UK To Become First Country With A 4G Public Safety Network That Uses A Commercial Network?

When I wrote my 3 part overview of LTE-A Pro for Public Safety Services back in January this year I wasn’t aware that just a couple of weeks earlier the UK government has given out a contract to build a 4G Public Safety Services network that, from what I read between the lines, will be piggybacked onto EE’s (soon BT’s) commercial LTE network.

I draw this conclusion as several sources indicate that EE has committed to extend LTE 800 coverage to enhance rural and indoor network coverage for police, fire and ambulance services (see for example here and here). In addition to normal voice calls the reports say that Push to Talk (PTT) services will be supported as well as priority access to the network in case of network overload.

This is very interesting as it would be the first PMR network that doesn’t use dedicated network infrastructure but re-uses an existing commercial network with millions of public users on it at the same time as police, fire fighters and medical emergency services.

As I noted in part 3 of my LTE for Public Safety Services overview that has a number of interesting benefits for the PMR community such as, for example, the ability to use off-the-shelf devices for many applications instead of custom made hardware that is very expensive due their low volume. On the other hand it’s going to be interesting to see how much public safety requirements will impede network upgrades that happen on a frequent basis in commercial networks. For the details see part 3 of my overview.

I’m sure a lot of governments, safety organizations and network operators will watch how this deployment works out in practice as current dedicated network deployments continue to suffer from coverage issues, expensive and outdated mobile devices and a lack of support for high-speed data.

2 thoughts on “UK To Become First Country With A 4G Public Safety Network That Uses A Commercial Network?”

  1. Hi Martin,
    Actually in Belgium this has already been the case for 1 year.
    Astrid is offering emergency communication services in Belgium. Traditionally it used TETRA and had its own radio network deployed.
    As it became obvious that TETRA was very limited in terms of mobile data capabilities, Astrid decided to become a MVNO making use of commercial 2G/3G/LTE networks. In practise, all 3 Belgian MNO radio networks can be used while one of them provides the PGW and connectivity to Astrid’s data center.

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