POLICE Magazine

JUL 2018

Magazine for police and law enforcement

Issue link: https://policemag.epubxp.com/i/1001759

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Page 59 of 72

S P E C I A L R E P O R T • M I S S I O N C R I T I C A L C O M M U N I C AT I O N S 7 ture. But the first responders were able to communicate because they had their LMR networks," says Anatoly Delm, director of devices and infrastructure at Motorola. LMR also offers users the ability to form their own small groups, a critical capability for police in certain operation- al scenarios. "Police would use that in a stakeout-type situation, or a close-quar- ters situation. ey use specific frequen- cies when they need to talk unit-to-unit in relatively close distances, without having to worry about maybe being in an area with bad network coverage," Horden says. Various efforts are under way to devel- op similar capabilities in the LTE world, but until these come to fruition, police and other emergency users say they will be reluctant to set LMR aside. talion chief John Lenihan, retired from the Los Angeles County Fire Department and now chair of the National Public Safe- ty Telecommunications Council Interop- erability Committee. Most LMR operators will understand the nuance here. "With land mobile, if you have bad power, you build sites with battery backup. If you have connectivity issues, you build your own microwave network. Now you are turning all that over to FirstNet," Horden says. Giving up control will rub many cops the wrong way, Horden adds. "Public safety in general is risk averse. e nature of the job means it is better to use some- thing that does 80% of what you need but it always works, rather than something that maybe could do 95% but you don't cerns, "but LMR has already honed that capability over many years." LOOKING AHEAD iven the wide-ranging concerns, both in terms of operation and infrastruc- ture, it's clear LMR is not going away any time soon. In fact, FirstNet officials recog- nize this as well. "Public safety entities will continue to rely on their LMR networks for mission critical voice features … that are needed in an emergency response setting. In the near term, public safety entities will need to maintain and/or upgrade their LMR networks, as appropriate," according to FirstNet documents. FirstNet officials report mission-criti- cal voice is in the works but say they can't predict when such functionality will arrive because standards are still in development. Sgt. Matthews says his department likely won't shi away from LMR until those standards are in place and an oper- ational-grade voice capability in LTE has been demonstrated. "We are looking for- ward to the coverage and the capacity that FirstNet will offer, but we are still watch- ing to see how that network will be deal- ing with voice communications," he says. Until then experts say police will need to make the case loud and oen for LMR's continued importance. Some see this as a critical moment in police telecommuni- cations, a time when funding priorities could easily be knocked off track by the promise of first responder LTE. "e people who make noise about LTE replacing LMR are not from public safety. ey are engineers and lab rats. ey have never used anything but a cell phone, so why wouldn't everyone just use a cell phone?" Seybold says. "at's a problem. ese LMR systems have to stay in operation. Police can't afford for the mayors and the governors to believe all the hype about LTE replacing everything. at's just dangerous." n Annapolis-based writer Adam Stone cov- ers emerging technology, IT management, and business topics, with particular em- phasis on government, public safety, and military technologies. "e radios may have 10 times the power of a smart phone, so they can punch their signal through walls, in parking structures and basements." —Bill Schrier, FirstNet FirstNet officials likewise say there is good reason to expect LMR to be around for some time to come. "e radios may have 10 times the power of a smart phone, so they can punch their signal through walls, in parking structures and base- ments," says Bill Schrier, a senior advisor to FirstNet. "In a wild area or a remote area where there aren't any cell towers, LMR is going to be better able to reach into those areas." In addition to these operational con- cerns, a number of infrastructure-related issues also factor in to ensure the longev- ity of LMR. QUESTIONS OF CONTROL ho owns the communications net- work? Who controls it? Who makes decisions about investments in the net- work? LMR and LTE offer two different sets of answers. "Most LMR radios are controlled clos- er to the agency. e agency can deter- mine how much coverage and capacity is needed, and it controls that end product, whereas with broadband you basically get the carrier's best effort," says former bat- know if it will always work." Lenihan worries, too, about the vast infrastructure requirements around LTE. LMR can cover a wide area from a single base, "while the number of cellular sites re- quired to cover that same footprint is huge. So you have infrastructure costs, land ac- quisition, site development, the utilities to run them, the people to maintain them," he says. "It's a huge difference." Concerns about the scale of a FirstNet deployment oen are weighed against the existing LMR expense, with few in police administration eager to walk away from a longstanding investment. "LMR is typ- ically purchased as a capital expense on a 12- to 25-year cycle, and they expect that system to deliver value for that lifetime of that cycle," Horden says. Some also wonder whether any LTE network could match the performance of LMR. "When you have a vast array of routers and switches, you can have quite a bit of latency between the time you push the button and the time the voice reaches the ear, even if it's someone just a couple of blocks away," Lenihan says. LTE devel- opers are working to address such con- W G

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