In recent years, LTE has emerged as a challenger to existing public safety communication protocols. Continual refinements from 3GPP Releases and commercial collaboration between TETRA and P25 vendors with LTE vendors are turning First Responder and Public Safety LTE into a reality. ABI Research estimates the total number of public safety LTE user subscriptions to reach 11 million worldwide by 2020, with a market size of $5.1 billion.

Due to stringent operability requirements, the public safety community is generally risk averse. Legacy public safety protocols such as TETRA and P25 maintain high desirability due to their stability and performance consistency, while LTE vendors continue to improve its mission-critical features. Since Release 10, 3GPP has incorporated various enhancements to improve the mission-critical capabilities of LTE. LTE-Relay extends network coverage for mission-critical and disaster response, while LTE-Direct allows public safety devices to establish direct point-to-point communication without the need of a basestation. 3GPP Release 13 in early 2016 will standardize push-to-talk and indoor positioning capability. These enhancements equip public safety LTE to deliver mission-critical solutions and the broadband capability of LTE also provides for third party innovations, such as machine learning and machine type communications.

Collaborations between Motorola Solutions and Ericsson as well as Harris and Nokia Networks have demonstrated the potential of a single unified broadband and narrowband communications solution. However, the advancement of existing LTE networks is still crucial in the deployment of a public safety LTE network. Therefore, ABI Research believes the United States, United Kingdom, and South Korea will be the first three markets to have a fully functional public safety LTE network by 2017. More deployments will take place in emerging markets, such as Middle East and other parts of Asia-Pacific, after 2017. “The lack of legacy public safety communication networks allows these markets to deploy First Responder and Public Safety LTE networks, with no issues of interoperability. Emerging markets will eventually replace advanced markets as the growth driver, especially with China joining the fray in around 2021,” says Lian Jye Su, Research Analyst, ABI Research.

 These findings are from the Emergency Response Public LTE Access report, which is a part of ABI Research’s LTE and 5G Market Research