Displaying items by tag: public safety

Super storms draw attention to critical communications

Written on Tuesday, 03 October 2017 12:46

The US Territory of Puerto Rico was recently hit by the strongest storm in almost 90 years. Knocking out the island’s electricity grid, 90 percent of cell phone sites stopped working, according to the US Federal Communications Commission. The recent string of monster storms in North America has drawn attention to the importance of critical communications and promoting public safety.

In the space of two months (August and September 2017), the southern United States and Caribbean region were slammed by three mega storms: Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and the most recent Hurricane Maria. Harvey caused at least 75 confirmed deaths; 1 in Guyana, and 74 in the US. As of September 27, Irma caused at least 124 deaths; while as of October 1 Maria caused at least 68 deaths.

Still recovering from Irma two weeks prior, approximately 80,000 people in Puerto Rico were left without power after Maria hit. Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) had struggled with increasing debt, reaching $9 billion even before the hurricanes, prompting them to file for bankruptcy. The island’s aging infrastructure left it vulnerable to damage from the storms. Consequently, mobile coverage was cut off.

When Maria finally subsided, in Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan, cars were reportedly pulling up on the side of roads with occupants emerging holding their cell phones up in the air in search of network coverage. For miles, cell phones displayed a frustrating “No Service” message. This is in stark contrast to the US states of Texas and Florida that had cell service restored almost completely in storm-affected areas a week after Harvey and Irma hit.

The aftermath of the storms has drawn fresh attention to the importance of critical communications. Following the storms, the United States Federal Communications Commission urged Apple to activate the FM (frequency modulation) chips that are in iPhones to promote public safety.

Commission Chairman Ajit Pai released a statement applauding those companies that have “done the right thing” by activating FM chips in their phones in light of natural disasters hammering the country. “In recent years, I have repeatedly called on the wireless industry to activate the FM chips that are already installed in almost all smartphones in the United States,” said Mr. Pai.

He highlighted the importance of FM chips during natural disasters. When wireless networks go down during a disaster, smartphones with activated FM chips can allow people to get vital access to important information without an internet connection. “Apple is the one major phone manufacturer that has resisted doing so,” said Mr. Pai. “But I hope the company will reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.”

According to the FCC, 89.3 percent of cell sites were out of service after Maria. All counties in Puerto Rico, except San Juan, had greater than 75 percent of their cell sites out of service. 29 out of the 78 counties in Puerto Rico had 100 percent of their cell sites out of service. On the US Virgin Islands, 69.8 percent of cell sites were out of service.

Since there were widespread power outages in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, the FCC received reports that large percentages of consumers were left without either cable services or wireline service (one company reported that 100 percent of its consumers were left out of service due to lack of commercial power).

In one of the few places that had connectivity on Puerto Rico, the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino, tourists reportedly overwhelmed the lobby to use the working cell service and Wi-Fi to connect with the outside world. With a cell phone penetration rate of nearly 100 percent, according to government data, Puerto Ricans have been heavily impacted by the lack of network services on the island.

Confidence in connectivity

Puerto Rico has five main mobile operators: AT&T, T-Mobile, Claro, Sprint and Open Mobile. Connectivity provided by operators is the backbone of relief efforts today. AT&T and Sprint both dispatched teams to restore coverage to the island. The companies also waived certain fees for customers to establish a way for people to contact their families and friends.

The electric grid fallout presented one of the biggest challenges to restoring connectivity to the island. “Power is essential to restoring wireless and wireline communications. Given the breadth of power outages across the islands, we’re deploying portable generators as quickly as allowed,” AT&T said.

Social media giant Facebook also pledged support for Puerto Rico. CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced $1.5 million in aid to organizations assisting in the island’s recovery from Maria, together with direct assistance from Facebook’s connectivity team in an effort to get people back online. The company also said it would donate Facebook ad space to share critical information with Puerto Rican users.

Facebook’s connectivity team previously came under the spotlight for ambitious technology initiatives like the Aquila drone, a high-altitude solar-powered aircraft designed to connect remote areas to the internet. Facebook is pushing forward with the Aquila program's progress to help bring the world closer together through connectivity.

“Communication is critical during a disaster,” Zuckerberg said in a post after Hurricane Maria. “With 90 percent of cell towers on the island [Puerto Rico] out of service, people can't get in touch with their loved ones -- and it's harder for rescue workers to coordinate relief efforts.”

Recovery efforts have suffered in Puerto Rico as a result of its cell network outage. Utilizing social media proved immensely effective after fallout from Harvey in Texas, as people could publish posts that were quickly relayed to rescuers. Due to the lack of connectivity on Puerto Rico, in some remote areas people resorted to painting “Help” signs on roads and buildings, hoping that relief efforts would reach them.

The public safety community has long called for mobile broadband to support its mission to save lives. With the adoption of LTE mobile broadband technology, public safety networks can benefit from the advantages of fast and reliable broadband data and real-time video services, opening up new communications possibilities for rescue missions and disaster recovery situations.

In an effort to make mission-critical mobile broadband a reality, Nokia, for example, has a dedicated comprehensive technology and services portfolio called ViTrust. The portfolio includes rapidly deployable solutions for emergency and disaster recovery situations to establish coverage in remote areas, among other features.

The Finnish company recently expanded the portfolio with new services to help first responders take advantage of reliable and secure high-performance applications on their public safety devices. The services provide trouble-free continuity of operations for public safety agencies across a multi-vendor, multi-technology mission critical communications environment.

‘Care for public safety’, for instance, is a service Nokia introduced to ensure that the most demanding communications needs to public safety organizations are fulfilled. The company says it ensures that new network functionality and services interworking with multivendor LTE networks are available from day one.

One European operator is already using this service and seeing the benefits of reduced operational downtime risks, according to Nokia, with service levels stabilizing faster than before and fulfilling public safety requirements.

“The success of moving to broadband-based critical communications requires deep technological and operational expertise,” said Asad Rizvi, head of Nokia's global business development in Global Services. “Nokia has both, from our long history of working with agencies to our global service expertise in broadband.”

The public safety LTE market is expected to be valued at US$3,091.3 million by 2023, according to new market research published by MarketsandMarkets, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 25.7 percent from US$782.9 million in 2017. The factors that are driving the growth of this market, according to the report, are the rising demand for unmanned operations and remote surveillances, and elimination of connectivity issues between networks.

Published in Reports

Nokia is to completely modernize the nationwide LTE network for Ukkoverkot, the Finnish private network operator offering wireless data communications services for infrastructure operators, the industrial IoT market, public safety authorities, the maritime industry and both residents and enterprises in remote areas.

The new network will be powered by Nokia's leading LTE solution, which provides superior network quality, capacity, security and reliability required for such specialized use cases.

"Ukkoverkot is totally focused on serving our customers, for whom connectivity means the world,” said Mikko Uusitalo, CEO of Ukkoverkot. “The agreement with Nokia enables us to roll out the most advanced public protection, IoT and campus network functions as they are available. The agreement with Finavia to develop their airport infrastructure on Nokia technology is clear testimony to the potential we have."

Founded in 2014, Ukkoverkot operates its own LTE-based mobile data network and a number of local private LTE networks, offering fast connections using the 450 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum bands.

Ukkoverkot's low-frequency nationwide network is largely reserved for the use of its industrial and public safety customers, which helps ensure exceptional network stability and reliability, while its high frequency network is reserved for private micro-operator networks. As a pure broadband operator, Ukkoverkot's network exclusively carries data services.

Starting in Q4 2017, Nokia will upgrade Ukkoverkot's older-generation network technology to Nokia's state-of-the-art LTE-based solution, which significantly improves network performance. This enables Ukkoverkot's customers in industrial IoT settings to capitalize on opportunities related to new Industry 4.0. applications, while critical communications and public safety operators can benefit from ultra-reliable, high-bandwidth services supporting all standardized public safety features.

Due to better propagation characteristics, low-band spectrum can provide a larger coverage area than high-band spectrum, which makes Nokia's 450 MHz LTE network solution ideal for delivering services in sparsely populated areas such as the Nordic countries.

This agreement highlights Nokia's growing momentum around the delivery of critical communications networks for customers outside of the traditional communications service provider market. Large industrial and public sector organizations are seeking robust, reliable and highly resilient networks to support services on which - in some cases - lives depend, and Nokia's solutions are ideally suited to addressing this challenge.

"With their LTE network based on Nokia's wide portfolio of technologies, Ukkoverkot brings the benefits of broadband data to the reach of new customer segments such as the industrial IoT market and public safety authorities,” said Thorsten Robrecht, head of Advanced Mobile Network Solutions at Nokia. “We are proud to team up with Ukkoverkot in its network modernization to ensure these customers can benefit from first-class network quality, and to prepare them for the services enabled by future 5G networks."

Published in Internet of Things

Nokia, together with Finland's public safety network provider, State Security Networks Group, and Telia Finland have successfully trialed the use of network features, developed by Nokia, which ensure public safety communications are given priority over any other voice or data traffic in busy 4G/LTE networks.

LTE can support mission-critical operations securely and cost-effectively, enabling new capabilities for public safety agencies, such as video, in addition to traditional voice communications, to enhance situational awareness, command and control, and the safety of both first responders and the public. As such, a vital step in the transition towards LTE-based public safety networks is to give priority to first responders and their command centers allowing them to share mission-critical information in emergency situations.

"Finland has historically been a forerunner in public safety communication, demonstrating leadership in building technical solutions and many other countries have followed our lead,” said Sami Orakoski, COO, State Security Networks Group. “Although the current TETRA-based network will be in use for some time, we have now started working with commercial operators to lay the foundation for delivering public safety communication with LTE and future generation technologies."

Nokia, State Security Networks and Telia Finland began testing the features with public authorities in 2016 to accelerate Finland's transition to LTE-based public safety communications.

Field trials using the Nokia LTE radio access network infrastructure have delivered valuable insight on network management and critical service delivery, as well as ensuring network prioritization in a variety of situations, with an ice hockey game at a large sports venue used as one testing scenario. Finnish authorities are preparing for a gradual transition from the existing TETRA public safety network to commercial LTE networks.

"The test results show that we can prioritize public safety communication over an LTE network, even when that network is extremely busy,” said Tommi Uitto, head of Global Product Sales, Mobile Networks at Nokia. “We can use this insight to accelerate the adoption of LTE-based public safety applications, not only here in Finland, but across the globe."

Pasi Mehtonen, Head of Operator Business at Telia Finland said: "Everyone understands the importance of public safety communication in exceptional circumstances. The successful trials show that by combining advanced technology know-how, together with deep experience of providing mission-critical services we can pave the way for future solutions.”

Published in Telecom Vendors

Nokia is expanding its range of LTE-based public safety solutions with the launch of the Nokia Group Communications portfolio, which will enable first responder teams to securely communicate through new applications such as instant video connectivity alongside traditional push-to-talk features on a single device, to enhance operations and safety.

Within the Nokia Group Communications portfolio, Nokia has pre-integrated applications onto a range of devices to meet the high-quality, high-security demands of public safety agencies around the globe. Fast call set-up times will allow groups of field workers and command controllers to share live video feeds with each other to enhance their knowledge and ability to react in any situation.

Compatibility with 3G and Wi-Fi networks ensures high service availability even if there is no LTE network coverage. Nokia Group Communications can be used with the Nokia Compact Network, the rapidly deployable solution which allows first responders to quickly deploy a private network in emergency situations.

The Nokia Group Communications portfolio is fully aligned with 3GPP, ready for mission critical push-to-talk standards. This ensures compatibility with future standards releases as well any devices being made available on the market in the future, allowing public safety operators to protect their investment. It also ensures easy integration with any LTE network.

Nokia Group Communications features a high-capacity platform which supports real-time push-to-video for 1,000 active users and 20,000 push-to-talk active users per single server with the ability to scale. Software license is offered on a pay-as-you-grow basis. Dispatch consoles incorporate voice, video and mobile CCTV features. Push-to-talk/push-to-video features are pre-integrated within a compelling range of secured and certified devices supporting a wide range of LTE frequencies. It is aligned with 3GPP standards, ready for mission critical push-to-talk and push-to-video standards, as well as fast call set up with latency below 300 milliseconds.

Thomas Lynch, Director for Security and Critical Communications Research at I.H.S. Markit, said: "LTE provides new opportunities for the public safety market and as more agencies leverage mobile network technologies Nokia, as a market leader in LTE, is in a strong position to take advantage thanks to its growing and extensive portfolio. With the company's latest addition - the Nokia Group Communications - it is moving this portfolio to another level, adding an end-to-end encryption layer to deliver the high-level security demanded by public safety markets around the world. And by being fully aligned with 3GPP standards the portfolio allows a smooth evolution to MC-PTT standards and can operate with any vendor's LTE network."

Published in Telecom Vendors