Thursday, April 16, 2015

The PS-LTE network: Disaster communications as a business opportunity

The mainstream news media in South Korea are filled with reports these days about the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry one year ago today.  The fact that most of those who lost their lives in that accident were high school students on a field trip to Jeju island only broadened and deepened the nation's anguish.  In all my years living in Korea, I cannot recall an event that affected the whole nation and its entire citizenry so profoundly.  It took months for the economy, politics and social affairs to return to some semblance of normality.
One effect of the the Sewol ferry tragedy was to accelerate this nation's planning for future disaster communications. The disaster exposed the lack of interoperability among responding agencies which hindered rescue efforts.  Last year the Korean government announced plans to build a Public Safety LTE network (PS-LTE) and allocated frequency for it.  As reported by BusinessKorea in January, the national disaster safety communications network would be the first of its kind in the world, and is scheduled for completion by 2017.  The report noted that, according to industry and government sources,"...the national disaster safety communications network project is estimated to be worth 2 trillion won (US$1.85 billion). However, the size of the project is expected to increase to more than 3 trillion won (US$2.8 billion) if 10 year-maintenance costs are included."
The project has drawn considerable interest from both domestic and international companies.  Huawei and Alcatel-Lucent held an event to showcase their PS-LTE technology in January, as did Ericcson-LG, which is collaborating with Nokia Networks and Motorola.  More recently, as reported in The Korea Times, KT announced a partnership with Samsung Electronics in a bid to win the PS-LTE contract.
Other countries, including the U.S., the UK and Canada, have plans to build public safety networks, but Korea's will be the first.  Consequently, regardless of which companies win the contract, this country will serve as the world's test bed for such networks, offering new business opportunities both here and abroad.

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