Public safety 5G networks represent $700m opportunity

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The public safety broadband communications sector is set to see a steady surge in cumulative spending on rapidly deployable network assets between 2022 and 2025, based not only on 5G technology but also LTE and 5G, according to a report by analyst SNS Telecom & IT.

The analyst’s Public safety LTE & 5G market: 2022-2030 – opportunities, challenges, strategies & forecasts predicts that during the study period, this spending will exceed $700m.

Looking at what is driving the market, the study noted that cells on wheels (COWs), cells on light trucks (COLTs) and other deployable LTE network assets have played a pivotal role in facilitating mission-critical communications, real-time transmission of video footage, and improved situational awareness for incident command and emergency response needs. One example cited in the survey was the mobilisation of AT&T’s FirstNet deployables during the wildfire seasons of 2021 and 2022 in the US.

SNS Telecom & IT said 5G NR-equipped portable network systems are also beginning to emerge. It highlighted Verizon Communications’ introduction of Thor’s Hammer, a near-30ft trailer that can act as a locally managed private 5G network – operating in C-band and mmWave spectrum – to provide coverage in areas where network connections and coverage can be challenging or where natural disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes have damaged existing infrastructure.

Within the framework of a US Defense Innovation Unit-led project, the California National Guard is trialling rapidly deployable private 5G network equipment – using the 3.5GHz CBRS band – to provide reliable, ad-hoc data and voice services to civil and military emergency response teams operating anywhere in California.

Looking globally, the report found that in China, the Lishui Municipal Emergency Management Bureau is using private 5G slicing over China Mobile’s network to provide portable cell sites and rapidly deployable communications vehicles as part of a disaster management and visualisation system.

And in Taiwan, the Hsinchu City Fire Department was pinpointed for its use of an emergency response vehicle that can be rapidly deployed to disaster zones to establish high-bandwidth, low-latency emergency communications via a satellite-backhauled private 5G network based on Open RAN standards.

Multiple first responder agencies in Germany are also evaluating the use of portable non-public networks – operating in 3.7-3.8GHz local area licensed spectrum – to enable emergency personnel to communicate with each other and control unmanned firefighting vehicles, reconnaissance robots and drones.

A more recent case study cited in the study was the partnership between Telenor, Intel and the Norwegian Air Ambulance which demonstrated the use of a proof-of-concept 5G  network on wheels (NOW) platform in a disaster scenario. The demonstration showcased how a transportable private 5G network can give first responders better situational awareness based on artificial intelligence-processed video of the disaster scene transmitted from 5G-equipped drones.

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