Telstra opens LANES to emergency services

Telstra is offering two versions of its LANES service to emergency services: A SIM that provides access to the dedicated emergency 4G spectrum, and a tailored solution involving customer-owned dedicated spectrum.

Telstra has announced that its national public safety mobile broadband capacity, LANES, will be open for law-enforcement and emergency services to use during summer 2016-17.

Telstra's LANES service dedicates specific "lanes" of spectrum for allocated purposes, with emergency services to have guaranteed priority access to a specific part of the mobile network.

Two LANES solutions are on offer: Telstra LANES Emergency Priority, an out-of-the-box solution that includes a LANES SIM for use in smart devices, with access to a 24/7 national help desk and an online portal; and Telstra LANES Emergency Tailored, which will involve customer-owned dedicated spectrum augmented or enhanced by access to Telstra's 4G spectrum.

The telco has said its solution could save the Australian government AU$4 billion over the next 20 years if it is extended to public safety agencies nationwide.

"We're actually enabling a national public safety mobile broadband capability across Australia from December of this year in advance of the festive season and in advance of the summer season, when we traditionally have natural hazards such as fires. It's a significant first in the Australian context," Alex Stefan, Telstra's national general manager of government and public safety and security, said at the Telstra Vantage 2016 conference in Melbourne on Thursday morning.

"Telstra has had a long association with the police and emergency services; we've provided a number of services and innovation over the years, from the national Triple Zero service that we provide, right through to the national community information warning system known as Emergency Alert, and now we're bringing forward Telstra LANES to our police and emergency services community.

"We're providing [a] dedicated lane solely and exclusively to our police and emergency services for their use from December."

Telstra said it will initially provide access to up to 160MHz in the 700MHz LTE spectrum band.

Last April, Telstra said it was looking to sell its 4G LANES service into the mining and enterprise industries after conducting several successful pilots of the technology in Perth and Brisbane. Telstra also used its LANES service during the G20 Summit, allocating them to emergency services at the end of 2014 in partnership with Motorola Solutions.

"In the enterprise space, we are actually deploying LANES for enterprise," Stefan said last year. "We actually have businesses, especially in the mining sector that have their own LTE spectrum, and they are working with us to expand the Next G network to provide those services."

While Stefan said there is high interest from emergency services, none have yet signed on for the Telstra LANES Emergency service.

Emergency services -- which include police agencies, fire service organisations, ambulance services, the State Emergency Service, and marine rescue and coast guard -- have been pushing for their own spectrum for years, saying they need to be able to access high-speed video, high-quality images, geolocation tools, and biometric capabilities wherever they are working.

In November, the Australian government tasked the Productivity Commission with undertaking a cost-benefit analysis of the best way to deliver a mobile broadband for emergency services, which was then published in September.

In the Public Safety Mobile Broadband Productivity Commission Draft Report [PDF], the commission identified three options: Constructing a dedicated emergency network with their own allocated spectrum; taking a purely commercial approach, which would involve mobile carriers providing contractual services to emergency services; or a hybrid of the two, such as Telstra's LANES.

The federal government decided to go with a purely commercial approach due to cost and efficiency concerns, however.

"Our study has found that, on first principles, the most efficient, effective, and economical way of delivering a public safety mobile broadband capability is by relying on commercial mobile networks and spectrum," Presiding Commissioner Jonathan Coppel said in the report.

A commercial solution will see PSAs sign individual contracts for mobile network services and capacity with telecommunications providers, an approach that would only cost AU$2.2 billion over a 20-year period.

By comparison, building a dedicated network for PSAs was estimated by the commission to cost almost three times as much, at AU$6.2 billion, with the full-coverage hybrid solution projected to cost AU$5.1 billion and the targeted-coverage hybrid solution AU$2.9 billion.

Disclosure: Corinne Reichert travelled to Telstra Vantage in Melbourne as a guest of Telstra.

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