By Anatoli Levine On August 2, 2016

Over the last few years, LTE technology has become more dominant, proving itself as a highly reliable, robust, and fast infrastructure, that’s able to enhance public safety and first responders communication. Standardization bodies support this approach, and a major release (Release 13) was published by the 3GPP in March 2016, outlining the requirements and describing how to build LTE-based critical communications products including push-to-talk, group-based calling, ProSe and more.

Countries worldwide, from China and Korea to the UK and USA, have now begun the process of launching LTE-based public-safety networks.

All around there are signs of strong demand from first responder organizations, and public and private agencies, for new products that will help them deliver more effective emergency response services using these networks.

Enhanced emergency response

One of the key benefits of LTE-based networks is that they are able to deliver much more valuable data and in greater quality, audiovisual as well as informational, compared to first responders’ existing networks (LMR for example). This enables a higher degree of situational awareness and clarity in the field as well as the mission control center.

So, for example, first responder control rooms could get a much better picture of what’s happening on the ground during an emergency situation by being able to see live streamed video transmitted from the teams on site. Or, if needed, fire-fighters could quickly download building plans onto their devices when attending a crisis situation.

And something that adds significantly to the attractiveness of LTE-based solutions is that off-the-shelf devices could join the network and broaden accessibility to the 2nd and 3rd first responders’ circles without adding to the costs, thanks to the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) concept.

Challenges for developers

Of course such substantial technology shifts always create new challenges. And that’s especially true here given the necessity for emergency response communications services to be completely reliable.

In particular, the wide range of protocols that underpin the LTE standard are versatile and meticulous to implement. Add the need to customize the implementation to work with IMS core functions which vary between Mobile Network Operators and you find incredibly tough challenges ahead.

Developers, whose time and efforts are valuable, should focus on delivering the distinctive aspects of their products. Therefore, implementing the core protocols and codecs of the LTE standard through the use of a third-party SDK is an attractive option.

Smart choices

Such a choice can potentially save a lot of development time. But making the right choice of SDK for developing a first responder communication solution requires carefully weighing up a number of different factors.

To take one: 3GPP release 13 was only finalized in March 2016. But release 14, which will add additional communication capabilities for first responders, is already on the horizon (it’s expected to be finalized in mid-2017). How easy

will it be, with any given third-party SDK, not only to integrate it into a solution today, but also to implement these new additions to the standard while retaining backwards compatibility in the future?

In our white paper,Public Safety over LTE: Developing Advanced Mission Critical Communication, we provide a look into the technology, its drivers, and suggest a set of criteria that can help you evaluate different third-party public-safety LTE SDKs. You can download it here.