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Motorola pushes for extra spectrum for emergency services

Motorola Solutions believes police, fire, and ambulance agencies will need at least 20MHz of spectrum for dedicated emergency services networks.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Australian emergency service organisations should follow the US and Europe's lead in securing at least 20MHz of spectrum for dedicated long-term evolution (LTE) networks, according to Motorola Solutions.


A demonstration of video streaming from multiple devices via LTE.
(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

The company secured a temporary license for the 700MHz spectrum band in Midland, an outer Perth suburb, in order to run a field demonstration of its emergency service network gear; the single cell tower is run out of the Western Australian Police station, 1.5km away.

The field test demonstration runs through a variety of emergency scenarios, including bush fires, floods, car accidents and other incidents, using Motorola Mobility's OneForce application that allows field officers to share video, maps, photos and other information through mounted car units, station computer, handheld tablets and purpose-built smartphones when there is an emergency situation.

In a single scenario, the company demonstrated multiple users accessing varying degrees of video streaming from different locations over an LTE network. With more users on the network, congestion became a major issue.

For this reason, the company said that, not only should emergency services have their own dedicated network, it should also utilise 20MHz of spectrum (as has been done in the US) rather than just 10MHz.

"Public safety agencies in Australia and New Zealand need to get aligned with their international counterparts, to ensure they have sufficient capacity in whatever network [they're in] to meet their operational needs, and in this case, we're talking about a 10MHz + 10MHz allocation," Motorola Solutions' Southern Area Sales Manager Greg Bouwmeester said.

Bouwmeester said that governments could target roll-outs of networks for the CBD areas, and then leverage off commercial networks.

"And then, depending on the economics, where [there] is a crime spot, where [there] is a major regional centre — then you can go and add that capability," he said.

"It's not trying to say 'let's build a network to try and match what the commercial networks are doing'. It's really doing more of what public safety agencies do today with narrowband [networks], where they typically operate in a major metropolitan area, where it is more cost-effective to roll out.

Motorola Solutions and a number of emergency services organisations have pleaded with the government to allocate a section of the 700MHz spectrum band — which is in the process of being freed up ahead of the digital dividend auction next year — specifically for dedicated emergency service networks.

The telecommunications companies have argued against it, however, with Telstra suggesting that the company's own 4G network could be used for emergency services, with the possibility of capacity being dedicated to emergency services.

The government was not won over, and at this point, it has not allocated a separate section to emergency services. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is currently investigating whether 800MHz would be an appropriate alternative. Motorola Solutions had originally opposed the 800MHz, stating that most US emergency services networks are running in the 700MHz, but Bouwmeester said yesterday that the company was now advocating for 800MHz, and believed chipsets would be available to put in devices that would operate on this spectrum band.

"Interestingly, in parts of Asia, LTE on a commercial basis is getting rolled out in that part of the spectrum, therefore, there are going to be commercial chipsets available that we can look to integrate into the various devices and modems."

The LTE handsets, modems, and dongles used in the demo were designed to operate on the emergency networks in the US, and would fall back to Verizon's LTE network in areas where the dedicated network was not available.

Motorola Solutions has yet to cost how much rolling out a national emergency network in Australia would cost, but Australian Managing Director Gary Starr indicated that it would cost governments hundreds of millions of dollars. The US system, where the population is much higher, and with a greater population density, it is estimated at US$7 billion.

Starr indicated that the demonstration showroom set up by Motorola Solutions was a long-term investment for the company, considering that the spectrum sought would not be available in Australia for the next few years.

Josh Taylor travelled to Perth as a guest of Motorola Solutions.

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