Telstra pushes LANES to emergency services, enterprises

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Telstra pushes LANES to emergency services, enterprises

Awaits Productivity Commission's final spectrum ruling.

Telstra is continuing its drive to get emergency services agencies using its dedicated LANES service for their mobile communications, partnering with Ambulance Victoria for the AFL grand final on Saturday.

The trial comes as the Productivity Commission prepares its final report on the most cost-effective way to deliver a national mobile capability for public safety agencies.

Its draft report, released last month, said a commercial option like Telstra's LANES (LTE Advanced Network for Emergency Services) would cost far less than dedicating spectrum or a hybrid of the two options.

The finding provoked backlash from the country's police forces, which are pushing for their own dedicated spectrum to run a national mobile emergency services network.

Police, fire and ambulance services currently use their own land mobile radio networks for the majority of their communications, which predominantly involve voice services.

But the networks don't allow for high-speed data transfer and are also mostly not interoperable across agencies.

Telstra's LANES service offers emergency services agencies a dedicated spectrum channel and guaranteed priority over other network users when they need to scale up.

Telstra trialled LANES in Queensland and Western Australia in 2013 and for the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Brisbane last year.

It used the technology again for Saturday's AFL grand final in Victoria, and said it found emergency services agencies were able to be given preferential data treatment over a shared network without service disruption for the agencies or consumers.

"Stadium environments like the MCG have traditionally been a pain point for emergency services using mobile broadband communications," Telstra network technology general manager Paula Rujak wrote.

"When 100,000 fans all wish to jump online, post selfies at the game, stream instant replays and comment on social media, it can make the network very congested and difficult for emergency services to use their data effectively among teams on site."

Telstra said Saturday's trial involved full LANES capability, including access prioritiation - Rujak said Ambulance Victoria utilised an exclusive portion of Telstra's spectrum and also obtained priority access to the network for burst capability.

"This solution has shown us that stadiums filled to capacity are no longer an issue for emergency services communication via the mobile network. It was great to be able to allow Ambulance Victoria to experience this solution working on our network," Rujak wrote.

Telstra will now pursue LANES arrangements with emergency services and enterprise, Rujak said. The telco declined to comment on "commercial conversations".

Late last year Telstra signed a memorandum of understanding with Motorola Solutions to create public safety broadband solutions - based on LANES - that would be used in large-scale emergencies.

Earlier this year Telstra revealed it was working on a LANES solution for enterprise, which would predominantly target the mining sector.

The big difference between such a network for emergency services and enterprise is strain - enterprises generally have steadier requirements where public safety agencies need ability to burst significantly within minutes.

Mining giant Rio Tinto earlier this year called for the federal government to limit the amount of 1800MHz spectrum - which it relies on to deploy microwave backhaul to remote mine sites - that will be auctioned to mobile telcos in the national spectrum auction later this year.

Its calls were heeded, with the Australian Communications and Media Authority later ruling that bidders will only be allowed to purchase a maximum 2 x 25MHz chunks of spectrum of the 2 x 60MHz for sale at the auction.

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