August 18, 2017
If Motorola Solutions’ financials are an accurate indication (and they usually are) of the land-mobile radio (LMR) public safety market, the demand for narrowband digital and analog systems is strong and will remain so for some years to come. Motorola Solutions reported higher revenue and earnings in the Americas during its second quarter, growth attributed by executives to continued investment in Project 25 (P25) systems. In the recently concluded three-month span, Motorola’s sales were up seven percent relative to same period last year, with the majority of that growth coming from LMR sales.
As we predicted back in this blog post from March 2014, the notion held by some within the public safety industry that voice communications carried on FirstNet LTE will quickly replace narrowband LMR is misguided. While FirstNet offers many benefits, and fills a desperate need for broadband data in public safety, narrowband LMR voice is still the trusted tool for first responders, and it will remain so for many years to come. This sentiment in the Americas is mirrored by a decision in the United Kingdom to focus on TETRA for Direct Mode (i.e. “device-to-device” or “off-network”) communications. FirstNet, which in March 2017 awarded AT&T the contract for a nationwide U.S. public-safety LTE network, is still in its early stage.
The slow transition away from narrowband LMR presents challenges. Congress, in an attempt to make the creation and funding of FirstNet revenue-neutral, stipulated that the T-Band spectrum in 11 major metro areas must be vacated by public safety and then auctioned to offset FirstNet costs. The cities selected are Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. As has been reported in other industry blogs, this mandate was not well-considered, as the T-Band contains not only public safety but also commercial users and broadcast TV channels. Some members of Congress apparently believed that the transition to FirstNet LTE would happen very quickly. As discussed previously, this looks to not be the case. Thus, we’re left with a few problems. First, the continued need for digital and analog LMR field test solutions. Secondly, unless Congress backs off completely from the T-Band transition mandate, any compromise to share T-Band spectrum will increase the need for spectrum clearing and interference avoidance testing.
LMR Test Tools
Fortunately, Anritsu has the tools for both requirements, helping field technicians and engineers do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. The LMR Master™ S412E Land Mobile Radio Modulation Analyzer provides an integrated and highly-portable solution for field test of both digital narrowband and LTE systems. The MS2710xA remote spectrum monitor family provides the ability to track, analyze, and locate interference sources without a need to commit large amounts of personnel and time.
Providing the test tools to help verify LMR networks is only part of the commitment Anritsu has made to the first responder community. A library of materials, including white papers on how to effectively test 700 MHz public safety LTE broadband and P25 narrowband networks and the impact LTE will have on the LMR industry, as well as a remote spectrum monitoring application note, are available to download.