Senior Technical Advisor, Canadian Safety and Security Program: “the challenge is in ensuring public safety has total confidence in the technology”

Claudio Lucente, Senior Technical Advisor (Contractor), Canadian Safety and Security Program is speaking on Day Two of the LTE North America conference, taking place on the 21st-22nd November 2013, in Dallas, Texas, USA. Ahead of the show we find about about importance of LTE to Canadian Public Safety systems.

To put things in context please give me some background on the Canadian Safety and Security Program.

The Canadian Safety and Security Program (CSSP) is a federal program led by Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science, in partnership with Canadian Broadband Network effort. The program’s mandate is to provide science and technology solutions, support and advice to issues impacting public safety and security.

The development of a Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN) in Canada is a significant national effort coordinated by Public Safety Canada, which involves different policy, governance, and technical issues and many different partners in both the public and private sectors. Through the CSSP, we’ve put in place Technical Working Groups involving approximately 80 participants from all levels of government, industry and academia who are working together to provide technical advice and recommendations on the PSBN initiative. This includes looking at operational, interoperability and security requirements, as well as proposing a preliminary architecture design for the PSBN.

The LTE North America conference is taking place on the 21st-22nd November 2013, in Dallas, Texas, USA. Click here NOW to download a brochure for the event.

What are the key benefits you feel LTE brings to public safety networks?

LTE supports a comprehensive tool kit for access control, prioritisation, and Quality of Service (QoS) control that can be used to manage data traffic congestion at incidents where the demand for bandwidth would exceed the available capacity. Another key benefit of LTE is in the area of small cells and deployable systems that can be used to temporarily augment coverage and capacity at planned and un-planned events. Finally, LTE supports higher throughput than 3G systems. The higher throughput enables content-rich applications, such as video, to be supported.

Will there be any key differences between the Canadian and the US public safety plans?

It is important that efforts on both sides of the border are coordinated to enable cross-border communications using this spectrum. To this end, 700MHz PSBN harmonisation is being examined by a Canada-United States (U.S.) Communications Interoperability Working Group that was established under the Beyond the Border Action Plan. Canada is working in the same portion of the frequency band as the U.S. There are some unique challenges in Canada such as the vastness of our territory and remote areas. In our role as technical advisors, we are taking a careful look at the role of deployable systems in rural and remote areas that may have less infrastructure in place. Many recent disasters have shown that communications infrastructure is often unavailable to support public safety operations during a crisis. As such, one of the goals for a Canadian PSBN is to be able to temporarily deploy communications systems, in any region in Canada, to augment capabilities during a disaster or a planned major event.

Near-border operability and cross-border interoperability of LTE technology is also an important consideration due to the proximity of the majority of Canada’s population to the US-Canadian border. We are working with US partners to identify technical options that could make the most effective use possible of spectrum along the border and enable first responders to operate across the border in mutual aid.

Are there still limitations with LTE technology that will need to be overcome in terms of providing mission-critical voice and data?

While LTE may be approaching the ability to provide mission-critical voice and data, the real challenge is in ensuring that the public safety community has total confidence that the technology will work ‘on the ground,’ in any situation. For responders, the ability to use these technologies effectively can be a matter of life and death, so they won’t adopt a new technology unless they are absolutely certain that it is robust and reliable.

Capturing these requirements and ensuring they are considered and met is one of the strengths of the CSSP’s partnership model. We work closely with the end-users to ensure their operational needs are understood and reflected in the technical advice and recommendations we provide. The decision to further explore mission critical voice and data lies with operational authorities and we will continue to provide technical advice and support as needed.

What do you feel is the optimal governance structure for public safety network rollout? Is local, regional, state or national level best?

In terms of our role as technical advisors, we are ensuring that the proposed architecture design is as flexible as possible and can be adapted to meet whatever governance structure the public safety community selects.

What are your predictions for LTE-based critical communications network rollouts over the next few years?

The development and implementation of a PSBN in Canada is such a large effort and dependent on so many factors that it’s impossible to predict its roll-out timeline. What I can tell you is that DRDC CSS, through the CSSP, will continue to provide technical support and advice to Public Safety Canada and partners as efforts to develop a PSBN in Canada continue to evolve.

The LTE North America conference is taking place on the 21st-22nd November 2013, in Dallas, Texas, USA. Click here NOW to download a brochure for the event.

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