October 25, 2011

AT&T and Harris to form an alliance for next-gen LTE wireless solutions

News Report

As announced in a recent press release, AT&T and Harris are forming an alliance to develop and deliver next generation LTE wireless solutions for agencies and first responders whose lifesaving efforts depend on timely access to critical information. Together, AT&T and Harris are exploring opportunities to provide first responders with broadband and mission critical communications systems that will enable high-speed video and data solutions. Users would benefit from network agility that delivers highly-secure, highly-reliable connectivity where and when they need it.

AT&T and Harris would bring extensive experience supporting public safety and government customers, as well as expertise in broadband and mission critical network construction and integration, interoperable device manufacturing, and network service management. As a result of this alliance, public safety agencies would benefit from a unified experience driven by integration of broadband and narrowband Land Mobile Radio (LMR) networks, multiple business models to fit agencies' needs and resources, seamless roaming and nationwide interoperability using AT&T's 4G network (when outside the public safety LTE network coverage area), and a broader portfolio of wireless devices and applications designed for both commercial and public safety broadband networks.

The companies will work together to deliver a set of solutions that include:
  • Handheld, vehicle-mounted and peripheral LTE-compatible devices
  • Mission-critical broadband applications
  • Seamless access to both private and public networks for public safety agencies
  • Network management, applications and support systems
  • Integrated Broadband/Project 25 infrastructure and devices

The Technology

LTE (Long Term Evolution) is a wireless broadband technology designed to support mobile Internet access via cell phones and handheld devices. LTE is sometimes called 4G, or fourth generation, technology.

Although there are major step changes between LTE and its 3G predecessors, it is nevertheless looked upon as an evolution of the UMTS / 3GPP 3G standards. Although it uses a different form of radio interface, using OFDMA / SC-FDMA instead of CDMA, there are many similarities with the earlier forms of 3G architecture and there is scope for much re-use.

LTE can be seen for provide a further evolution of functionality, increased speeds and general improved performance.

LTE is the fourth-generation mobile wireless technology favored by public safety. Perhaps more important to public safety is that LTE’s uplink data rates will be between 2 Mb/s and 5 Mb/s, which typically is enough bandwidth to allow the transmission of video from an incident scene. This capability will present a substantial improvement over the current land mobile radio (LMR) networks, designed primarily for voice communications, which can't meet today's need for high-speed mobile data services.

The Context

Initiated in 2004, the Long Term Evolution (LTE) project focused on enhancing the Universal Terrestrial Radio Access (UTRA) and optimizing 3GPP’s radio access architecture. Targets were to have average user throughput of three- to four-times the Release 6 HSDPA levels in the Downlink (100Mbps), and two to three times the HSUPA levels in the Uplink (50Mbps).

In 2007, the LTE of the 3rd generation radio access technology – "E UTRA" – progressed from the feasibility study stage to the first issue of approved Technical Specifications.

By the end of 2008, the specifications were sufficiently stable for commercial implementation.
Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) was selected for the Downlink and Single Carrier-Frequency Division Multiple Access (SC-FDMA) for the Uplink.

Many operators have not yet upgraded their basic 3G networks, and 3GPP LTE is seen as the next logical step for many operators, who will leapfrog straight from basic 3G straight to LTE as this will avoid providing several stages of upgrade. The use of LTE will also provide the data capabilities that will be required for many years and until the full launch of the full 4G standards known as LTE Advanced.

US nation's public-safety groups have recently agreed to use LTE in the 700MHz band to deliver mobile broadband applications used by police, fire and emergency medical services. By doing so, they'll be able to take advantage of wireless broadband-which is essential for support of mission-critical services that accelerate response times, improve situational awareness-to increase the safety of the public and all personnel.

Specifically, on January 2011 the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has set LTE as the data standard for a nationwide mobile broadband network for public safety agencies that's been on the table for nearly a decade. The FCC, in a unanimous vote, adopted LTE as the common interface for the network, which will use a portion of the 700MHz spectrum. U.S. lawmakers and FCC members have been calling for a nationwide mobile broadband network for police and fire departments since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the US. Many of the police and fire departments responding to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. couldn't talk to each other because they weren't using the same radio equipment on the same spectrum bands.

The FCC doesn't typically pick technology standards, but in this case it was needed, said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. "In order to ensure nationwide interoperability for public safety communications there's widespread agreement that a common air interface is desirable and necessary to enable nationwide interoperability," he said.


"This alliance is a first step toward making next-generation technology and services available to agencies who seek competitive options," said Chris Hill, AT&T Vice President of Advanced Business Solutions. "It's the beginning of a public safety ecosystem of open devices and applications interoperable with private broadband networks, as they become available."

"Harris has extensive experience in mission-critical communications, and a legacy of bringing new technology, such as LTE to public safety and government customers," said Steve Marschilok, President of Harris Public Safety and Professional Communications. "This alliance will look to expand the choices for a growing set of solutions that can be deployed to create an advanced, mission-critical broadband experience for public safety."

References: Harris (1), AT&T (2), RadioElectronics.com (3), 3GPP (4,5), FierceWireless (6), NetworkWorld (7)

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