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If you think cybercrime is scary now, just wait until hackers can control and monitor every object in your environment

6 Aug

Smart lamps let your friends—and anyone who can hack into them—know when you’re home. Good Night Lamp

Recent work by security researchers indicates that one of the problems with having a “smart” home is that some day, it might be smart enough to attack you. The essence of the forthcoming “internet of things” is that everything we own, from ourrefrigerators and egg cartons to our cars and thermostats, will some day be outfitted with internet-connected sensors and control systems, allowing all our possessions, and ultimately all of our civic infrastructure, to communicate with each other and be controlled remotely.

The potential security implications of this future are fairly obvious: Imagine if the same hackers that are stealing our credit card numbers suddenly had the ability to take over or at least monitor just about every device in reach. But to date, thinking through the specifics has been tricky. Here, then, is a handy guide to the basic vulnerabilities we’ll be adding to our lives once we have connected all of our worldly goods to the internet of things:

Direct attacks that force objects to exceed their design parameters or operate in ways that are unpleasant or dangerous

If you’d like your home to be as vulnerable to cyberattack as Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, go ahead, by a smart fridge.AP Photo/Vahid Salemi

The most successful cyber-attack on physical infrastructure ever—an attack on Iran’s uranium enrichment facility, suspected to be a join US-Israeli project, that set Iran’s nuclear ambitions back by at least a year—illustrates a basic principle of internet-connected devices: Having the ability to control them remotely could mean giving hackers the ability to damage them remotely, or re-purpose them for nefarious uses.

In the Stuxnet attack on Iran’s nuclear program, software was used to spin uranium centrifuges at a speed and duration that physically damaged these delicate instruments, requiring what was probably months of subsequent repair. Similarly, at this year’s Defcon conference for hackers, security company Cimationdemonstrated an attack that could damage a water treatment facility—causing a pipe to burst or a tank to overflow—or any other plant that uses a common protocol for controlling infrastructure that was invented in the 1970s.

Granted, our homes do not include uranium centrifuges or plumbing we control remotely—yet. An attack on the Inax Satis smart toilet would allow a hacker to activate this $4,000 toilet’s bidet remotely.

Misdirection leading to user error and damage

Smart thermostats can be controlled from the internet, the most insecure communications network ever invented.Nest

As with the internet itself, we will in time become ever more reliant on the internet of things. Baby and pet monitors, home automation systems and even our cars will send us information in ways that will make our lives easier but also encourage our dependence on these systems. In this way, hackers do not even need to figure out how to harm us or damage our connected devices to cause mayhem: They simply need to send us false readings from the sensor systems we’re using.

In the Stuxnet attack on Iran, the reason operators at the uranium enrichment facility did not shut down the infected centrifuges is that the same software that was spinning them at dangerous speeds made it look as if everything was normal. Some systems in, for example, the oil and gas industry are already vulnerable to attacks in which operators are led to believe that everything is fine when equipment may actually be operating at unsafe temperatures and pressures.

This could allow hackers to set up scenarios in which users would be the agents of their own undoing. For example, a smart thermostat set to keep a house at a certain temperature for pets while an owner is away could send false readings to the user, encouraging them to send instructions to it remotely, perhaps to make the house warmer, without realizing that the home’s heating system is already at full blast.

A world of new possibilities for spying

“Checking in” to your bedroom is the new “checking in” to your home, gym, place of work, or kid’s school.Good Night Lamp

Once entire homes are fully instrumented with sensors, there is no end to the kind of data that hackers and governments could gather about us and our habits. Here’s asmart lamp that transmits via the internet whether or not you’re home, and similar insights could also be gathered via your smart thermostat. Every smartphone, laptop and tablet we own is already broadcasting huge amounts of information about us—who we are, where we are, where we’ve been, what websites we’re logging onto—which can be gathered with a $57 listening device.

In the case of both mobile devices and smart connected devices, security is lax, probably because the makers of these gadgets, and the connection standards on which they rely, didn’t have to think about how they would all become part of a universal internet of stuff, whose interacting devices would lead to a wealth of unexpected vulnerabilities. This is especially true of wi-fi, which because of its ubiquity is a strong contender for the de facto connection standard for the internet of things, which means there’s little we can do to avoid these security vulnerabilities. “These are fundamental design flaws in the way pretty much everything works,” one researcher recently told the New York Times.

If these concerns seem overblown given the current state of the internet of things, keep in mind that, like other technologies, hundreds of companies are working on ways to make smart devices ever more useful. Terrorist attacks on electrical grids and nuclear power plants may grab headlines, but a whole new class of petty crime against our personal infrastructure is also on its way.


Terrorists Can Take Down an Entire City’s LTE Network for Just $650

23 Nov

According to a critical document filed with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, you can take down any LTE network with a simple $650 piece of gear.

Every cellphone grid is vulnerable to this technique, including FirstNet, the emergency communications network designed after 9/11. According to the authors, “it’s relatively easy to do” by anyone. In fact, if a terrorist group spent just a bit more on a cheap, readily available power amplifier, it could take down a region as large as New York State.

The paper, by Jeff Reed—director of the wireless research group at Virginia Tech—and research assistant Marc Lichtman, says that it would be hard to defend against such an attack. The problem, they say, relates to structural, intrinsic vulnerabilities to the LTE architecture.

According to Lichtman, there are eight distinct ways to take down an LTE network, easily be exploited by anyone with basic communications engineering skills:

Your phone is constantly syncing with the base station. If you can disrupt that synchronization, you will not be able to send or receive data. There are multiple weak spots-about eight different attacks are possible. The LTE signal is very complex, made up of many subsystems, and in each case, if you take out one subsystem, you take out the entire base station. Any communications engineer would be able to figure this stuff out.

The NTIA and the big telecommunication providers haven’t reacted to the paper yet. The good news is that the existing 3G and 2G grids would still work in such a scenario. However, as we are increasingly dependent on higher data rates and migrating to faster and better networks, such structural problems are worrying. Extremely worrying, in fact: by 2017, half of the world’s population will run on LTE, and new devices—some of them critical, in the medical and transportation industries—will be based solely on this standard.

The worst part: LTE has been proposed for the new communication system for emergency response. Called FirstNet, it was designed after the many communications problems experienced by first response teams during 9/11. Just imagine the picture: terrorists first attacking a major target and then jamming the communication network used by the emergency forces trying to help. According to Reed, this is specifically what can happen.

And there doesn’t seem to be a fix right now. This is an systems architecture problem, according to Reed, one that would take a massive rethinking to prevent:

LTE does a good job of [encrypting the communications]. But unconventional security aspects, such as preventing signal jamming, have been largely overlooked.


Security flaw in 3G could allow anyone to track your smartphone

17 Oct

New privacy threats have been uncovered by security researchers that could allow every device operating on 3G networks to be tracked, according to research from the University of Birmingham with collaboration from the Technical University of Berlin.Researchers said that standard off-the-shelf equipment, such as femtocells, could be used to exploit the flaw, allowing the physical location of devices to be revealed.

The 3G standard was designed to protect a user’s identity when on a given network. A device’s permanent identity, known as International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) is protected on a network by being assigned a temporary identity called a Temporary Mobile Subscriber Identity TMSI.
The TMSI is updated regularly while the 3G networks are supposed to make it impossible for someone to track a device even if they are eavesdropping on the radio link.
Researchers have discovered that these methods can easily be sidestepped by spoofing an IMSI paging request. Such a request is used by networks to locate a device so it can provide service.
Another vulnerability, the researchers said, lay in the Authentication and Key Agreement (AKA) protocol, which is used to provide authentication between a device and a network by providing secure shared session keys.

This “secret long-term key” (K IMSI) can be identified by sniffing the AKA request and then relaying that to all devices within a certain area. Every device except the target would return an authentication failure, thereby identifying the individual. Again, this could then be used to track location.

The research team took pains to emulate a real-world scenario under the environment, and they tested the attacks techniques against network providers including T-Mobile, Vodafone and O2 in Germany, and French outfit SFR.


Aricent interview: the evolution of LTE femtocells and the deployment of public safety and rural networks

12 Sep

The LTE World Series Blog

Aricent femtocellIn the run up to the LTE Asia conference we bring you this interview with Aricent Group’s Sanjiv Kapur, director, product management, and R Ezhirpavai, assistant vice president – technology.

Aricent Group is a global innovation and technology services company that helps clients to imagine, commercialise, and evolve products and services for the connected world. It is an expert on LTE femtocells, and the deployment of rural and public safety networks.

How will CDMA be incorporated in next generation femtocells?

LTE and other next generation telecommunication technologies will need to co-exist with older technologies such as UMTS, CDMA and GERAN, etc. Deploying stand-alone solutions supporting individual technologies can be prohibitively expensive for both operators and subscribers.

Multi-mode femtocells – capable of supporting multiple technologies simultaneously – provide a solution for deploying these technologies to ensure that expenses are kept under control. These femtocells will provide support for LTE and one…

View original post 1,076 more words

Full Portfolio of LTE Device Test Solutions Supports Public Safety Community

25 Aug

Anritsu Company announces that its full portfolio of LTE device test solutions includes Band 14 capability to support the public safety community. This portfolio includes three LTE-capable test platforms, as well as two LTE-focused test systems. Applications for these solutions cover the complete LTE device development chain from functional test to PTCRB certification and aftermarket repair, and options for advanced functionality, such as Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and LTE Advanced/Carrier Aggregation, are available.

Each of Anritsu’s three LTE-capable platforms – the MD8430A and MD8475A Signaling Testers, and MT8820C One-Box Tester – are capable of establishing LTE calls and performing specific classes of measurements on LTE devices. While the MD8430A is focused on protocol testing, with availability of the most advanced LTE features, including Carrier Aggregation and 4×2 MIMO, the MD8475A is focused on LTE functional and application testing, with added capability for multiple formats, such as W-CDMA/HSPA, GSM/(E)-GPRS, CDMA2K, and others. The MT8820C is capable of a similar mix of LTE and other formats but is focused on lower-layer RF parametric test.

Both Anritsu LTE-focused test systems are built on the MD8430A as the core “engine,” and include the ME7873L RF Conformance Test System and ME7834L Mobile Device Test Platform. The ME7873L allows for quick public safety device certification based on Anritsu having the highest number of available PTCRB-validated Band 14 RF/RRM conformance test cases in the industry. The ME7834L provides similar benefits to the public safety market, with a leading number of PTCRB-validated Band 14 protocol conformance test cases available on the system.

“Anritsu is pleased to support the evolution of public safety communications to LTE,” said Wade Hulon, Vice President and General Manager, Anritsu Americas. “Anritsu has offered the commercial LTE industry the widest range of LTE device test solutions since the initial rollout of LTE networks, and looks forward to assisting the with the rollout of LTE for public safety across the USA.”

The MD8475A is a compact, Windows 7-based tester capable of emulating two base stations or an LTE 2×2 MIMO downlink, with formats including LTE, W-CDMA/HSPA+, GSM/(E)-GPRS, and CDMA2000. For voice call testing, both VoLTE and circuit-switched calls are supported, with circuit-switched fallback (CSFB) support for LTE to 2G and 3G. End-to-end application testing is supported by the tester, with the capability to install user-supplied servers inside the MD8475A or to connect external servers. Anritsu’s SmartStudio GUI provides easy graphical control of the MD8475A, and the internal state machine emulates real network operation without the need for scripts.

Source:  August 24, 2012

Can Public-Safety Radio’s P25 Survive LTE?

18 Jul

Project 25 (P25 or APCO-25) is a suite of North American digital radio communication standards for digital public safety radio communications. It was launched in 1988 as a step beyond the old-fashioned two-way voice contact between first responders and their dispatchers, with the dispatchers serving as the link to other agencies when necessary, generally over a telephone line.

It began when Congress directed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to collect recommendations from users and manufacturers. Based on the recommendations of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International (APCO), Project 25 then came into existence. In scope, this was unprecedented, but it wasn’t just happening in North America. Europe’s Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) protocol standards are a parallel effort, with much in common, but the two are not compatible.

The Incident Command System

P25 is about radios and interoperability, but hardware is only one aspect of the problem that public-safety professionals were addressing. Interoperability is one part of a possible solution, but it has to fit into broader picture. At nearly the same time that P25 was emerging, there were major efforts to rationalize and standardize the process by which individual public-safety organizations handled incidents and the ways that multiple agencies worked together when a tempest of smaller “incidents” escalated into a calamity.

The part of the larger effort that made more comprehensively interoperable radios necessary is the Incident Command System (ICS), which defines how those radios will be used (Fig. 1).1 ICS is a scalable structure for managing incidents ranging from a traffic crash to a major disaster. It provides a common framework for temporarily managing groups of people from agencies that do not routinely work together.

1. The Incident Command System embraces structure and planning. Even incidents involving police, fire, and emergency personnel only require fairly simple command structures.

Consider the recent Colorado wildfires, which involved multiple federal, state, county, and local police organizations, as well as local, state, and National Forest Service/Bureau of Land Management firefighters on the ground and airborne. Plus, private agencies such as the Red Cross were faced with finding food and shelter for the recently displaced. Trained volunteer amateur radio operators from amateur radio emergency services organizations offered support too. All of those people need a management structure within which to work (Fig. 2).

2. Not all ICS “incidents” are disasters. They may just be events that call for multiple layers of coordination. For example, the Thales Liberty Multiband Land Mobile Radio was used at the 2009 Kentucky Derby. (courtesy of DHS S&T Command, Control and Interoperability Division)

Although ICS is a management philosophy, it’s both a driver for the development of interoperable communications hardware and the tool for managing the problems that require interoperability. Imagine, for example, the difficulties involved in coordinating cops and firefighters, ground crews with chainsaws and bulldozers, borate bombers and helicopters, Red Cross workers, and caterers. (You have to feed these crews.) Plus, you have to keep meddlesome mayors and county supervisors in the loop and feed useful information to the media in a bad situation that threatens to get worse every minute.

ICS emphasizes planning and practice ahead of time and allows for information-sharing, learning, and rapid adaptation. But in application, it needs to evolve continuously. It’s impossible to standardize any aspect of incident control and declare rigidly that’s how things will be done for every future incident.2

P25 Concepts

Understanding ICS puts P25 into a context. After that, it’s all about standards. On a technical level, there is one fundamental rule for P25. Compliant radios may communicate in analog mode with legacy radios and in either digital or analog mode with other P25 radios. Beyond that, P25 standards allow considerable flexibility.

Some organizations use a single frequency. Others have multiple frequencies and use trunking to assign channels. With trunking, free channels are assigned by predefined trunked radio systems (TRS) protocols.

In operation, a control channel transmits data from the site controller that runs the TRS. All of the field radios in the system then continuously monitor the control channel. P25 systems in the 700-, 800-, and 900-MHz bands are generally trunked. Below 512 MHz, trunking is allowed if it doesn’t interfere with exiting radio systems in surrounding areas.

In a major incident, trunking systems assign priorities and share channels among agencies. New talk groups automatically preempt other routine communications, and lower-priority messages experience a busy signal.

Trunked radio systems aren’t optimal for all situations. For example, in a terrorist attack that also involves ambulances and firefighters, tactical law enforcement units are better served by going off-network and using direct radio-to-radio communications and portable or vehicular repeaters. P25 accommodates this flexibility.

Variations in frequency assignments among agencies, along with the characteristics of different bands, introduce their own complications. Federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the Forest Service and local governments use available VHF frequencies between 136 and 174 MHz. Other federal agencies employ UHF frequencies between 380 and 400 MHz and between 402 and 420 MHz. (Radiosondes, satellite, and space exploration frequencies fill that 2-MHz gap between 400 and 402 MHz.) Local government agencies are allotted UHF frequencies from 450 to 512 MHz as well as the 700- and 800-MHz bands.

Frequency also impacts in-building coverage. VHF high-band signals don’t propagate as well from inside buildings as UHF 700- and 800-MHz signals. Within those licensed bands, there are layers and layers of equipment, starting with the firefighters’ personal radios. This brings up an interesting illustration of the complexity involved in making decisions about direct communications versus trunking.

A firefighter inside a building might need an immediate burst of water from a truck just outside to deal with a sudden flare-up. That firefighter would have a personal radio. There also would be a radio on the truck. Is it better to communicate the need point-to-point over a path of a hundred feet or to go through a trunked repeater atop a building several miles away? What if elements of the trunking infrastructure fail or are sabotaged? One solution is to make the elements of the infrastructure themselves mobile. People try to answer these kinds of questions after simulations or actual catastrophes.


P25 standards describe eight open interfaces (Fig. 3). The Common Air Interface (CAI) Requires P25-compliant radios to be able to communicate with any other CAI radio, regardless of manufacturer. CAI also provides for interoperability with legacy equipment. Further, it deals with interfacing between repeaters and other subsystems, roaming capacity, spectral efficiency, and the manner in which channels are reassigned and reused.

3. P25 is an ambitious effort to provide transparent interoperability across not just radio, but all communications modes used by public-safety agencies.

The Inter RF Subsystem Interface (ISSI) standard focuses on how RF subsystems work with each other and the ways they can be connected into wide-area networks (WANs). The Fixed Station Interface (FSI) defines what makes up voice and data packets and command and control messages, as well as voice and data encryption and connections between radios and telephone networks.

The Console Subsystem Interface (CSSI) standard describes messaging for interfacing a console subsystem to a P25 RF subsystem. A console is the hardware used by a dispatcher or a supervisor who deals with personnel operating where the incident is taking place. There is also a trunked console interface in ISSI. The Network Management Interface (NMI) provides specs for all networked elements of the RF subsystem.

The Subscriber Data Peripheral Interface (SDPI) describes a port through which mobiles and portables can connect to laptops or data networks. The Data Network Interface (DNI) takes that down a level to the RF subsystem connections to computers, data networks, and external data sources. Finally, the Telephone Interconnect Interface describes how P25 works with the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN).


P25-compliant technology was deployed in phases to get something into people’s hands and to provide for feedback from the field.

Phase 1 radio systems operate in 12.5-kHz analog, digital, or mixed mode using frequency-division multiple-access. Data rates are limited, and bandwidths are wide. Phase 1 uses the IMBE voice codec, the original implementation of the Digital Voice Systems Inc. (DVSI) proprietary Multi-Band Excitation (MBE) technology. (IMBE is “Improved MBE.”)

Phase 2 uses DVSI’s AMBE+2 voice codec to reduce the needed bit rate so one voice channel only requires 6000 bits/s (including error correction and signaling). It also advances console interfacing between repeaters and other subsystems.

In lieu of the more familiar analog Tone-Coded Squelch System (CTCSS), P25 employs Digital-Coded Squelch (DCS) codes for access control in the form of a 12-bit network access code (NAC).

Enter LTE

The trouble with standards is that they get outflanked by technology, and that’s what’s happening to 700-MHz P25. Its capacity and bandwidth are being obsoleted by the latest and anticipated next generations of cellular technology. In particular, better analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) and digital signal processors (DSPs) have made software-defined radio a reality, although a reality that must be approached carefully (see “Professional Mobile Radio Goes Digital With DSPs”).

Cellular technology provides economies of scale. Companies that make P25 communications gear, including Motorola and Thales, also make cellular telephony products. They’re working with P25 public-safety organizations to adapt P25 to the newer technology, and the newer technology to P25, and the government is helping them.

The newer technology is Long-Term Evolution (LTE). The name itself is a positive sign that suggests it will adapt, rather than allow itself to be rapidly obsoleted. The Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) defined third-generation (3G) phones, and the International Telecommunications Union-Telecommunications (ITU-T) later standardized them.3

The 3G system is based on wideband CDMA with a 5-MHz bandwidth. It can download data at 384 kbits/s under normal conditions and up to 2 Mbits/s in some instances. High-speed packet access (HSPA) uses higher-level quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) to get speeds up to 21 or 42 Mbits/s downlink (cell site to phone) and up to 7 and/or 14 Mbits/s uplink (phone to cell site). Then, cdma2000 phones added 1xRTT and Rev A and Rev B modifications that boost speed as well.

While people tend to hype LTE as “4G,” it’s really an advanced 3G standard. It uses orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM), which divides each channel into smaller 15-kHz subchannels or subcarriers, each of which is modulated with part of the data. In other words, the incoming fast data is divided into slower streams that modulate the subcarriers with either quadrature phase-shift keying (QPSK) or 16-phase QAM (16QAM).

LTE also uses multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) antenna agility. The data stream is divided between the antennas to boost speed and to make the link more reliable. Combining OFDM and MIMO lets LTE deliver data as fast as 100 Mbits/s downstream and 50 Mbits/s upstream.

Keep in mind that that’s just data. Neither 3G/LTE nor 4G when it truly arrives will use these techniques for voice communications, which still relies upon 2G GSM or cdma2000. This is helpful in maintaining interoperability between LTE devices and P25.

Recent LTE/P25 Announcements

About a year ago, Harris Corp. released its BeOn. According to the company, it’s the first solution that lets subscribers on a cellular or public-safety LTE network talk to each other, exchange text messages, and pass real-time location information to connected team members and the dispatcher’s computer-assisted dispatch system. Harris also says that BeOn provides the integrated P25 feature set, including voice, text messaging, and location services. BeOn had previously been offered without P25 capabilities.

Voice communication services are delivered to first responders as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) data packets using wireless broadband IP data services, via the Harris VIDA IP-based network. The VIDA network platform is a unified voice and data communication system based on P25 standards.

According to Motorola, LTE is enabled by its use of an OFDM air interface, advanced antenna techniques including MIMO and beam forming, flat all-IP architectures, and a common IP core.4 LTE technology, Motorola says, is available in two technologies: paired frequency-division duplex (FDD) and unpaired time-division duplex (TDD).

FDD is standard for the cellular industry, and public-safety narrowband technologies are available. TDD-based systems, commonly called TD-LTE, share the same spectrum for both the downlink and uplink. Also, these systems can be configured to allocate channel capacity for each.

The United States has allocated 10 MHz of paired spectrum in the 700-MHz band for public safety, allowing a 5-MHz channel in each direction. The U.S. government authorized a new 700-MHz LTE network for broadband services for the public-safety community in the tax relief bill that President Obama signed on February 12, says Andy Seybold, a wireless industry analyst.5 The authorization reallocates the cellular 700-MHz D Block to public safety and funds the network with proceeds from future auctions. Initial funding for the network will be $7 billion.

“This legislation also encourages public/private partnerships to help reduce the network costs,” Seybold says. “Some of these partnerships will be with commercial network operators and will include sharing of cell sites, high-speed backhaul, and, in some cases, the day-to-day operation and maintenance of all or a portion of the network.”

Seybold notes that device vendors will also gain from this new network. “New devices will be needed to serve the public safety network only (Band 14) or to also provide services on the AT&T and Verizon Wireless 3G and 4G networks when a public safety unit is out of its network’s coverage, which will certainly be the case during network construction over the next three to five years,” he says.

Harris Corp. recently concluded a demonstration, begun in March, of a dedicated LTE for public-safety network with the cops on the street in cities around the U.S. and the network core at the company’s headquarters in Chelmsford, Mass.

In Massachusetts, Harris provided a dispatcher and an LTE packet core from Nokia Siemens Networks. The public-safety officers were at LTE pilot locations in Miami, Las Vegas, and Monroe County, N.Y. The demonstration showcased the system’s ability to allow distant access to the core’s high capacity.

During the demonstration, the dispatcher could view the location of the police vehicle, know whether it was available for communications (communication may not be appropriate during certain surveillance situations), and engage in a push-to-talk call through the Harris BeOn application, which provides a P25 feature set over a broadband connection.

Date Posted: July 17, 2012 11:50 AM

Author: Don Tuite


Improving Public Safety via LTE

16 Jul

Imagine what it might be like if emergency workers who respond to horrific catastrophes like hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes all were carrying small video cameras. Further image that they could share in real-time the video and other critical information they capture on the scene with colleagues at the site and with the entire emergency response ecosystem. 
The vision of video and rich data being efficiently and effectively share between all critical aspects of public safety emergency response ecosystems — from those onsite to all of their support capabilities and the command and control centers of all agencies for whom the speed of responsivenss is essential is being relized. The advent of 4G LTE mobile broadband is at the core of Alcatel-Lucent’s push to make the vision of public safety communication reality.

As noted by Alcatel-Lucent, most public safety agencies today use digital Professional or Land Mobile Radio (PMR/LMR) networks that are based on the TETRA standard in Europe and most other parts of the world which typically use the 400 MHz band. Project25 is used in the U.S. for essential communication with dedicated radio spectrum in the 700 MHz frequency band. 

The challenge for traditional systems is that while they provide emergency teams the ability to talk securely in a one-to-one or group situations with ‘push-to-talk’ to prioritize speakers, they  cannot accommodate the video and rich data services that now are available to any consumer on a 4G LTE mobile broadband network. This is the situation that Alcatel-Lucent (NewsAlert) is looking to rectify by enabling public safety agencies to have their own dedicated spectrum to avail themselves not just of connectivity and interoperability for basic voice interactions during times of crises, but also to the full panoply of capabilities broadband provides.   

In May, Alcatel-Lucent and Cassidian, an EADS (NewsAlert) company, unveiled the Evercor solution, which brings 4G LTE (NewsAlert) mobile broadband to professional mobile radio users in the 400 MHz frequency band.

“It integrates LTE mobile data with mission critical voice capabilities enabling real-time video, collaboration and data services,” said Philippe Keryer, Executive Vice President of Alcatel-Lucent Networks Group and Jean-Marc Nasr, Senior Vice President of Head of Cassidian Secure Communications Solutions, in an announcement about the solution.

Delivering backhaul networking capabilities that can support the power, bandwidth and speeds needed for effective emergency video and data services has also been at the core of Alcatel-Lucent’s public safety work. The company leverages its Wireless Packet Core portfolio, including its all-Internet Protocol/Multiprotocol Label Switching (IP/MPLS) communications protocol and its family of IP/MPLS Service Routers such as its  7705 Service Aggregation Router.

Last August, the company demonstrated its ‘Striker 1’ mobile command vehicle, which the company said, “provides LTE mobile broadband support in the public safety band 14 spectrum for mobile devices such as tablets, radios and video cameras.”

Alcatel-Lucent’s work with public safety agencies around the world on incorporating 4G LTE mobile broadband into their response effort is reflected in two recent projects. It assisted the City of Charlotte on giving fingerprint and face recognition to first responders over the 700 MHz frequency. And, it is working with the São Paolo, Brazil military police to leverage high-speed video and data at two of its police operational centers.

We hear a lot about the revolution 4G LTE is bringing to personal and commercial markets. In various major catastrophes around the world in the past few years, significant gaps in connectivity and capabilities have exposed the critical need for dedicated wireless broadband to enable first responders and aid providers to be able to act quickly and coordinate activities decisively in times where every second matters. It is encouraging how LTE is being used in dedicated frequencies and not just traditional but innovative ways to greatly improve public safety ecosystem response capabilities.    
July 15, 2012 By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Edited by Peter Bernstein


US Pushes Forward on Public-safety LTE Network

16 Jul

The body defining standards for a mobile LTE network serving police, fire departments and other public safety agencies across the U.S. has finished testing radio-access gear and will start interoperability testing of packet-core equipment on July 9.

The Public Safety Communications Research Program (PSCR) is on an accelerated schedule to set down rules for the network following the Feb. 22 approval of a mechanism to fund it. The funding plan, which was attached to a middle-class tax cut bill, calls for auctions of other spectrum to cover most of the estimated US$7 billion cost of the network.

The U.S. has long sought a unified nationwide network so federal, state and local public-safety agencies can more easily work together. This was one recommendation of the 9/11 task force that studied the 2001 terrorist attacks on the country. The current plan calls for an LTE network using a block of spectrum in the prized 700MHz range.

The new infrastructure, which would be built from the ground up, would replace a patchwork of different systems in use today and give public-safety workers in the field the capacity to send and receive rich data types, especially video, said Emil Olbrich, a lead project engineer at PSCR. His agency is a joint project of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

“Because they didn’t have standards for the last 80 years, they have to duct-tape everything together,” Olbrich said at the Next-Generation Mobile Networks conference in San Francisco on Thursday. He estimated the network might start to be available next year, though an official timetable has not been set.

The Feb. 22 tax-cut law calls for NTIA to establish a service provider, called First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), to operate the network and deliver services on it to the approximately 60,000 federal, state and local agencies that need it. FirstNet will have more stringent coverage requirements than the typical commercial mobile operator. It will need to cover 95 percent of the U.S., including all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and all territories, including places such as Guam and the Marianas Islands in the Pacific. The system will also have to cover 98 percent of the U.S. population, Olbrich said.

PSCR’s job is to find out what first responders need from the network and translate those requirements into a set of technical standards, Olbrich said. Because the thousands of agencies have so many different needs, it’s often hard for vendors to develop products to serve all of them, he said. Just to provide the extensive coverage required, PSCR is looking at options such as satellites and at public-private partnerships, he said. It will also have a research and development budget to fund grants for development of specialized client devices.

The agency has already finished interference tests and basic performance testing for the radio network. Next, it will test equipment for the packet core, which processes data after it passes over the wireless network and on to wired backhaul networks. That includes functions such as traffic prioritization. PSCR carries out tests at Table Mountain in Colorado, one of two radio-frequency “quiet zones” in the U.S., where NIST keeps a large plateau free of radio signals so it can do tests in isolation, Olbrich said.

FirstNet is being created by NTIA and will be run by a board, scheduled to be seated on Aug. 20, that will include representatives of key federal agencies and other members appointed by the secretary of commerce. That board will set the timetable for network rollout, Olbrich said.

By Stephen Lawson, IDG News Jun 16, 2012 2:20 am


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