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Document Title
Land Mobile Radio (LMR) and Planning
Working Group Webinar
Why LMR is still public safety’s best and most reliable
form of communications
April 2, 2014
Welcome and Introductions
Presenter Name
Presenter Contact Information
Website 1
Website 2
1. Background
2. Importance of Land Mobile Radio to Public Safety Communications
3. Progression of Land Mobile Radio Technology
4. LMR Conventional and Trunked Network Equipment
5. LMR’s Provision of Critical Voice Communications
6. Key Advantages of Using LMR Systems
7. Why Can’t Public Safety Just Use Cell Phones?
8. Comparison of LMR and Cellular Long Term Evolution (LTE)
9. Public Safety’s Continued Use of LMR
10. Case Studies
11. Additional Resources
• SAFECOM is a stakeholder-driven, emergency communications
program of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of
Emergency Communications (OEC)
• SAFECOM was established in 2001 in response to emergency
response interoperability deficiencies in the wake of September 11,
• SAFECOM is coordinated by an Executive Committee, in support of
the Emergency Response Council. The groups are primarily
composed of State and local emergency responders and
intergovernmental and national public safety communications
• Both groups regularly convene to discuss interoperability, emergency
communications, and provide input on the challenges, needs, and
best practices of emergency responders
Background cont.
• As a part of SAFECOM’s 2013 Strategic Priorities, the LMR and
Planning Working Group was established to promote the continued
use of LMR systems and educate constituents on the importance of
sufficient funding to continue these systems, as our country
simultaneously plans for the deployment of the envisioned
Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) by the First
Responder Network Authority (FirstNet)
• The purpose of this webinar is to educate stakeholders on the
continued use of LMR radio systems by highlighting and advocating
the mission-critical capabilities first responders and emergency
services providers rely upon everyday
Importance of LMR to Public Safety Communications
Over the past several decades, LMR
has emerged as the primary voice
communications tool for public safety
Current LMR systems are critical to the
efficient provision of public safety
Existing LMR systems must continue to
be maintained, enhanced, and
Emerging voice services (e.g., IPbased, VoIP, VoLTE) available on
wireless broadband networks do not
currently provide the same capabilities,
features, and functionality available
from LMR
Progression of Land Mobile Radio Technology
• Over the decades, the progression of LMR technologies from
conventional analog systems to the current digital trunk systems can be
largely attributed to overall advancements in electronics technologies
• Project 25 (P25) standards further enhanced features and functions and
are applicable to conventional digital and trunking LMR systems
SAFECOM Interoperability Continuum
The Interoperability Continuum is designed to help emergency responders
and policy makers address critical elements for interoperable success
The goal is to move from the minimal standards, (left side) of the continuum,
advancing to the maximum standard (right side)
Displays the progression of LMR technology in public safety
LMR Conventional and Trunked Network Equipment
• Current systems include:
• Handheld portable radios
• Mobile radios
• Base stations
• Console equipment
• Repeaters
• Tower sites and backhaul
• LMR systems are primarily
designed to provide critical
voice communications
• Many existing conventional
and trunked LMR offerings
also provide support for nonbroadband low speed
wireless data transmissions
LMR’s Provision of Critical Voice Communications
Current Public Safety LMR technologies provide first responders with reliable,
redundant, and flexible mission critical voice communications. These capabilities*
may include:
Direct mode/Talk around: Capability of radios to communicate voice when
out of range of the system/network infrastructure, when infrastructure has
been damaged or destroyed, or when communications between units is
desired or required off of the network infrastructure
Push-to-talk (PTT): Ability to transmit a voice message by pushing a button
on the radio, creating a reliable, robust and almost instantaneous (subsecond) voice path connection with other subscriber devices
System/Group/Unit call: Allows users selectively to communicate on a oneto-many, one-to-selected group, or one-to-one basis between system-specific
Radio device identification: Allows the display of the unique ID or assigned
ID alias associated with the radio that also facilitates additional services such
as emergency alert, private calls, deactivation of stolen radios and over-theair rekeying (OTAR) and over-the-air-reprogramming (OTAP)
*Features and functionality not present in
every type of legacy system
LMR’s Provision of Critical Voice Communications –
Emergency alerting: Capability that allows a user to actuate one button to
transmit an emergency alert to other radios on a channel/talkgroup and to a
controlling telecommunicator in real-time from first responder’s radios,
sometimes referred to as the “emergency” or “officer down” button
Priority: Ability of the LMR trunking system to differentiate access to system
resources and services through the assignment of priorities based upon the
user, radio, talk group/channel, or a feature such as an emergency or priority
override function on a radio or console
Encryption: Ability to convert voice or data transmission into a secure
format to minimize unauthorized access
Audio noise reduction technologies: Ability to hear audio in adverse
conditions without repetition of the message. For example, an emergency
responder must be able to hear voice communications regardless of
background noises, such as sirens, chainsaws, mechanical noises, and selfcontained breathing apparatus
*Features and functionality not present in
every type of legacy system
LMR’s Provision of Critical Voice Communications –
• Dedicated channels/talk groups: Radio frequency resources that may
emulate the structure of a user’s organization and provide almost instantaneous
system/network access and quick response in emergency situations and do not
require dialing and waiting for call connections
• Highly reliable and redundant networks: Engineered and maintained to
eliminate points of failure; incorporate redundancy, resiliency, and robustness to
withstand natural/manmade disasters and other interruptive situations
• Best possible coverage : Public safety LMR systems are commonly designed
to provide the best possible radio frequency coverage within a given
geographical area including a specific focus upon optimal in-building coverage
• Public Safety LMR equipment: Uniquely designed equipment that permits
prolonged operations in strenuous and rigorous environments that include the
impacts of high/low temperatures, vibration, shock, liquid immersion, dust
intrusion, and exposure to biological and chemical hazards
Key Advantages to Using LMR Systems
Efficient command and control
– Public Safety LMR provides Incident Commanders (IC) the
ability to separate and assign specific channel/talkgroup
resources (within the limits of the system’s capacity) to critical
functions at a large incident. At a major structure fire, the IC
may assign channels/talkgroups to different operations
consisting of groups of personnel executing assignments
Fast emergency response
– Public Safety LMR is specifically designed to provide almost
instantaneous assignment (< 500 milliseconds) of channel
resources to a user in a trunked environment. There is no call
setup time delay as is found in wireless telephony
communications, and the established pathway can support
one-to-one, one-to-group or one-to-many communications
Key Advantages to Using LMR Systems – cont.
Optimal crisis management and executive communications
– Command personnel at large incidents can dedicate LMR
resources (channels/talkgroups) that provide direct access and
communications with other command staff. No lookup of
telephone numbers is required, and multiple command
personnel can monitor and provide a timely response via an
established command resource
• Communications resilience and redundancy
– Public safety LMR systems are normally constructed and
maintained to provide a higher level of user availability and
accessibility. The infrastructure equipment and methods of
deployment commonly implement hardened and redundant
features to support the highest availability
Why Can’t Public Safety just use Cell Phones?
Although they are both wireless networks, LMR and Cellular are quite
different from each other
Priority – Commercial providers do not desire to routinely provide public safety
with any priority for voice or data on their networks
Reliability (multiple points of failure) – Commercial systems are commonly not
built to incorporate the same robustness found in public safety LMR systems
(Best Effort vs. Mission Critical)
Disasters – Multiple incidents illustrate that a commercial system’s capacity is
routinely overwhelmed
Talk Around – Present technology employed in commercial networks does not
provide an “off network device-to-device” capability
Ruggedness – Consumer grade devices are not designed for continued use in
the public safety/first responder environment
Comparison of LMR and Cellular LTE
There are substantial differences in the technology, deployment, and operations of
Public Safety LMR and Commercial Cellular LTE systems in typical deployments
LMR Systems
High Level Antenna Sites
Fewer Sites for Coverage
High Power Transmission
Transmits as Needed (PTT)
20-40 Miles Coverage
Omni-directional, directional Antennas
High Power Mobile/Portables (5-100 W)
Talk Around/Simplex Capable
Channel Control/Selectable by User
Wireline, RF, Fiber, Microwave Backhaul
Typical Trunk Site Backhaul – Single T-1
Non-sophisticated Networks (Exception
Trunked Networks/Sites)
8-12 Hours Device Battery Life
LTE Systems
Low Level Antenna Sites
More Sites for Coverage/Capacity
Low Power Transmission
Active Connections
1-3 Miles Coverage
Sectored Antennas, supports MAS, MIMO
Low Power (200 mW) Devices
Infrastructure Dependent
Channel Control via Network
Fiber, Microwave, Cell Frequency
LTE Cell Sites – Gigabit Ethernet
Smart Cell Sites/Smart Network Core
Device Battery Life Dependent on Data
Red designates radio frequency / radio access network
Blue designates site backhaul and site connectivity
Public Safety’s Continued Use of LMR
 Significant strides have been made in
recent years to improve and ensure
interoperability between disparate LMR
systems and technologies
 LMR has traditionally and continually
been embraced by the Public Safety
community; significant investment in
infrastructure and institutional
knowledge; systems configured to
topology and usage patterns through
decades of use, evaluation, and
Public Safety’s Continued Use of LMR – cont.
 Although public safety personnel regularly
use cellular phones, smartphones, tablets
and other devices supported by
commercial wireless services as an
adjunct capability, many of these devices
and networks are not yet sufficiently suited
for public safety mission critical
 Public safety officials cannot depend on
“best effort”, shared, commercial wireless
systems. Such systems are often
overloaded and unavailable during critical
incidents when capacity demands
overwhelm the networks
Public Safety’s Continued Use of LMR – cont.
 The public safety community is well immersed in
LMR technologies; the change to the next "best
thing" must be deliberate, proven, and capable of
providing required features and functionalities
available in current offerings while incorporating
new capabilities
 At present, there is no other viable choice to
achieve the same level of mission critical voice
capabilities currently provided by Public Safety
 Mission critical public safety grade voice
communications is not possible in the current
version of LTE and there is no target date for
adding it to the NPSBN. Thus, the NPSBN is not a
replacement for LMR
Case Study: San Diego Wild Fires
Utilizing LMR to its full potential led to seamless communications and
Lessons Learned
 San Diego and Imperial Counties have an
expansive Regional 800 MHz Communications
System with excellent user support and
management through the San Diego County
Sheriff’s Department
 Very little difficulty with communications other
than some issues that normally would be
expected of a large emergency incident
 The broad governance body is a robust
user/guidance group that establishes and
maintains SOPs and other systems usage and
guidance documents
 60+ agencies in San Diego and Imperial Counties
use these interoperable resources on a daily
basis, facilitating LMR communications across
Federal, State, and local agencies
Case Study: Dallas-Ft. Worth Tornados – April 3, 2012
21 separate tornadoes struck the DFW area causing widespread damage
and emergency responses from many area public safety agencies
Lessons Learned
 The storms caused severe congestion on the
commercial cellular systems serving the DFW
area, impacting both voice and data call
 Numerous public safety agencies use commercial
3G/4G wireless data services for their first
responder wireless communications services
o Public safety wireless data communications,
in many areas, were unusable for hours as
there is no available priority access for
public safety users and these shared
commercial systems’ capacity was
 LMR mission critical voice systems continued to
operate without interruption
Case Study: Superstorm Sandy – October 22, 2012
Public safety’s redundancy and resiliency requirements are not the
same as those of commercial providers
Lessons Learned
 Public safety agencies in the affected areas were
able to maintain critical LMR communications in
the aftermath of the storm
 In New York City — hit particularly hard by the
storm — public-safety communications remained
operable the entire time
 LMR infrastructure hardening to withstand
hurricane conditions and the provision of
emergency generators and backup power
maintained LMR systems when the commercial
electric grid failed
 The FCC reported that 25% of commercial
cellular sites were not operational in the
immediate aftermath of the storm
Case Study: Boston Marathon Bombing – April 15, 2013
Upgrades to communications technology in the years following the Sept. 11,
2001, attacks allowed for reliable voice contact among first responders.
Lessons Learned
 LMR provided reliable service and seamless
voice communication among Federal, State and
local officials
 Boston’s reliance on commercial wireless carriers
for public safety data access again demonstrated
the need for a dedicated public safety broadband
network. During first 90 minutes of the incident,
saturation of cellular and landline phone services
 State and local governments will also have to
continue paying for their existing “land mobile
radio” systems until broadband-based voice
functions have been fully developed and proven
 The City of Boston was very effective with its use
of social media (i.e. Twitter), disseminating
official information
Case Study: Los Angeles International Airport
Shooting– November 1, 2013
Airport emergencies typically require a high degree of multiagency,
multidiscipline, and public/private sector coordination to ensure effective
Lessons Learned
 Aside from the normal confusion that typifies such
incidents, non-interoperable radio systems
caused gaps in cross-agency coordination
 Emergency alert and warning systems need to be
updated and the technologies for 911 notifications
to Airport Police must be better integrated
 While major efforts were made to use social
networking and commercial media to inform the
public, public mass notification within the airport
was lacking
Additional Resources – SAFECOM Materials
SAFECOM Website: http://www.safecomprogram.gov/
SAFECOM 2013 Annual Summary:
SAFECOM Fact Sheet:
SAFECOM Governance Charter:
SAFECOM Quick Reference Guide:
Video clip on why first responders will continue to rely
on LMR technologies – Harlin McEwen:
Additional Resources – SAFECOM Materials cont.
NPSTC Brief: Why Can’t PS Use Cellphones for Mission
Critical Voice Communications: http://psc.apcointl.org/wpcontent/uploads/Why-cant-PS-just-use-cell-phones-NPSTC041513.pdf
Article about LMR vs. Cellular for Public Safety:
NGA Wireless Interoperability Issue Brief:
NPSTC T-Band Report:
Impact of Non-P25 Digital Technology on Interoperability:
LAX Shooting After Action Report:
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