Clear, reliable and uninterrupted communications are vital for all emergency responders whether in routine day-to-day operations, or the coordination of complex multi-agency operations for a major emergency.
With improvements in technology and connectivity have come new devices and applications, each with ever-greater demands for bandwidth – and this means First Responders, especially Police, now wear cameras, as well as radios and possibly other telemetry and telecoms devices. What this now means for a major incident in an urban area is a concentration of personnel and civilian spectators, all competing for a finite amount of bandwidth in a small area. This can impact network capacity, potentially jeopardizing mission critical communications and risking lives.
Different frequencies also have different performance characteristics in different environments. So, the best frequencies for dense urban areas, are higher frequencies over shorter ranges, whereas in rural areas lower frequencies are better for communication over long range. First responders must, therefore, have a number of frequency ranges available, each with dedicated bandwidth, depending on their environments, the types of operations and who they need to communicate with ground, water or air. Security is also a consideration in terms of whether these communications need to be private and secured through encryption.
With the continuing exponential growth in connected devices like Internet of Things (IoT) and other Machine-to-Machine (M2M) telemetry and communication, plus cellular, entertainment (TV & Radio), Wi-Fi, etc. it is becoming ever harder to provide assurance around performance, coverage and clarity in any given frequency range because it’s not just the frequency itself, but also interference like harmonics and bleed-over from adjacent channels.
Furthermore, with emergency services moving away from dedicated communications onto shared infrastructure to take advantage of cost savings and make use of latest technologies, the challenges will become even more complex.
Managing these challenges and the emerging hostile threats, like drones, eavesdropping, hacking and jamming are no longer optional –the ability to sustain critical communications, by continuously monitoring quality of coverage to ensure clear and reliable communication is essential.