network.