Alexander Graham Bell, who started his career as a teacher to the deaf, invented the microphone, then the telephone, after a visit with his hearing-impaired mother. The underlying technology behind Bell’s inventions evolved beyond wires and landlines, to radio then digital signals, to Wi-Fi and now to mobile broadband network technology like Long Term Evolution-Advanced (LTE-A). As communications technology continues to evolve and improve our quality of life – just as it did in Bell’s time – we have come to rely on it for public safety and mission-critical services with broadband for emergency vehicles a vital link in emergency response.
Until now, LTE-A was primarily a supplement to mobile broadband technology in the public safety sector to provide higher bandwidth than was available with existing land mobile systems used by emergency first responder organizations such as police, fire, and ambulance services.
But the use of LTE-A as a supplement may already be a requirement as the need for higher bandwidth becomes a reality, particularly for the public safety sector. This was apparent during the recent Mendocino Wildfire in Northern California where Santa Clara County fire officials deployed to fight the massive fire discovered that their vehicle’s Internet access unlimited data plan had “slowed to a crawl.”
Because they had exceeded their allotted threshold for the period, their service was throttled by their service provider, hindering their ability to coordinate their activities. With LTE network technology, its higher bandwidth capability, and extended range, a circumstance such as that faced by the Santa Clara firefighters doesn’t have to happen again and broadband for emergency vehicles has the potential to become ubiquitous in all but the most remote locations.
In fact, LTE network technology is already available to the consumer boating and land-mobile markets to respond to a common situation these consumers face when they’re offshore or in remote inland locations – limited or no access to Internet and voice service. KVH’s new TracPhone LTE-1 delivers high-performance LTE-A services in the U.S. for voice service and Internet access more than 20 miles from the nearest cell tower with no throttling. Such a product might easily fill the broadband for emergency vehicles void that first responders like the Santa Clara County firefighters encountered.
As we continue to rely on mobile connectivity in our personal and professional lives, the development and expansion of communications technologies is inevitable. In fact, LTE-A networks dedicated to public safety are increasing around the world, with nationwide systems already operating in the oil-rich gulf region of including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates,plus citywide networks in Spain, China, Pakistan, and Laos, and several networks in the U.S, which will eventually merge with a wider nationwide network. All is clear evidence of the increasing use and adoption of LTE-A technology.
Clearly, investments in LTE-A infrastructure are being – and will continue to be – made around the world to develop and expand these networks. Given the growing number of public safety LTE-A applications – such as mission-critical voice, mobile video, transmission of aerial surveillance, bandwidth-intensive field data applications, and Augmented Reality (AR), there will come a corresponding increase in demand for LTE-A devices such as smartphones, hand-held terminals, and vehicular routers. Because, after all, one thing leads to another.