Public Safety smartphones
When do we get LTE smartphones for public safety?Well, one could say that we already have LTE smartphones for public safety. Both ruggedized devices designed for public safety users as well as commercial off-the-shelf running group communication applications. However currently available devices do not yet support new 3GPP Release 12 and 13 features specified for public safety.
Requirements for public safety handsets vary depending on use cases. Certain first responders like firefighters need tough devices resistant to shocks, heat, water, smoke, dust and so on. Electric devices have to support use even in explosive environment [ATEX]. Furthermore it must be possible to operate devices in noisy environment wearing protective uniform and gloves. The user interface should support group communication with push-to-talk button. Additional safety features are important like emergency button as well as support for man-down detection and alarm.
On the other hand many users can also work with LTE devices meant for consumers. However then special software is needed in order to support secure communication & storage as well as protection against lost or stolen devices. This is similar to the bring your own device (BYOD) policy allowed nowadays in many enterprises.
Rugged LTE smartphones today
Some vendors offer ruggedized LTE smartphones targeted for public safety users. A few examples and selected features are shown in the table below. There are many more rugged devices on the market meant for active consumers and employers appreciating tough phones.
Sources: Bittium, Sonim, Motorola, Kyocera, Thales
Smartphone applications for public safety users
If ruggedized handset is not absolutely mandatory, some organizations may allow users to use their preferred commercial smartphones such as iPhone or Samsung Galaxy and install professional applications to them. PTT application is commonly required and there are quite many vendors developing PTT and group communication solutions targeted also for public safety organizations. Some examples listed below:
3GPP Release 12 & 13 supportSo LTE smartphones and applications for public safety do exist. It just remains to be seen when commercial LTE smartphones will be available supporting 3GPP Rel-12 & Rel-13 LTE direct communication, 3GPP Rel-13 mission critical PTT with 3GPP Rel-12 QoS over unicast or broadcast bearers.
So far chipset and device vendors have not revealed publicly their plans to support public safety specific LTE features. Qualcomm promotes proximity services technology, but so far their focus seems to be in commercial applications based on proximity discovery (e.g. advertising & social media).
Certainly the challenge with PS ecosystem is significantly smaller device market compared to commercial LTE users.
Rugged LTE smartphones with PS specific design and features are already existing. PS specific communication applications are also available. However public safety specific 3GPP features and standard group communication applications are not yet there.
It is anyway clear that public safety industry will migrate to LTE and one day we will see also LTE handsets with LTE direct communication and standard MCPTT application.