The Evolution of Public Safety Communications

By Jeremy Ladner 8 min read

Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, famously said that customers ordering the original Model T “could have any color as long as it's black.” While the ‘One Size Fits All’ product approach has the benefit of simplicity, the reality is that different customers have different needs. Serve the needs of more customers, and you’ll earn the trust, loyalty, and business of more customers.

Against the backdrop of evolving threats, a sprawling population, and increasing demands, the agency recognized the need to provide a high-capacity, low-latency broadband network. The new network would need to seamlessly connect all first responders across various agencies, equipping them with the collaborative tools to communicate instantly and effortlessly, dramatically improving response times to better serve the public safety needs of diverse communities.   

More complete coverage and far higher capacity meant a large infrastructure upgrade was required with more than 100 new links. It also meant locating a vendor able to provide the end-to-end professional services required for complex network planning, deployment, and verification.  

A Brief History of Public Safety Communications 

Looking back at the past couple of centuries of public safety connectivity, it seems like just a hop, skip, and jump from the time of the humble telegraph. From there, public safety connectivity leaped forward to communities peppered with ‘Police Boxes’. Also referred to as ‘Call Boxes’, this network of communication points allowed police officers patrolling the streets to easily keep in touch with headquarters and call for backup when required. Then, nearly a century ago we witnessed another massive milestone, the invention and adoption of the almost magical ‘walkie-talkies’ popularized by various military organizations during World War II.  

The quaint crackle and hum of walkie-talkies and other Push to Talk (PTT) technology has played a pivotal role in saving countless lives as the go-to public safety communications tool for decades. But inevitably, like the telegraph and police box before it, PTT technology is being phased out in favor of the enormous potential that broadband connectivity brings to the table. 

The Project 25 (P25) standard introduced in the late 1980s laid the groundwork for emergency services interagency interoperability, facilitating seamless communication and coordination among police, fire, and ambulance departments using PTT devices from various vendors. By establishing common communication protocols and standards, P25 enabled first responders to communicate effectively across different agencies and jurisdictions, regardless of the equipment or vendor used. This interoperability has significantly enhanced response capabilities during emergencies, allowing for swift and coordinated action to mitigate threats and save lives. That said, PTT technology and the P25 standard are decades old and create significant limitations for public safety personnel. 

With broadband connectivity, emergency services now have access to advanced capabilities such as video-on-demand and real-time data analytics, enabling unprecedented situational awareness. From centralized command and control centers, officials can harness these capabilities to gather and analyze information rapidly, make informed decisions, and coordinate response efforts with greater efficiency and precision. The integration of broadband connectivity represents a significant advancement in emergency communication systems, empowering first responders with the tools they need to react effectively to a wide range of incidents and emergencies.  

Building the Infrastructure for Success 

With that brief history lesson behind us and a full understanding of the legacy challenges that the West African nation faced in dealing with its Public Safety communication network, it was time to get to work moving toward modernization. The first step would involve a comprehensive overhaul of the network infrastructure, prioritizing network reliability and coverage along with interagency interoperability. To achieve that aim, the nation needed a vendor and partner that could provide more than 100 new links with integrated advanced routing capabilities along with all of the end-to-end professional services involved in the complex planning, site surveying, deployment, and testing.  

After consultations with key existing vendors, the West African nation selected Ceragon to provide all the wireless network infrastructure, as well as professional planning services. The government agency could now rest assured knowing that the new infrastructure would be the future-friendly foundation that the network needed. The 100+ new wireless links would provide the capacity and capabilities required for the multitude of modern tools and technologies vital to public safety in the digital era. 

The Boundless Opportunities of Broadband for Public Safety 

Ceragon was able to address all the customer’s challenges, offering a reliable robust solution tailored to the needs of the public safety sector where interoperability is mission critical. On the hardware side of the equation, most of the heavy lifting was handled by Ceragon’s IP-50FX cell site router (CSR) with virtual indoor unit (IDU) capabilities.  

In addition, the new wireless links delivered the full range of scalable, future-friendly features the customer required, like layer 3 aggregation, support for multiple network protocols, and the advanced routing needed for the P25 emergency services communication system and broadband-dependent devices and solutions. 

The customer now had the network infrastructure in place to support a modern command and control center, robust Vehicle Area Networks (VANs) with continuous always-on availability, network-connected vehicle-mounted cameras and laptops, LMRs, ALPRs, and nationwide IIOT-connected sensors and surveillance equipment for improved situational awareness. 

By leveraging its decades of experience and expertise in wireless transport solutions, Ceragon also provided End-to-End professional network planning and deployment services including Radio Frequency (RF) design, Internet Protocol (IP) design, site surveys and assessments, deployment, testing, and optimization.  

A Public Safety Agency Ready for Any Challenge 

This West African nation now has a modern wireless communication network tailored to the needs of today’s Emergency Services and Public Safety personnel. The new network, designed with scalable, future-friendly features in mind, delivers superior reliability and resilience along with friction-free interagency collaboration for reduced emergency response times. 

One of the many benefits of partnering with a vendor like Ceragon is the ability to leverage their end-to-end planning and deployment services. Ceragon’s decades of experience can often help avert common planning and deployment obstacles aiding in bringing network modernization projects in under budget and ahead of schedule. 

With their goals of vastly improved coverage and reliability exceeded, interagency interoperability streamlined, and response times reduced, this West African public safety agency is ready to take on any emergency service challenge that comes its way. 

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