In recent years public safety industry players have coalesced around the use of LTE in public safety communications networks and today LTE has become the de facto standard. Many factors have contributed to this, primarily the ability of LTE to provide the necessary high levels of performance, security and reliability, cooperation among LTE operators and public safety organizations, spectrum flexibility, and enhancements to LTE standards definitions that have focused on improving the mission critical capabilities of LTE.
Major investment in public safety LTE ongoing
Public safety agencies, vendors, and service providers are investing heavily in public safety LTE. According to ABI Research the total number of public safety LTE user subscriptions will reach 11 million worldwide by 2020, within a market size of US$5.1 billion.1 SNS Research predicts that public safety LTE infrastructure investments will grow at a CAGR of nearly 40 percent between 2015 and 2020. By the end of 2020, infrastructure investments which include base stations, mobile core, and mobile backhaul gear will account for more than $2 billion, and the market for ruggedized public safety LTE devices will witness similar growth, with an estimated 4 million annual device shipments in 2020. The installed base of public safety LTE base stations will account for close to 20 percent of all public safety LTE infrastructure investments. Almost all industry players are leveraging partnerships with established LTE infrastructure vendors, including Motorola, Nokia, Huawei, and Ericsson, to offer end-to-end LTE solutions.2
In France, Sequans is a key contributor to the LTE4PMR project to provide mission-critical broadband services. LTE4PMR, or LTE for public mobile radio, is a consortium led by Airbus Defence and Space with partners Sequans, Nokia, and Institut Mines-T-l.com. The LTE4PMR project is based on the latest standards for Mission-Critical Services (MCS) designed by the Third-Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a global organization that sets the international LTE standards. Airbus Defence and Space is the only European PMR company that is active and represented in the 3GPP. LTE4PMR is partly funded by French authorities through the French Banque Publique d’Investissement (BPI) and the Investissements d’Avenir program. Airbus has recently presented the first results of the project.
In another ground-breaking demonstration of LTE technology in public transportation environments, Sequans worked with Nokia on a world-first demo of LTE on a Paris metro train. For details on this project, please see Sequans’ blog, of September 30.
Sequans at the forefront of public safety LTE development
Sequans is working with other leading infrastructure players and device makers developing public safety devices. These include ruggedized handsets providing emergency and mission critical services for firemen or dedicated police and military forces, CPE designs supporting specialized alarm features and operating in unique frequency bands, and embedded modules for vehicular applications such as video surveillance and secured data access. These devices have been developed to exacting standards and stringent customer requirements. They are rugged and able to deliver wide area connections with superior performance while connecting sensors, cameras, and other devices for remote monitoring, surveillance, control, and reporting.
LTE public safety devices also are expected to provide rich multimedia services such as images, video, face recognition, database access, and more. In the military space, cryptographic functions for data sensitive content is offered, and coming soon will be other advanced capabilities, including push to talk, one-to-one or one-to-many group calling, fast call set up, late entry into group call, dynamic OTA regrouping, and, the most wanted feature for next generation public safety devices, direct LTE (device to device) service for all public safety devices.
Working hand-in-hand with key customers, Sequans has been customizing its chipset solutions specifically for the public safety market, including both software and hardware optimizations, with a keen focus on those features in highest demand.
Today, cooperation between private and public networks is the leading deployment scenario for LTE public safety systems. Sequans’ designs accommodate this by supporting both public and private frequency bands and meeting all of the related interference and coexistence requirements. A good example of this is seen in what is now required for FirstNet devices: namely the support of LTE band 14 along with all commercial bands used by the major operators in the US. The same scheme applies in Europe, for example, with the 700 MHz band. This multiband support enables a single design to support a variety of uses and is today is embodied in Sequans’ solution. Sequans provides all necessary design materials, from schematics up to the full mass-production manufacturing tools.
In addition to supporting exotic frequency bands, Sequans also supports requirements for military temperature grade, extended shock, vibration and ESD, specific security schemes (e.g. secured bootloader up to dedicated cryptographic algorithms) that can be embedded into the ASIC. Sequans has developed a dedicated ASIC portfolio addressing public safety constraints, supporting extended temperature range, extended mechanical constraints and customer IP.
Additional customizations that go beyond the requirements of the 3GPP standard, include increased transmit output power, the customization of a software feature to support VoLTE, cell range extension, network-based cell selection, or mission critical push-to-talk (PTT) with RTP-based eMBMS services. Sequans is addressing these special requirements by enhancing its 3GPP software support, mainly by capitalizing on Sequans’ extensive field experience over the course of several years. Significantly, the work Sequans is doing to enable these advanced features, is key preparation that will become extremely valuable in developing feature requirements of future 3GPP releases.
1. ABI Research, Emergency Response Public LTE Access report, which is a part of ABI Research’s LTE and 5G Market Research.