LTE for drone flight management and situational awareness

A nice LTE based drone solution was shown successfully by Nokia in UAE Drones for Good competition in Dubai. It was so nice that Nokia won the Drones for Good Award in the international category.

Public safety organizations can use LTE networks - also deployable LTE networks - for new applications and solutions such as unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with video cameras. LTE coverage significantly improves the drone flight control capabilities compared to traditional remote control radios. And at the same time LTE provides broadband capacity for multiple live video streams from drones.

It is coming reality that emergency services can use LTE broadband and drones for improved efficiency in firefighting, search & rescue and many other public safety missions. It is important to note that this is possible already now - even before any 3GPP Release 14 mission critical video and robot control features.

Prioritization in commercial network

The market signals from various countries indicate a global trend to start public safety LTE (PS LTE) services together with commercial operators. The benefits are quite obvious i.e. commercial LTE coverage is already widely deployed and PS LTE total cost is reduced when radio access is shared with commercial use. Additionally mobile operators have good spectrum assets. Operators have commonly 50 - 60 MHz FDD spectrum, which makes it quite easy to guarantee adequate capacity for future mission critical broadband services.

Mobile operators dimension and design networks for typical need and not necessarily to extreme load such as mass events. So, regardless of available spectrum, commercial mobile networks can get highly loaded or even overloaded. Still in all conditions public safety users must get reliable service access and good quality services. There are various technologies for prioritization like discussed earlier here.

You may now ask, what is the news. Well, operators are getti…

APNs in MCPTT smartphone

LTE smartphones provide mobile broadband connection to Internet. The prerequisite is that the UE has correct settings, which depend on the mobile operator. Nowadays device vendors and operators have made the use of mobile data so easy that usually users do not need to do any manual configuration. Each smartphone has an internet APN (Access Point Name) configuration, which matches with the operator's network configuration. In general certain APN configuration allows UE to connect (when included in subscription) to certain IP network called packet data network (PDN). So, smartphones know operator's internet APN setting, which enables UE to connect to Internet.

Operators have also other APNs and respective PDNs, which offer operator specific services. Some of those services are standardized. On old, still existing service is MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service). MMS is supported by all smartphones and probably automatically configured in all devices and networks. The question is j…

The Emperor's New Clothes

This blog is about European spectrum harmonization for BB-PPDR. ECC has created a very nice Report 218 about a year ago with proposals for frequency arrangement for BB-PPDR in CEPT countries. The final report proposes a concept called "flexible harmonization" based on three major elements:
common technical standard (i.e. LTE and its evolutions); national flexibility to decide how much spectrum and which specific frequency ranges should be designated for BB-PPDR networks within harmonised tuning range(s), according to national needs; national choice of the most suitable implementation model (either dedicated, commercial or hybrid). If we examine the document in more detail, we find various frequency ranges and bands proposed for BB-PPDR. The report has identified following candidates within 400 MHz and 700 MHz ranges:
UL 410-420 MHz, DL 420-430 MHz (tuning range)UL 450-460 MHz, DL 460-470 MHz (tuning range)UL 703-713 MHz, DL 758-768 MHz (2 x 10 MHz)UL 698-703 MHz, DL 753-758 MH…

Drones, deployable LTE networks and sunshine

It was a very nice and quite warm sunny day today in Espoo, Finland. So it was time to go out with some equipment and other stuff. The list was roughly following:

a drone with LTE connection for mission controlplenty of drone batteriesa smartphone running LTE radio measurement software (carried by the drone)a compact LTE network (eNB + embedded EPC) - about 5 kga small directional X-pol antennaa small telescope mast for the antennafeeder cables, Ethernet cables, power cablesUSIMsWindows and Linux PCs (drone control, LTE throughput measurements, LTE network management)a portable AC generator (power for PCs, drone battery charger and LTE network)duct tapescrewdriversa vanlicenses for flying drones and using LTE spectrum And the questions was that how well the LTE uplink performs when a drone is flying up to 150 meters above the ground. And it worked very well. 
Before any results were available, there were of course many problems. The linux PC, which was the FTP server for throughput tes…

Mission critical LTE in practice

I had a chance to participate the SALUS final validation event, which was arranged on 14. – 15.6.2016 at the Emergency Services College in Kuopio, Finland.
SALUS is a EU funded project studying technologies, networks & business models and developing demo systems illustrating next generation PPDR communication tools. Key enablers for the anticipated new applications and communication methods are broadband radios i.e. LTE and WiFi.

A short excerpt from the SALUS final validation event introduction:
“This event will include a variety of simulated public safety emergency conditions similar to real emergencies, occurring in a specialized 38-hectar-wide training ground. The goal is to prove the need and the advantages of using LTE mobile broadband technology in public safety scenarios whilst still ensuring interworking with Wi-Fi, TETRA and TETRAPOL technologies. Many key functionalities, such as push-to-talk, group communications, messaging, video streaming, video call, video-group cal…

TETRA+LTE smartphone

Airbus has launched a new handset, which combines TETRA radio for group voice communication and LTE for broadband data. The product is called Tactilon Dabat.

Very little information is available yet. It has 4.7 inch touch screen. It has normal TETRA handset features including PTT button, loud audio and rugged hardware with IP65 & IP67 rating. Security of the smartphone is covered simply stating that all data within the device is encrypted.

Nothing is said about the LTE features. Very likely the LTE band selection matches with common commercial LTE bands in TETRA markets. Because the announcement does not highlight LTE features it probably does not have any of the 3GPP mission critical features like release 12 QCIs.

So the device has two radios, which can be used simultaneously. Therefore the current consumption could be an issue especially, if the applications use LTE radio frequently during missions. Battery capacity is not yet known except it is "long-lasting" and batt…