The team at Etelm recently attended Milipol Paris 2019, the leading event for homeland security and safety, featuring over 1000 exhibitors from 53 countries. Delegates visiting our stand were introduced to a full end to end private LTE display, to demonstrate the technology’s application in this sector.

Ultimately, communications don’t get much more critical than those for emergency services and the military. Police, fire, ambulance, search and rescue and the armed forces – all need to be able to communicate efficiently and reliably with colleagues both in centralised premises and on the move throughout emergency operations. Failure to achieve this really can be a matter of life or death.

But what do critical communications networks for these crucial services look like in practice? What challenges do they need to respond to, and how is evolving technology changing them? In this article we take a closer look.

Critical requirements for critical services

First responders, security and armed forces need to make highly-informed, quick decisions on the ground. Increasingly, there is a demand for those decisions to be driven by data. Examples include receiving medical information whilst responding to an accident, or dictating the movement of a fleet of vehicles based on the locations of others. In turn, this means that the communications networks supporting such services are moving towards a need for combined voice and often high bandwidth data.

In addition to this, critical communications networks in these sectors often need to operate across rugged and remote terrain, and many services cross international borders too. Currently, the use of traditional PMR technologies such as TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) are favoured for maximum security and reliability. However, these networks do not offer the bandwidth needed to support smart applications with their increased data requirements, or rich communication formats such as video. Interoperability is often restricted too.

Evolving to next generation emergency service networks

This is where LTE comes in. LTE networks offer greater bandwidth and flexibility when it comes to data-rich applications and video, enabling emergency services, first responders and military organisations to integrate data seamlessly with their voice communications. Examples of data requirements include geolocation, status reports, connected soldier data (biodata), connected and unmanned vehicle data and video. They provide a foundation for unified communications, both in terms of the information carried across communications networks, and interoperability between different networks.

Etelm was recently named as part of a consortium selected to deliver a pan-European interoperable broadband mobile architecture for Public Protection and Disaster Relief (PPDR). The initiative, called BroadWay, has been created by the public safety agencies from 11 European countries and is operating under the framework of the European Horizon 2020 programme. It will enable first responders across Europe to smoothly communicate, share and access information regardless of the country in which they intervene.

Earlier this year, Etelm was also named as part of a consortium of French SMEs selected for the PRODEF challenge, which was launched in early 2019 by the Defense Innovation Agency (AID). The challenge aims to develop a solution to aid France’s military in the identification of threats to airbases and its response to these.

The proposed solution is based on a secure private broadband multimedia radio network, based on standard LTE technology that would cover a permanent or temporary airbase or an unexpected incident or crisis site and be integrated with a set of autonomous sensors that can be deployed quickly.

These examples indicate the growing requirement for high bandwidth, private mission critical networks and illustrate the potential LTE and next generation communication technologies have to play in the military and public safety sectors.

For more information on how ETELM can support critical communications requirements for the military and public safety sectors get in touch.