Is Asia Ready for Digitalization in Public Safety?
Asia continues to lead global economic growth, but it has also come at the expense of socio-economic challenges arising from rapid urbanization which is putting a strain on support systems and existing infrastructures. Nevertheless, these challenges are creating enormous opportunities in new communication technologies that can drastically change or save lives, driven by connectivity, sensors, devices and analytics that are especially critical to public safety services.
Asia’s demographic shift is pushing public safety higher up the agenda of governments. With the region’s increasing vulnerability to natural disasters, complex emergencies and security threats, the requirements for high bandwidth, low latency and reliability in public safety networks for quicker response times has never been more critical.
The public safety community – fire services, police, ambulances – has long called for mobile broadband to support its mission to save lives. But multiple networks that are needed to manage mission and business critical services require faster and more reliable broadband technology like LTE,especially with increasing congestion in the applications space.
Nokia recently conducted a study to examine the readiness of LTE-based public safety services in five Asian countries – Bangladesh, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam – outlining gaps and best practices to guide industry players, government and policy-makers in accelerating the digitalization of networks.
Importantly, the results have revealed barriers that are hindering the adoption of broadband-based public safety networks in these countries – ranging from complex ecosystems to inadequate budgets and a lack of consensus among stakeholders. While these countries are at different stages of broadband adoption, the study found that there is an urgent need to enhance public safety capabilities and capacities to cope with new threats, and to improve emergency services.
Let’s take a look at a snapshot of the current state of broadband adoption in these countries based on the study, as well as opportunities.
Bangladesh’s public safety ecosystem is at an emergent stage as commercial LTE networks have yet to be launched. While rudimentary trunked radio solutions have been deployed, they are not widely used as public safety agencies in the country rely primarily on commercial cellular services for their critical communication needs.
Bangladesh has tremendous challenges with natural and man-made disasters, and limited capacity to cope with. This means that there are opportunities to tap on LTE-based critical communications for broader risk management and emergency response capabilities.
The sentiment and opportunities for LTE-based critical communications in Indonesia are expected to improve greatly over the next five years, buoyed by a variety of factors, including radio spectrum availability and the push for LTE-based critical communications by Tier-1 mobile operators.
Theupcoming major sporting event and responder agencies dealing with high risks of natural disasters could benefit from the use of LTE-based critical communications. Moreover, the acceleration of 700MHz harmonization would enable mobile operators to deploy large-scale LTE-based critical communications. Mobile operators can then further monetize this by expanding into adjacent, mission critical applications.
Japan has been subject to frequent natural disasters in the past, and it is not surprising that the study showed continuous investments by mobile operators to ‘harden’ network infrastructure. Current PMR (Professional Mobile Radio) systems in Japan were also designed for voice and low-data communication with local proprietary techniques.
A dedicated 3GPP LTE spectrum for public safety should be taken into consideration to benefit from the global harmonized technology. Major international events will be good platforms for stakeholders to showcase feature-rich broadband-based public safety solutions.
Thailand has a mature public safety ecosystem in place, with dedicated Public Protection and Disaster Relief (PPDR) spectrum allocated and strong commitment from telco operators and end-users. The country also has several strong market triggers that are driving the adoption of LTE-based critical communications, such as the presidential elections slated for 2018 and the recent rise in domestic conflicts.
Since the country has now allocated spectrum for broadband PPDR, the use of LTE could also be expanded into other vertical markets that require complementary business and mission critical services.
Vietnam’s public safety ecosystem is still developing with commercial LTE in nascent stages. The market is expected to see more traction with spectrum re-farming and harmonizing activities, as well as the regulator’s strong support for LTE services. There have been no public announcements on the allocation of dedicated PPDR spectrum to date.
The benefits of LTE-based critical communications in reducing the risks and improving the response for natural and man-made disasters, as well as the favorable conditions for PPDR services should be promoted in Vietnam. Innovations such as Emergency Medical Services should also be capitalized to underline the value that public safety LTE brings to this market.
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to public safety solutions, clearly all stakeholders need to play their part – from governments to vendors, operators and service providers – in improving public safety capabilities. The responsibility ultimately lies with the government to put in a sense of urgency as it directly impacts how effective agencies can be in the field when responding to emergencies.
While public safety agencies and organizations have already started planning to evolve their networks to LTE-based public safety solutions, we need to do more to overcome rising socio-economic challenges.
The digitalization of public safety networks will continue to be a government priority as it demands for accurate and critical information in real-time and across jurisdictional boundaries. The possibilities are there, but we need to do more to accelerate a digital future across emerging and developed countries in Asia. We are on the cusp of a revolution that is changing the way we live and work, so we must strive for innovation and narrow the digital divide for a much safer environment for communities.