Voice is still the killer app.
That being said, there is still a growing industry need to extend commercial and mission critical LMR coverage beyond the geographic areas that LMR radio systems extend. Furthermore, many agencies and businesses require the ability to keep their personnel connected across disparate networks and devices.
Since the 2016 decommissioning of the nationwide iDEN networks in Canada and the USA, many organizations are migrating to PTT over broadband LTE networks. However, not only are they looking to expand geographic coverage on PTT voice, many LTE applications are emerging that are necessary to conduct normal business. These include situation awareness and real time location tracking & mapping, broadband video, RFID, Workforce management, etc.
Ruggedized PTT Android or IOS smart devices are now commercially available that enable many of these applications – and PTT Voice is still the cornerstone application – although software based, and in many cases pre-configured in the smart device. PTT applications are now operating in the cloud (e.g. Kodiak, Link, ESChat, Motorola Wave, Harris BeOn), and can interoperate with LMR systems and dispatch consoles through IP interfaces such as ISSI and CSSI gateways.
Our clientele is suggesting that they would prefer a single hands free integrated device that supports LMR instant communications and smartphone functions rather than having to carry both a radio and a data terminal, although we don’t see PTT broadband replacing the need for secure Public Safety and Mission Critical LMR systems any time soon. What we do see is an emerging user base of non-mission critical users, or “mission support” personnel who will benefit from PTT broadband applications and devices, and by doing so will free up some capacity on existing Mission critical LMR networks.
What is clear is that the device ecosystem will change sharply over the next 24 months, and this creates many challenges and opportunities for LMR device manufacturers where we anticipate LTE enabled radio devices with Android-like operating systems are on the roadmap.
In the interim, your LMR systems integrator should be intimate with the changing landscape towards PTT broadband and interoperability to mission critical LMR systems and dispatch centres. Ask your integrator for advice, references, and technical capabilities before you make a decision to proceed.