LTE-Based Public-Safety Initiatives Are Sorely Lacking, Heavy Reading Says

Numerous issues are hindering the development of mobile public-safety networks based on LTE technology, says Heavy Reading 4G/LTE Insider.

April 10, 2015

3 Min Read

NEW YORK -- Inadequate funding, inconsistent spectrum availability and deployment delays are compromising the development of mobile public-safety networks based on Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, according to the latest report from Heavy Reading 4G/LTE Insider, a paid research service of Heavy Reading (

LTE for Public Safety: Don't Count on It identifies and analyzes the key issues that are driving and inhibiting the adoption of LTE in public-safety networks. It discusses how LTE compares to incumbent public-safety technologies, such as P25 and TETRA, in terms of performance and cost. The report is based on interviews with a representative sample of companies in the ecosystem, including Athena Wireless, Cisco, Ethertronics, Harris, Nokia, Sonim Technologies and TeleCommunication Systems (TCS).

"Every industry that uses a proprietary wide-area wireless technology eventually must decide whether to switch to cellular," notes Tim Kridel, research analyst with Heavy Reading 4G/LTE Insider and author of the report. "Public safety is no exception, but it's making the transition in fits and starts, and the end result likely will be more expensive and less comprehensive than anyone involved would like."

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 created FirstNet, whose role is to enable a "nationwide, high-speed, broadband network dedicated to public safety," with LTE as the foundation, Kridel says. But funding for the program is inadequate and is unlikely to result in a nationwide LTE-based public-safety network envisioned by some, he notes.

LTE-based public-safety networks are more likely to come about piecemeal, Kridel says. "Regardless of how it's implemented, LTE will gradually shift the mix of public-safety devices away from purpose-built LMRs and toward smartphones, tablets, portable routers and other devices adapted from the consumer and business markets," he continues. "This trend will create opportunities for vendors that sell device-security and -management products for the enterprise market because those solutions will be needed in the public-safety sector, too."

Key findings of LTE for Public Safety: Don't Count on It include:

  • LTE is ideal for public safety partly because it provides a global cost structure and ecosystem

    • LTE's global benefits are undermined somewhat by the lack of harmonized spectrum for public safety

    • Upcoming versions of LTE will add features that address concerns such as prioritization and quality

    • The U.S. FirstNet network won't launch until 2016 at the earliest

    • The $7 billion earmarked for FirstNet won't fully fund the network many envision

    • Utility companies could help fund FirstNet in exchange for access

    • Commercial LTE networks will be key for public safety communications even where dedicated systems, such as FirstNet, are available

    • Many countries are watching FirstNet to see if it's a model worth following

      LTE for Public Safety: Don't Count on It is available as part of an annual single-user subscription (6 issues per year) to Heavy Reading 4G/LTE Insider, priced at $1,499. Individual reports are available for $595 (single-user license).

      To subscribe, or for more information, please visit: For more information on all Insider services, please visit

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