Prior to the terrorist attacks carried out on Sept. 11, 2001, much of the nation’s public safety communication networks were incapable of interconnecting to and communicating with other agencies or communities. One finding from the 9/11 Commission Report of 2004 was that public safety responders require a more-unified way to communicate, including the establishment of a dedicated nationwide public safety broadband network.
The Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2010 funded the establishment of the FirstNet Responder Network Authority, which partnered with AT&T to build the first such network. Other carriers, including Verizon and T-Mobile, followed suit with their own mission-critical broadband offerings.
“The adoption of mission-critical broadband by public safety organizations is accelerating as offerings evolve to serve these customers,” said Jeremy Elder, L3Harris Technologies Director of Product Management.
L3Harris leverages more than 80 years providing Land Mobile Radio (LMR) technology and specialized knowledge of radio form factors critical communications users require when designing a converged solution, according to Elder.
“We believe there’s a significant opportunity for converged or hybrid devices,” added Elder. “Our XL Series of Radios includes portable and vehicular-mounted form factors that operate on both LMR and broadband networks, because we recognize LMR and LTE are complementary technologies and will operate seamlessly for the foreseeable future.”
LTE and 5G bring significant bandwidth improvements compared to traditional LMR networks, facilitating real-time situational awareness, said Elder. Further, national broadband networks provide nationwide coverage, allowing users to stay in communication farther than their home LMR network can offer.
“First responders can now take what they’re familiar with in their personal lives and move these applications into their professional operations,” said Robert Butts, L3Harris Professional Communications Market manager. “With LTE, they can talk on a Push-To-Talk application outside their LMR network. They can add capabilities and information that previously was only provided by voice.”
One example is Computer-Aided Dispatch: with the expanded bandwidth of LTE, CAD reports can now include information such as photos to aid first responders preparing for response before they arrive on-scene.
As these types of innovations become more-readily adopted and available, “Next-generation 911 will truly move into the digital age with fully integrated multimedia,” according to Butts. New capabilities to this end could include 911 callers submitting video to the CAD, which can automatically be sent to responding officers.