POLICE Magazine

SEP 2018

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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82 POLICE SEPTEMBER 2018 aw enforcement agencies nationwide are looking at adopting the FirstNet first responder cellular voice and data network for mission critical communication. Does that mean the end of land mobile radio as a primary emergency communications tool? e Lake County (FL) Sheriff's Office is an example of an agency that is planning to adopt first responder cellular communications, but it is not ready to do away with its land mobile radio (LMR) system. Lake County SO has already begun field trials with FirstNet. Offi- cials there say they're excited about the prospect of being able to share data and video reliably and securely across the emergency community. But Lake County's Sgt. Jason Matthews doesn't see LMR going away. "It will take some time before we are sold on the idea of replac- ing a deputy sheriff's tried-and-true land mobile radio completely in favor of a ruggedized broadband device," he says. Matthews is not alone. Despite eagerness in law enforcement to put FirstNet through its paces, LMR likely will remain the primary mode of voice communications for the foreseeable future. In fact, analysts with Research and Markets see demand for LMR expanding from $14.6 billion in 2017 to $25.7 billion in 2025. Why is LMR still front and center, with broadband LTE just around the corner? A number of factors help to explain it. Some have to do with the nature of police operations, while others reflect reali- ties around such issues as cost and infrastructure. Let's look at them in turns. OPERATIONAL ISSUES Many who follow public safety technology will argue that LMR is simply more naturally suited to the ways cops operate. "At a fundamental level, cellular technologies are optimized for communications between a single unit and the system. LMR on the other hand is fundamentally much like broadcast. It is wide area to a group and between everybody on the channel," says Neil Horden, chief consultant with Federal Engineering, a public safety communi- cations consultancy. at's a crucial distinction for first responders. "Public safety op- erates in group mode. Fire officers responding to a single event want to work as a group. All the police on a beat during normal operations want to talk to and hear each other, even when they are not involved in the call, because it provides them with situational awareness," Horden says. Police operations also require uninterruptible comms, and while FirstNet is being touted as being a "mission critical"-grade network, experts say that for voice, LMR will always be inherently more robust. LTE networks rely on cell towers, "and if a cell site is out of service, it is out of service, period," says consultant Andrew Seybold, who L With current comms capabilities, police and other emergency users say they are reluctant to set land mobile radio systems aside. The Future of Police Radio PHOTO: FRANKLIN RAU

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