Public Vs. Private LTE – Tait Radio Academy

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Long Term Evolution (LTE) is proving to be a real game changer in Unified Critical Communications, making it increasingly important to consider a unified communications strategy. There are several choices – we’ll explore the top three.

Public Vs. Private LTE Vs. Public Safety Mobile-Broadband’  is a lesson part of the Unified Critical Communications course available on Tait Radio Academy. This course is instructed by Dr. Jan Noordhof, a past Principal Consultant for Tait Communications specializing in technical solutions for public safety, utilities, mining, oil & gas sectors.

Commercial Public LTE

Commercial cellular providers offer the majority of LTE services currently available to the individual user and businesses. They have the means to take on the heavy cost of building and maintaining these complex networks.

Cellphones are relatively inexpensive compared to the cost to build these networks. They are pocket-friendly, high quality, and have a friendly user interface. Several critical communications users have had second thoughts about the cost and effort of operating their own communications systems.

As a result, some find it the right decision to jump into a commercial system, for others this might not be the right decision. For some, jumping onto a commercial system means giving up too much control.

If you don’t own the system, you can’t control it, and if you can’t control it, you can’t rely on it. Below are some examples of potential issues with not owning the system/network:

  • Coverage – determined by where cellular companies see it worthwhile to provide reception. If you require coverage in regions that give little business incentive to the provider, you lose out.
  • No prioritization – users of public commercial systems share resources such as bandwidth and routing with everyone else. This may cause overloading issues and everyone on that network suffers a performance hit, including businesses and organizational users.
  • Maintenance and upgrades – on a public network, you have no control over the scheduling of maintenance and upgrades – you have no control over potential outages during high usage hours.
  • No backup service – when the network crashes, or key sites suffer an outage, and systems become otherwise unavailable – users are left in the dark until service is restored

Private LTE

Private LTE is a dedicated network that serves a specific enterprise, business, government agency or educational institution, who can own and operate the system, or outsource to a third-party network provider. The system is entirely separate from public networks.

If you own the system, you can control it. That is the primary benefit of Private LTE. It enables an organization and the benefits of LTE without losing control. Private LTE systems run on their own dedicated equipment, the performance, security and coverage of the network is at the discretion of the organization.

A major constraint on private LTE is the availability of suitable radio spectrum or bandwidth. In many countries existing licensed spectrum is already congested which can hinder the performance of the network at peak hours. This means you need to wait until new LTE frequencies are implemented, or you need to buy into an existing block of newly established spectrum. At times you may have to wait until someone else gives up their frequency to establish your new network.

Alternatives include using unlicensed spectrum, such as 5GHz with an LTE-based technology such as Multefire. You could also use shared spectrum provided through the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) in the U.S., or through the Licensed Shared Access (LSA) model now in place around Europe.

Public Safety Mobile Broadband Networks

Public Safety Broadband networks are a specific type of private LTE network – this network is exclusively purposed for public safety and first responders only but is at times leased to public networks during periods where the network isn’t being used. These networks are generally government-funded.

Examples include Firstnet in the U.S., Emergency Service Network (ESN) in the UK, SafetNet in South Korea, and Australia is also planning the implementation of their Public Safety Mobile Broadband (PSMB) network.

Want to learn more about LTE and Critical Communications?

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