Etelm has participated in PMR LTE tests organized by Mentor Consultant and hosted by the Firefighters in the Indre (SDIS 36) region of France to test new communications technology that could revolutionize the way firefighters respond to incidents.

The team were invited to take part in tests which involved a vehicle being equipped with advanced communications technology that would allow the fire department to implement a temporary communications network around an incident site.

Etelm collaborated with their key partners Halys, StreamWIDE and 4G Technology, to bring their technologies together and provide what is essentially a “pop-up” PMR LTE communications network in an area outside of typical coverage range.

What happens on the ground?

The firefighters never know in advance where an incident might occur. They don’t know whether there will be access to operator networks (white zone area, antennae relay site destroyed, etc.). As their communications are critical for the success of their operations, they can rely only on their own infrastructure. Hence today, they are all equipped with narrowband radio solutions.

When called in to investigate a scene a first responder will often go in on foot for initial situational awareness and then physically return to the team to report. Part of the aim of this test communications network was to speed up the rate at which this first responder could report back to their team, something that will improve life safety, help save valuable minutes and enable the whole team to get to work faster. This technology is also designed to allow fire responders to operate as an independent unit.

How Etelm helped

ETELM equipped the Firefighters command vehicle with an antenna, an LTE eNodeB (manufactured by ETELM), an Halys LTE EPC core and the Streamwide application to reproduce all the critical communication types (including emergency calls and broadcasting), the geolocation, and the casualties reporting. Each fighter was equipped with modern ruggedized smartphones and video sensors (manufactured by 4G Technology) were deployed which were either fixed or on helmets. In the command vehicle the team had access to geolocation of each firefighter, and could manage all the group and individual calls and the video broadcasting.

Having this information on hand at the scene, independently from the station, allowed teams on the ground to work together in a much more efficient way. This independence is key, however, firefighters using this type of pop-up network aren’t completely cut off. The technology also provided a satellite link so the firefighters on the ground could easily connect to their central communication systems.

Etelm and the team started out with the aim of establishing a working communications network within 20 minutes of arriving at the scene. They were successful in doing this, proving that private LTE communications can be quickly established in emergency situations outside of typical network coverage.

ETELM’s eNodeB was designed to ensure high quality communications in tactical situations. It complies fully with 3GPP Standards and operates in many different frequency bands (both TDD and FDD), and is fully designed and manufactured by ETELM. ETELM shows flexibility and agility by being able to fully customize the eNodeB so it can be optimized for specific customer use cases.

Potential for the future

Fire Services in France currently operate a variety of legacy narrowband networks. However, these technologies are limited when it comes to bandwidth and for example, do not allow the transmission of real time video from the scene of an incident or reporting. This test was a great opportunity to demonstrate what private 4G can bring to the field and showcase what is possible for the emergency services if they invest in upgrading their communications technology to include PMR LTE capabilities.