PSBNs require a range of transportable communications components, but LTE can now be reduced to very small packages.

To be capable of supporting mission-critical operations in the 21st Century, an organization needs rich data. Emergency organizations to-date have traditionally used voice-based technologies that have not evolved much operationally since the 1930s. Meanwhile, the public at-large has access to advanced global mobile communications through smartphones and other technologies.

While many responders have experience using information and communication technologies (ICT) in an office environment, extending this to field-level operations can be a new experience– it is often limited to the use of available commercial mobile communication services that have not been designed or scaled for emergency use. Major on-demand critical operations require special in-field interoperability solutions that often differ from day-to-day urban solutions.

Broadband spectrum was recently set aside for public safety use, which offer such solutions. The US has created a large-scale program called FirstNet which is implementing such solutions in the same spectrum. The idea is to use this spectrum to create a future interoperable Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN) that can operate cross-agency and with our nations implementing these technologies. Canada has defined a candidate Network Architecture Description for such PSBNs using the same LTE technology found in advanced smartphones.

However, Canada has complex terrains and many areas of low population density for which extension of possible future fixed PSBN systems would be impractical. In these areas, PSBN systems would likely need to be deployed on an as-needed tactical basis. Deployable systems will also be needed in rural and urban areas that do not have enough PSBN capacity or when major emergencies overwhelm existing capacity. It is this problem that is the core of our project.

It is now possible to reduce the building-sized cell site and fortress-sized control site infrastructure for LTE to units that can even be backpacked. However, we need to understand how and when we can provide connectivity back to a Public Safety Internet-style central network to provide interoperability between responder agency’s networks; modern LTE networks use extremely advanced networks for this function and the ability to provide next-generation mobile ICT depends on our ability to build those backhaul (links back home) and cross-haul (links between infrastructures at an emergency response site) networks as much as our ability to deploy the actual LTE cell sites. Thus, the project examines all these areas to fully-define what responders need, where they need it, and when the need it, based on real-world applications and real-world deployment locations. Some of the issues are described in these presentations at CITIG 7 in 2013.