TWC 2012 interview: Alcatel-Lucent’s Philippe Agard on the 400MHz broadband solution for public safety

Cassidian and Alcatel-Lucent demonstrated their integrated LTE and PMR 400MHz broadband solution in Dubai. Alcatel-Lucent’s VP of business development for public safety Philippe Agard explains their thinking to James Atkinson

TWC 2012 interview: Alcatel-Lucent’s Philippe Agard on the 400MHz broadband solution for public safety

Alcatel-Lucent and Cassidian presented their ‘Evercor’ 4G LTE mobile broadband solution for PMR in the 400MHz band at TWC 2012. The partnership was first announced in May 2011 and is now ready for trials.

Speaking to Wireless, Philippe Agard, VP of business development for public safety at Alcatel-Lucent, explained that the PMR market is too small globally to justify the expense of creating a new dedicated broadband standard. Instead, the two companies decided to provide a 400MHz solution using commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technology developed for the mobile phone market.

Agard points out that the public safety community and other business critical PMR users can benefit from all the investment going into LTE on the mobile phone side and take advantage of the economies of scale that brings.

‘We are putting 2.5bn into R&D for telecom technologies. That means LTE keeps improving, the speeds keep increasing and public safety will automatically benefit from this. The public safety community can piggyback on all the software architecture, baseband units and other infrastructure we produce. It is not a separate channel; we use our mother platform, which is a multi-standard one.

‘But we are not simply pushing our COTS stuff onto the public safety community. We are working with them to provide a specific solution. We just adapt the radio head and other specific applications and plug it into our COTS software – so everyone benefits from the huge investment,’ says Agard.

The Evercor solution integrates Alcatel-Lucent’s lightRadio 4G LTE mobile broadband with TETRA-based systems to form the first end-to-end integrated LTE 400 PMR solution for the 380-470MHz band.

The Evercor solution uses Alcatel-Lucent’s eNodeB base stations engines, wireless packet core and backhaul solutions and Cassidian’s LTE 400 remote radio head, terminals and applications. The LTE eNodeB can be incorporated into Cassidian’s new TB3S TETRA base station.

In Dubai, Alcatel-Lucent and Cassidian provided demonstrations of how multimedia incident management and communications can work between a first responder, such as a police patrol car, a command and control centre and a chief officer.

The command and control centre and the patrol car were able to share real-time videos, video clips, data (location, maps, images, status messages) while the chief officer could follow the communications remotely using a smartphone that supports the TETRA push-to-talk service.

The command and control centre uses Cassidian’s OM100 solution for incident management and for viewing videos, locations and statuses in real time. The patrol units use tablet PCs and carry a video camera with PTZ capabilities and an encoder to transmit live video streams.

The tablet PC communicates with the LTE modem on the vehicle via Wi-Fi, while the PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) camera encoder is connected to an Ethernet port on the vehicle’s LTE modem, which in turn is connected to the LTE 400 infrastructure.

The chief officer uses a smartphone with a TETRA SW client using the PTT service over LTE and Wi-Fi. Basic TETRA functions such as group and individual calls and SDS are supported, allowing the chief officer to monitor the situation remotely without having to carry a separate TETRA terminal.

Agard (pictured) believes that given the scarcity of spectrum, both regulators and governments will appreciate having another option for public safety broadband. ‘We know the other spectrum bands are in high demand, so we think that what we propose with our 400MHz solution is a pragmatic win-win solution. It is not a competing solution; it is another solution for governments and their agencies to choose from,’ he says.

The other obvious advantage of using the 400MHz band is that many public safety organisations have dedicated spectrum in that band. Agard concedes that in many countries re-farming of the 400MHz band will be necessary to secure the minimum 2 x 5MHz of spectrum required for broadband applications.

‘We have had good interest already for the 400MHz option,’ he says. ‘A lot of the TETRA community is in Europe, so yes, it will take some refarming, as no one has 2x5MHz of spectrum sitting idle. But there are other countries that have this spectrum available in South America, The Gulf and EPAC, so they’ll be the first to benefit from this solution, but it will open the eyes of the Europeans. Cassidian is also addressing the defence market and they are also excited by this as NATO holds 400MHz spectrum too.’

But if the refarming can be achieved, Agard points out that huge cost savings are available, as customers can deploy the new broadband equipment on their existing TETRA sites without having to find and build new ones. That, combined with the fact that it is a COTS-based solution will help to reduce the total cost of ownership for operators.

Agard is keen to point out that neither Alcatel-Lucent or Cassidian sees it as a war between a 400MHz and a 700MHz solution for public safety broadband. For a start, Alcatel-Lucent is a leader in LTE solutions, including the 700MHz band, which it is rolling out in the USA.

‘It is a sign of our commitment to LTE in public safety that we are already active and leading with Motorola Solutions in this market in the USA. We are here to contribute to the next generation of public safety,’ he says.

‘We want multiple vendors supplying the 400MHz option,’ he continues. ‘It must be very clear that Alcatel-Lucent does not want to go into closed niche markets. It is a sincere move by ourselves and Cassidian, which is a key player in the TETRA ecosystem. We know the same thing – by picking LTE you get the economies of scale and we really want the same message to apply.

‘The chipset itself can do both 400MHz and 700MHz, so you will get the economies of scale anyway. By going for 400MHz you are not forcing suppliers to open up a new segment. The guys doing 700MHz terminals have an easy way to do a 400MHz terminal too. It is not a challenge,’ he says.

Alcatel-Lucent and Cassidian are expected to announce some trials of the 400MHz solution towards the end of this year. In the meantime, Cassidian has unveiled its TB3S TETRA base station, which integrates TETRA, TEDS and LTE. It can support four TETRA carriers or up to eight with an extension cabinet. Cassidian has also developed a vehicle smart router with various radio modules, which should be commercially available by the end of 2012.

Public safety is a key market for the Evercor solution, but railways, highways, airports, oil and gas, power utilities and defense are also seen as key target markets.

Written by Wireless magazine
Wireless magazine

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