Australia's state and territory governments have turned to industry for suggestions on how to create a national mobile broadband network for emergency services.
The work is being spearheaded by the NSW Telco Authority, which has asked telecommunications market participants for information and ideas to influence the direction of the project.
The NSW Telco Authority said it aims to begin trialling service delivery models by the end of January 2018.
A national public safety mobile broadband (PSMB) capability has been on the cards since at least 2009.
In 2016, after years of back-and-forth on various proposals, the federal government set up a committee of commonwealth, state and territory officials to consider how to implement a nationwide, interoperable PSMB capability using existing telco mobile networks.
The relevant ministers across state and territory governments agreed in-principle to a network that is opt-in, tailored to “jurisdictional differences” and “deployable across the infrastructure and assets of multiple mobile network operators and states and territories to ensure reliability”.
To date, police, fire and ambulance services have largely relied on land mobile radio (LMR) networks for mission-critical two-way voice communications.
They have made limited use of mobile broadband - mostly for non-mission critical situations - due to reliability concerns.
However, LMR networks aren't capable of supporting high-speed data transfer, which is required for much of the day-to-day field operations of emergency services, including dispatch, biometrics, and database access for queries relating to facial recognition and vehicles of interest.
“Mobile broadband offers significant potential to improve [agencies'] effectiveness and efficiency when responding to critical incidents (including emergencies) and conducting their core operations”, a request for information released this week states.
“It is envisaged that mission-critical grade public safety mobile broadband will provide [agencies] with significantly broadened communications options, improved interoperability and coordination during multi-agency responses.”
The envisioned mobile broadband capability will “complement and, where appropriate, be integrated with jurisdictional land mobile radio capabilities”.
The NSW Telco Authority is already in the midst of building the NSW government’s $178 million single state-wide radio network for emergency services agencies, which it has previously said will support the adoption of future technologies such as a nationwide mobile broadband capability.