Telstra has announced plans to launch in December functionality on its LTE network that will give emergency services organisations (ESOs) priority access to network capacity.
To use the service, dubbed Telstra LANES Emergency, ESOs will replace the SIMs in their devices with LANES SIMs. When the network becomes congested portions of the LTE spectrum, across all three bands used by Telstra, will automatically be reserved for LANES users.
Telstra has trialled the service, developed in conjunction with Ericsson, several times at events where the network would likely be under stress: At the Woodford Folk Festival, an annual event in Queensland that attracts around 80,000 people over several days and the 2014 G20 Summit in Brisbane, both in conjunction with the Queensland Police and the 2015 AFL Grand Final.
Telstra's national general manager public safety and security, Alex Stefan, said the service could provide government organisations with significant cost savings by giving them the opportunity to increase their network capability, coverage and reach without building their own private network.
The move comes as the government considers the recommendations of the Productivity Commission’s report into mobile broadband for public safety, released in January.
The PC concluded that commercial carriers represented the most cost effective option for delivering a public safety mobile broadband capability to public safety agencies. However it also found that “mobile broadband use is unlikely to increase significantly until a public safety grade service — superior to services offered by commercial carriers today — is available.”
The commission also assessed the risks of each option and concluded no option was clearly preferred on the basis of risk factors alone, but estimated the dedicated option would cost $4b more over 20 years than allowing commercial carriers to provide the service.
Emergency services organisations have been lobbying for their own dedicated spectrum over which to provide mobile broadband services. With LANES Telstra appears to be having a bet each way.
Telstra LANES Emergency will be available in two forms for Emergency Services customers. Telstra LANES Emergency Priority will provide access to Telstra's LTE spectrum, and Telstra LANES Emergency Tailored will provide services over customer-owned, dedicated spectrum and access to Telstra’s LTE spectrum, or enhancements to Telstra's LTE network.
Stefan said: "Through LANES we can offer emergency services priority data access on our 4G network or on a dedicated and partitioned spectrum for their exclusive use. On the wireless highway it is like offering Emergency Services their very own express lane.”
Stefan said Telstra would initially provide LANES users with access to up to 160MHz of Telstra LTE spectrum.
Last week Nokia announced that Telstra rival Vodafone Hutchison Australia was among the mobile network operators to have signed up to a new group that aims to boost the use of 4G LTE technology by public safety agencies as well as the adoption of associated standards.