With the growing sophistication and increased level of security threats, the need for better situational awareness and closer cross-agency collaborations has become ever more pressing. Accordingly, public safety agencies are evolving their mission-critical communications infrastructure toward the highly efficient, flexible capabilities of internet protocol (IP) to enhance first responder effectiveness and safety. The bedrock for this evolution is a new, converged backhaul network architecture grounded in Internet Protocol/Multi-protocol Label Switching (IP/MPLS), atop packet microwave and optical transport infrastructure.
The demands are high. Public safety agencies looking to evolve to IP/MPLS require a mission-critical communications network that meets a set of stringent requirements (see Fig. 1). It must be reliable and resilient in order to ensure uninterrupted communications even in the face of severe storms, floods, terrorism and other type of unexpected emergencies. To provide effective response, enhanced situational awareness becomes essential. Consequently, the new network also needs to have flexible service convergence to adopt new applications, including fourth-generation wireless technology of LTE that can offer increased channel capacity and improved spectrum efficiency, and network scalability to accommodate growing video and data traffic. To protect communications investment, it also must be fully interoperable with existing land mobile radio (LMR) systems and applications such as simulcast, and be ready to continue to evolve as necessary.
Fig. 1: Public safety backhaul network evolution requirements
Dependable Communications 24 x 7 x 365
Like its TDM-based predecessor, an IP/MPLS-based backhaul network offers constant, reliable and secure communications to connect first responders with one another, the dispatch center and the data center, ensuring that all public safety personnel are connected 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
While legacy backhaul networks are typically based on a traditional access-aggregation-core ring architecture, the packet-based paradigm of IP-MPLS backhaul allows flexible deployment of inter-connected rings. This multi-ring topology, coupled with dynamic IP/MPLS, can restore traffic at SONET speed using fast re-route (FRR) capability when one node or link in the ring goes down. Moreover, during multi-fault scenarios, which are not uncommon during natural disasters, it can rapidly re-establish critical communications with a secondary label switched path (LSP) with remaining network connectivity. Therefore, a multi-ring IP/MPLS network allows better availability and resiliency, with much less chance of one incident – a storm or other disaster – disrupting critical communications. Combining SONET-speed restoration and multi-fault resiliency with other protection mechanisms – including pseudowire and control hardware redundancies, non-stop routing and services, deterministic QoS, microwave link adaptive modulation and 1+1 protection switching – critical traffic will be preserved even under inclement conditions.
Convergence Flexibility and Network Scalability
An integral element for enhancing situational awareness is broadband communications that give first responders and dispatch center personnel a 360 degree perspective on any event with high-definition video, drones and other rich data applications such as geographic information system (GIS). A new LTE radio system is central to this broadband infrastructure. In addition, public safety agencies can deploy advanced applications such as high-definition CCTV and sensors to gather greater quantities of data for advanced analytics such as gunshot detection and facial recognition, allowing them to act more effectively.
The key for supporting all of these features is the convergence flexibility provided by IP/MPLS backhaul. The use of IP/MPLS virtual private network (VPN) services can accommodate all public safety applications with complete segregation and security (encryption can be enabled with ease for sensitive applications) over the same network, resulting in improved network operational efficiency when compared with the paradigm of disparate networks. This paradigm is commonly known as network segmentation. Furthermore, the support of IP VPN and service-aware stateful firewall in the IP/MPLS platform also facilitates controlled, secure communications between different agencies for closer collaborations. Additionally, other government agencies and operations will be able to attain budget savings by using the spare capacity. With highly customizable classification policy, deterministic multiclass QoS in IP/MPLS treats all traffic with the appropriate priority, and ensures no performance degradation for critical applications in a properly designed network.
Complementing the VPN and QoS capabilities is network scalability. As video and data traffic grow, the backhaul network capacity needs to be able to scale up. An IP/MPLS platform with integrated microwave awareness and WDM networking support, together with a unified network services platform, simplifies the process of deploying additional microwave channels or optical Ethernet links. The unified network services platform facilitates network and services management across IP/MPLS, optical and microwave domains, attaining optimal operational efficiencies and agility.
As governments worldwide continue to face budget constraints, they need to invest prudently with a long-term horizon. Ultimately, IP/MPLS backhaul will offer public safety agencies of today the migration capability to gracefully bridge the past to the future with full interoperability with critical legacy applications in use today, full network scalability to 10 Gb/s, and even 100 Gb/s link coupled with wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) optics when necessary, and software-defined networking (SDN) to prepare for future capabilities requirement such as insight-driven automation and optimization. Accordingly, public safety agencies can continue to use current life-critical applications such as LMR system and simulcast without disruptions, and adopt new technologies with no constraints. This approach protects agencies’ overall communications investment, and offers an evolvable foundation for more advanced (e.g. LTE) public safety communications capabilities.
Public safety is in the middle of momentous changes. The familiar LMR radio in every police car, on every fire engine and in every ambulance will eventually give way to a new generation of ruggedized devices that look like smartphones and tablets. Critical data and video will play an expanding role, alongside critical voice, in first responders services. The backhaul network that ties everything together must work even harder and stretch beyond today’s capabilities. This is creating the need for a new approach to continue delivering life-critical communications, whether that be voice, video or data. With converged IP/MPLS backhaul, government agencies at all levels around the world are ready to strengthen public safety, increase operational efficiency, improve collaborations between jurisdictions and agencies at all levels, and augment city services – all while benefiting from an efficient, future-ready platform for future network expansion, ready to embrace emerging applications to address new communications needs.
Marketing Director Fai Lam is responsible for promoting Nokia’s IP/Optical Networks portfolio to enterprises and governments. A seasoned professional in networking and communications technology, Lam has helped industries such as power utilities with their transformation projects. He has held positions in product development, product line management, business development and marketing. His marketing campaigns have resulted in major market penetration and product awards. Lam holds a B.Eng. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, an MBA from the University of Ottawa, and is a Registered Professional Engineer in Ontario, Canada.