Preparing emergency services for the 5G era

The UK emergency services currently rely on the Airwave network that harnesses TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) network technology. TETRA delivers great voice coverage but the downside is that it’s costly and relatively slow, with dialup or ISDN like data speeds.

The high cost of Airwave is often highlighted as one of the main reasons why the Government, in 2015, planned to replace it with 4G. The Home Office originally expected that emergency services could start using the 4G Emergency Service Network (ESN) in September 2017, allowing Airwave to be replaced by December 2019 but it has been delayed and will now be ready in December 2022.

Faster network connectivity with 5G

Emergency service networks have relied on narrowband mobile private radio systems such as TETRA and Project 25 for mission-critical communications for a long time. These systems will continue to be an important part of public safety services, but with the demand for data rich applications, such as video, increasing the current network will need to evolve in order to be able to handle these large amounts of data.

By provisioning wireless technologies such as mmWave with open-source cloud-native software, organisations and local authorities can be empowered to innovate using 5G technology, and provide universal coverage where it’s needed. 5G mmWave technology is faster, with more capacity and lower latency and will ultimately make the lives of emergency service operators easier.

The traditional bands for wireless backhaul between 6 GHz and 42 GHz served very well for 4G but will struggle to meet the higher data rates and increased capacity that 5G can provide. One way to overcome the additional backhaul bandwidth challenges is to move higher up the spectrum into mmWave bands – the 14 GHz available between 57-71 GHz are particularly well suited for this.

As 5G rollouts intensify, backhaul innovation is becoming a crucial way to support the higher bandwidth, denser networks, and low latency applications. So, the goal now for network providers and government bodies is to ensure emergency services are gearing up for the 5G future so they can operate with greater efficiency and respond in real-time to major crises.

5G emergency services of the future

It’s the increased bandwidth of 5G, especially in the mmWave bands, that offers huge potential for a whole range of new applications that have not been possible up until now. To name just a few use cases, autonomous vehicles will manoeuvre themselves using traffic data to find the quickest routes to hospitals, while emergency personnel can focus their attention on patients. Better coverage will allow detailed information and scans to be sent rapidly to the receiving hospital while the patient is being treated in transit. For both body cameras and dash-cams, as well as drone cameras or town surveillance, 5G will enable a near-instantaneous stream of visual data, allowing a view of situations as and when they happen.

IEEE 5G wireless equipment, using the mmWave spectrum, creates a whole host of additional benefits for emergency services:

  • Security: Low-latency transmission technology and encryption mean that wireless transmission can be more secure and reliable than fibre, with an additional benefit being that it cannot be unintentionally damaged by building works or extreme weather events.
  • Reach: mmWave small cells are able to connect over long distances and so can be deployed wherever and whenever. Their flexibility means they can be installed over much greater areas with less expense and less disruption compared to fibre.
  • Seamless integration: Our mmWave equipment is fully complementary to fibre and 3GPP wireless access technologies, allowing a seamless integration with existing networks.
  • Rapid set up: mmWave nodes are small in size and low in weight, allowing for a very rapid deployment with minimal touch time.
  • Scalability: Small cell base stations can be mounted throughout an urban environment on existing infrastructure. Thanks to this rapid deployment, wireless nodes can be placed at the best locations, and with smart network planning and link aggregation coverage and throughput can be scaled quickly and easily.
  • Low cost: Operating in the unlicensed spectrum has the added advantage that public safety and security service operators do not need to invest in expensive, but often small, slices of lower frequency spectrum.

With great data comes great responsibility

Speed, capacity, and numerous other benefits of 5G will need to be managed with the right tools and expertise. Emergency teams will require training on 5G-enabled technology, so it will be important to find network enablement providers that offer technical training and ongoing support with their 5G offering.

As real-time communications like multi-view video feeds are sent to control centres, operators will need to be able to react quickly and efficiently with the information they have, in order to limit casualties. It might mean that as 5G-enabled technology becomes faster (and more complex) more highly trained staff will be needed. The good news is that, by avoiding disruption or downtime thanks to the 5G mmWave technology’s capability of network slicing, more time is freed up for training.

Looking ahead

With 5G network deployments picking up speed, a robust wireless solution is an effective choice. Moving higher up the spectrum and tapping into the 14 GHz available between 57-71 GHz with the help of mmWave solutions, undeniable advantages will be made available to operators.

5G mmWave equipment is easier, faster, and more cost-effectively deployed, with small cells and access points being easily mounted on existing infrastructure, even in previously unreachable remote areas. 5G connectivity combined with human expertise has the power to elevate emergency service provision, remove restraints and save more lives in the long run.

To discuss how mmWave might enable your applications get in touch with us today.