Nokia unveils LTE backpack for critical comms with bonus data aggregation

critical communications LTE backpack

Nokia has expanded its ViTrust critical communications portfolio with a new simplified LTE small cell and an operations center solution that aggregates data streams for emergency services in the field.

Launched on the sidelines of the Critical Communications World event in Hong Kong Wednesday, the new Ultra Compact Network is, essentially, an LTE FlexiZone small cell in a backpack that can brought into disaster areas and set up in under five minutes.

“We took the smallest [FlexiZone] radio in our portfolio and put it in a backpack so that first responders can go into disaster areas where communications have been knocked out and re-establish voice and data communications,” said Henri Tallon, GM for Public Sector at Nokia’s Mobile Networks division.

Portable base stations for temporary cellular coverage in emergencies are nothing new, but the Ultra Compact Network is designed specifically for first-responder customers, leveraging the critical communications standards finalized by the 3GPP last year in Release 13.

The Ultra Compact Network uses whatever existing commercial FDD or TDD LTE spectrum is available (or LTE spectrum earmarked by regulators for emergency communications purposes), and sports enough capacity for up to 400 users within the range of a few kilometers. It also includes a computing platform so that it can operate without a core network. The whole pack, which includes a foldable mast antenna, weighs around 20-25kg.

Apart from voice and data connectivity, it also supports push-to-video, as well as customer-specific apps such as video analytics and geolocalization.

nokia critical communications
Henri Tallon, GM for Public Sector at Nokia’s Mobile Networks division

Tallon said that features such as mapping, real-time HD video for drones and bio-vital monitoring are in the pipeline. “They’re prototypes for now.”

There’s also an optional backhaul feature that supports backhaul via LTE, Wi-Fi or anything IP-based.

The fundamental selling point for the Ultra Compact Network is, of course, establishing critical communications where none exist – or, more crucially, where critical communications did exist but have been knocked out by a disaster.

“The TETRA folks like to talk about how great its coverage is and how secure it is, but none of that matters when a natural disaster happens and wipes out your base station sites,” said Tallon, pointing to recent disasters like the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami, and 2005’s Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. In both cases, up to tens of thousands of public safety base stations were rendered inoperable.

However, Tallon said, customers have also expressed interest in using the Ultra Compact Network for extended coverage where TETRA doesn’t reach, complementary capacity for existing TETRA or P25 networks, or even extra temporary capacity for stadiums during events.

“We didn’t actually consider these things when our engineers were designing it,” Tallon admits. “Our customers asked us if they could use it for that, and of course the answer is ‘yes’.”

Customers also demanded that the solution be so easy to set up that it could not only be deployed fast – without extra steps like plugging in a laptop or entering a password – but also required no telco expertise, Tallon adds. “Customers told us, the fewer steps, the better.”

Nokia said it will make the Ultra Compact Network available in other versions, including a vehicle-mounted and rack-mounted fixed installation versions, to meet the needs of different situations.

Complementing the Ultra Compact Network release is Nokia’s new Integrated Operations Center (IOC), a solution that enables  critical communications agencies to aggregate data feeds from a multitude of sources and vendors’ systems in an emergency situation, including video, data from first responders, information sourced from alarm systems, CCTV, legacy application data and even social media.

From the release:

Pre-integrated tools analyze the feeds and alert teams to need-to-know information, triggering automated workflows defined by the agency and Nokia experts. Customized dashboards present this information in the most appropriate way to help reduce response time and enhance cooperation between multiple agencies.

In one potential scenario, backhaul connectivity can be established linking the Nokia Ultra Compact Network to the Integrated Operations Center. This will enable first responder teams in remote regions to connect to a command center and dynamically share their data feeds to enhance decision-making.

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