Friday, August 28, 2015
A ray of light from the darkness of the Sewol tragedy? Korea's Public Safety LTE networks
In Korea, the commitment to build a PS-LTE network was given tremendous impetus by the tragic sinking of the Sewol Ferry in April 2015 in which more than 300 passengers and crew lost their lives, most of them high school students on a field trip to Jeju island. On the government side, the Ministry of Public Safety and Security is playing a leading role in the PS-LTE network project, along with the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and other entities. Another key player is the SafeNet Forum, an organization that includes all of the major network equipment manufacturers, mobile telecommunications service providers and the public safety organizations that will utilize the new dedicated network. Earlier this summer I was invited to join the SafeNet Forum and become a member of its expert advisory committee. Consequently, I plan to publish occasional updates on the progress of this organization and Korea's PS LTE networks.
While the tragic sinking of a ferry proved to be a catalyst for network planning and implementation in Korea, in the United States it was the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 that made the provision of interoperable communications for first responders a national goal. Accordingly in 2012 Congress created The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), a federal agency that includes private sector and other non-federal representation on its board of directors. It was established as an "independent authority" within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) within the Department of Commerce.
SUNY Korea is currently working with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction here in Songdo (UNISDR) and SafeNet Forum to plan a day-long seminar on September 15 on the topic of "Networks and communication in disasters: Disaster risk reduction as a business opportunity." I look forward to that opportunity to learn more about Korea's efforts thus far and how they relate to FirstNet in the U.S. and similar efforts in other countries. Here in Korea, while the initial effort will focus on building a basic PS-LTE network, there are related and longer term efforts to build a PS-LTE R network to serve the nation's railway system and a PS-LTE M network for maritime service. At some future date, these three new, dedicated public safety networks will be interconnected.
I am particularly interested in the timetable for implementation of the networks, and how this relates to certain international decisions on applicable standards. However, at this point it seems quite likely that Korea will complete construction of its new nationwide networks well in advance of the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and other countries. If so, this has major implications for Korea's role not only in the construction of these new networks themselves, but as a test bed for the development of services that they will enable in the interest of public safety all around the world.