Alcatel-Lucent outlines roadmap to unified PMR voice and data networks

Infrastructure manufacturer demonstrates its service operations manager solution for mission critical public networks at PMR Expo 2012. James Atkinson reports

Alcatel-Lucent outlines roadmap to unified PMR voice and data networks

A unified voice and data broadband network that meets the needs of the public safety community may be some way off yet. However, Alcatel-Lucent sees its role as one of helping public safety customers evolve from current narrowband networks to LTE broadband systems.

LTE for public safety organisations

Philippe Lasserre, Director, Solution Labs Portfolio Management Strategic Industries at Alcatel-Lucent, says: ‘We want to enable public safety organisations to use LTE networks. LTE enables differentiated services. It is a radio technology that can support specific applications with a different quality of service.’

One key requirement for public safety networks is the ability to prioritise voice calls or data applications. Lasserre cites an example of how Alcatel-Lucent technology can provide the latter when two applications need to be transmitted, but one has a higher priority.

He outlines a scenario where two cameras operating within a radio cell simulate a high priority app and a low priority app. If there is heavy traffic in the radio cell, the apps are likely to be disrupted. But the highest priority app can be protected by using capacity management tools within the LTE network. The controller can allocate bandwidth from the best default camera to ensure there is enough radio capacity to transmit the priority app.

‘If you have to transmit something to one police officer in a talk group you can allocate radio resource to that group, but ensure that some apps have higher priority. LTE provides a way to protect the higher priority applications for one person and you can split capacity across the cells if they are moving. You can protect radio resources to preserve push-to-talk applications on top of LTE,’ says Lasserre.

‘One first responder can have tablet and access broadband applications such as video streaming,’ he continues. ‘He can collaborate with other responders using TETRA devices by using the PTT function on the tablet. So you can talk over 400MHz to an LTE user in the same talk/data group,’ points out Lasserre. ‘You have to share resources and allocate bandwidth appropriately according to user needs and priorities.’ 

Collaboration to develop public safety LTE

Alcatel-Lucent has already collaborated with Cassidian to provide an LTE solution in the 400MHz TETRA band, along with a 700MHz solution for P25 users in the USA. Of course, as a major provider of mobile infrastructure it has solutions for LTE in all the commercial LTE bands being used by mobile carriers around the world too.

‘In the USA, we are working in the 700MHz band, but in Europe we are working in the 400MHz,’ confirms Lasserre. ‘We are still working with the authorities in terms of radio allocation here in Europe. We are working with bodies such as the TCCA (TETRA and Critical Communications Association)’s CCBG (Critical Communications Broadband Group subgroups [which is working with 3GPP to incorporate key mission critical functionality into the LTE standard].’

Lasserre adds: ‘So we are starting the integration of 400MHz and next generation 4G networks. In the meantime, with LTE we provide a data overlay on top of the TETRA network, so you get access to both LTE and TETRA functionality. We see an ecosystem of partners evolving - Cassidian for 400MHz technology using TETRA 25kHz with broadband up to 10MHz to handle video, for example.’

Alcatel-Lucent Service Operations Manager (SOM)

Managing network operations is going to become more challenging as mission critical networks have to support different technologies (TETRA, Wi-Fi and LTE, for example), which increases their complexity and leaves them more vulnerable to failure. In addition, networks have to support an increasing number of services and applications. 

Alcatel-Lucent is aiming to provide a solution that helps mission and business critical customers manage their network more efficiently, maximise its usage, while providing value for money to cash-strapped governments and business critical industries.

The company’s solution is its service operations manager (SOM) platform. Timmo Bakker, Director Public Sector Strategic Industries Division at Alcatel-Lucent, says: ‘We can provide a common platform for mission and business critical organisations and industries. But it is a challenge because each vertical market has its own needs. We want it to be easy to manage and maintain though for transport, oil & gas, petrochemical, utilities, military, public safety, security and government.’

Network management solution

Three key areas have been identified to provide the solution:

Standardise: best practise framework for IT and network operator – help to standardise the operations

Automate: increasing network complexity requires the use of Operating Support Systems (OSS) to automate processes and reduce complexity

Optimise: the available transparency and the measured KPIs to provide more control and optimise the business.

Bakker says: ‘To provide this we must put open and standardised systems into the field, hence the work being undertaken by the CCBG with 3GPP, where the goal is an LTE network with PMR functionality, because LTE provides the perfect combination of coverage and bandwidth to handle media rich applications.’

The necessary LTE standard could be ready by 2015, but it is unlikely any unified PMR/LTE networks will be ready to go before 2018-20. For countries with major mission critical TETRA networks in Europe, such as the UK, Holland and Belgium, the evolution to a unified voice and data LTE network will not just require this standard to be ready, but also ensure that the right frequencies are available with and adequate amount of spectrum.

Interim measures

In the interim, Bakker says that Alcatel-Lucent will not be waiting around. It is continually testing and developing solutions to provide LTE overlays onto TETRA networks, as work continues to create a unified voice and data network.

It will not, of course, be that simple. Bakker warns: ‘If customers make the move to a combined PMR/LTE network for public safety you must integrate it with the legacy control rooms system and not just the core of the network.’

He also points out that the three main emergency services will need to work out exactly what media rich applications they want and then figure out the best way to manage them. ‘Take video,’ says Bakker. ‘The control room may receive video, but does it then send back a photo or a video clip to the triage unit? It may be of no interest to the firemen. 

‘So, you need different photos and videos to be selected by the control room and only sent to those who need it. There will be scenarios where controllers need to send different photos and videos to each of the emergency services and then different things to different talk groups within the three emergency services depending on their location and the tasks they are carrying out.’

This deluge of rich media applications, including floods of social media generated by the public, is likely to mean that control rooms will have to be reorganised to manage this traffic. ‘The dispatcher won’t be doing the monitoring and selection of video and social media,’ argues Bakker. ‘So that means you need some kind of video analyst, who will monitor the data, grab particular clips and direct them to who they need to be sent to.’

the Alcatel-Lucent’s Service Operations Manager solution framework includes:

Views: Common Portal

Everything in one place

Single sign on and password sync

Simplified and TAB based navigation 

Given set of predefined users/groups.

Status: Fault Management

Consolidation of alarm sources

Current real-time monitoring

Correlation and root cause analysis

Consolidation visualisation

Individual alarm notification

Process: Work Process

Trouble shooting workflow

Change management workflow

Generic process and organisation

Clear roles and responsibilities

Process documentation

Data: Inventory Management

Location/supplier information

Physically/logically infrastructure

Customer/SLA information

Service information

Status (Operation/Maintenance)

Written by Wireless magazine
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