First responders currently use land mobile radio (LMR) networks for mission critical voice communications. When the nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN) is launched, it will not replace their LMR systems. The network is expected to initially transmit data, video, and other high-speed features, such as location information and streaming video, as well as non-mission critical voice. Public safety entities will continue to use LMR networks for their mission critical voice needs.
The Current State
During response operations today, law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical services (EMS) teams, and other first responders rely on their LMR networks and radios for mission critical voice communications. LMR networks are designed to meet emergency responders’ unique mission critical requirements and provide guaranteed priority access to responders. In addition to LMR, some emergency responders are using mobile data services and applications provided by commercial carriers to share information and augment their mission critical voice capabilities.
The Near-Term Vision
When FirstNet launches the NPSBN, the network will initially provide mission‐critical, high‐speed data and video services that will supplement today’s LMR networks. The network is also expected to provide non-mission critical voice at launch. Public safety entities will continue to rely on their LMR networks for mission critical voice features – such as Group Communications and Direct-Mode – that are needed in an emergency response setting. In the near term, public safety entities will need to maintain and/or upgrade their LMR networks, as appropriate.
The Long-Term Vision
The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 requires FirstNet to ensure the building, operation, and maintenance of the first high speed, nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety entities. FirstNet plans to offer mission critical voice services over the NPSBN – along with video and data – when voice over LTE functionalities meet or exceed first responders’ mission critical needs.