TRAI recommendations on emergency communication networks

Indian telecom regulator TRAI announced recommendations on next generation public protection and disaster relief (PPDR) communication networks.
Telecom towers in rural locationsTRAI said Indian PPDR agencies currently rely on narrow-band digital trunking technology like TETRA and P25 systems or old analog systems for their communication in the field, which are primarily meant for voice communication.

At present, independent state agencies design and run PPDR communication networks. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) offers license to the PPDR agencies under Captive Mobile Radio Trunking Service (CMRTS) category. Wireless Planning & Coordination Wing (WPC Wing) of DoT allocates spectrum in the 300 MHz, 400 MHz or 800 MHz bands.

TRAI said the current framework has resulted in fragmented spectrum assignments with inefficient use of sub-GHz frequency. It does not meet the needs of the public safety and emergency communication such as access to instant messaging, high-quality images and video, mapping and location services, remote control of robots, and other applications. PPDR agencies also have their individual networks in place.

TRAI said next generation PPDR communication networks should be deployed with fresh broadband capabilities, unified framework and comprehensive policy. Broadband PPDR (BB-PPDR) using LTE is the optimal choice for an integrated PPDR network providing services.

LTE broadband trunking, featuring large bandwidths, high data-rates, and IP-based operation, supporting multimedia communication including eMBMS (video) to / from disaster site, is becoming the mainstream in the market, ushering an era of LTE-based public-safety networks.

Recommendations

There should be a pan-India Broadband PPDR (BB-PPDR) Communication Network (to be called National BB-PPDR Network) based on 3GPP PS-LTE technology. There should be a hybrid model of BBPPDR network in India.

India Government should fund the dedicated network for BB-PPDR communication that will run in metro cities, border districts, disaster prone areas (identified by NDMA) and sensitive areas like J&K and North East by PSU like BSNL/MTNL. The existing commercial network can be leveraged in other regions through any TSP.

Mobile operators should be mandated to provide mobile BTS and backpack devices in case of disaster when terrestrial network gets damaged/ dysfunctional, in order to make available communication facilities for PPDR agencies with in specific time limits as derived in SLAs. There should be a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) under MHA to plan, coordinate and steer the nationwide BB-PPDR communication network implementation and its operation.

DoT should study the feasibility of doing away with CMRTS license for PPDR agencies in phased manner. The SPV should be the nodal agency to coordinate with DoT for allocation of spectrum and other issues. The PPDR agencies and details of equipment deployed by them can be registered with DoT through SPV.

DoT should work out timelines to phase out existing analog networks in PPDR in a phased manner. DoT should offer new spectrum only for deploying digital equipment.

The migration of existing legacy equipment on to the new network should be formulated after study during this pilot testing.

2×10 MHz of dedicated spectrum should be allocated nationwide to the SPV on no-cost basis for LTE based broadband PPDR networks.

(a) 2×10 MHz of the dedicated spectrum, 814-824/859-869 MHz, should be assigned for nationwide BB-PPDR services as per APT Frequency Arrangement number G 3-1-4.

(b) 20 MHz of spectrum in the frequency range 440-470 MHz (preferably 450-470 MHz) should be allocated for future evolution of broadband PPDR.

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