About the Author:
Roger Wespe is the National Public Safety Strategy and Technology Manager for Sonim Technologies.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now that AT&T has been awarded a competitively-bid, 25-year contract to build, maintain and operate the FirstNet network, State POCs, department CIOs and public safety professionals have started to think through a number of emerging issues related to the impending network deployment. After years of hard work, and yes, some setbacks – a dedicated nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network for first responders will become a reality.
It’s an exciting time for public safety because in the coming months, AT&T will begin a phased deployment of the FirstNet network, with new elements released gradually over time. Part and parcel with the network deployment, OEMs are also busy developing a new generation of purpose-built, LTE-based handsets that must match up to the exacting specifications and unique requirements of their first responder user base. So just what are these advanced features that public safety can expect to see in their devices as the FirstNet network rolls out? Following are some elements that could start to turn up in next-generation communications devices.
Band 14 Chipset. The portion of spectrum that changed the course of history for public safety communications, Band 14 offers public safety their own dedicated “traffic lane” in the crowded 700 MHz band plan. The prime spectrum, which was sought by many, will now be available to a select few during times of crisis. While some handset manufacturers have already built Band 14 handsets that have been tested and proven out on demo networks at Early Builder sites and other select locations across the country, additional vendors will undoubtedly be updating their chipsets to compete in the increasingly competitive marketplace. Band 14-enabled handsets will allow public safety professionals to leverage the dedicated spectrum that many fought to secure, and can offer FirstNet and AT&T a mechanism to recoup some of their capital investments in the network when the spectrum is not being used by first responders.
Purpose-built Applications. As public safety devices evolve, so too will the applications ecosystem designed to meet the needs of today’s first responders. In fact, there are several kinds of apps being used today, including mobile device managers, push-to-talk clients, and situational awareness tools. What will begin to set certain apps apart from others is how well they are integrated with new devices built for public safety. Take a push-to-talk (PTT) app for example: while not a mission critical-grade form of communication, the ability to augment LMR voice communications via an LTE network is an important feature set that is available to public safety professionals today. Application vendors that take advantage of APIs created by device manufacturers to leverage dedicated PTT buttons, or support one-touch wake up of PTT apps running in the background will begin to differentiate themselves in the highly competitive apps space. These integrated apps and devices will provide first responders with a more streamlined and intuitive user experience, saving them time while increasing productivity.
Extended Battery Life. Who hasn’t, at one time or another, scoured the baseboard at an airport or restaurant for a precious outlet, in order to get that extra 10-15% battery life to finish a call or hail a vehicle with a rideshare app? As handsets more tailored to FirstNet’s needs are developed, expect to see devices that carry an extra 25-50% larger battery versus commercial handsets. As first responders begin to incorporate more mobile technology usage into their daily activities, the corresponding strain on battery life will become apparent on today’s commercial handsets. First responders cannot afford to search for a power outlet when responding to an incident. Best-in-class mission critical-grade LTE handsets will come standard with 4,500 – 5,000 mAh batteries, which are 25 – 50% larger than many consumer-grade handset batteries. In order to have the utmost faith in their LTE-based technologies, public safety must know the device will be able to remain sufficiently charged, shift after shift.
Ultra-Durable and Rugged Device Housings (Case Free). Public safety professionals are hard on their tools. That’s why their computers, vehicles, and discipline-specific gear (bullet-proof vests and fire-retardant turnout coats being just a few) are all built to the most exacting of standards. Indeed, even current LMR technology is mission-critical grade. With so much at stake, department-issued LTE devices must also be built to the same quality. Next-generation LTE handsets must be able to:
• Meet or exceed Military Specifications for water and particle intrusion;
• Withstand shocks or vibrations, including drops and sudden impacts – including the glass touchscreen; and
• Resist corrosion or damage due to oil and other chemical contact.
The topics above comprise only a small sampling of what LTE devices will be expected to handle on a day-to-day basis. As the FirstNet network matures, so too will the standards that contribute to providing public safety effective and efficient communication tools. I want to hear from you: what factors are you most excited to see in subsequent generations of LTE handsets? Email me and let me know.
About Sonim Technologies:
Sonim Technologies provides ultra-rugged solutions designed specifically for professionals in the public safety and defense space. The Sonim solution includes mission critical LTE handsets, applications and a suite of public safety-grade accessories, collectively designed to increase the productivity, accountability and safety for today’s first responders. Sonim’s commitment to delivering the most reliable and mission critical handset is amplified by our industry-leading, 3-year comprehensive warranty, which has redefined user expectations for ultra-rugged technology placed in the hands of front-line first responders. The company is headquartered in San Mateo, California, and offers its products with mobile operators around the world.