If one wasn’t convinced that Verizon was serious about public safety before, seeing the carrier’s efforts at last week’s International Wireless Communications Expo held last week in Las Vegas would have sealed the deal. Sure, there have been signs, like when it aired a $5.3 million public safety ad on the Super Bowl, but at IWCE the carrier had the second largest booth on the show floor and Justin Blair, executive director – wireless business products, Verizon Wireless Business Products, served as a keynote speaker.
The first sign that Verizon was going to compete with FirstNet head on came back when the carrier turned on its virtual public safety core in March 2018, the same month AT&T’s FirstNet broadband network core went online.
As for Blair, his presentation did not disappoint. He started his keynote at the IWCE with a simple video showing a live demonstration of priority preemption on a Verizon network, which was nice and not accidentally set across the street from the World Trade Center in New York City, site of the terrorist attack that launched the movement that led to FirstNet. But he finished it off with a bang, talking about how Verizon was going to bring 5G to public safety. Verizon officially one-upped AT&T, which had committed to building out FirstNet as a 4G LTE network.
Blair challenged the audience to forget about current restrictions on data speeds and “think about the future of infrastructure,” where networks will support multi-gigabit speeds.
“How can you do your job better? 5G is going to allow you to do it faster,” Blair said. “On the 4G network, we have been able to achieve peak speeds 1.45 gigabits per second. That’s mind blowing, but a 5G network is going to allow those types of speeds all the time no matter how many radios are on the network, eventually 10 gigabits per second.”
Blair noted that multi-access edge computing is important so that first responders can process data on the edge of the network, instead of on mobile devices, where battery power is precious.
“You will be able to move the insights, not all the raw data, where it needs to go,” Blair said. “As you think about building a 5G network, it is important know that 5G is not just a new protocol, the one after 4G. 5G is an actual network experience. It is all about faster speeds and lower latency, but you can’t do that without software defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV) and edge computing.”
SDN and NFV will allow agencies to quickly deploy services, such as mission critical push to talk. Patching a security breech also be accomplished more quickly. Blair encouraged the audience to explore how to get their applications into a virtualized environment at the edge of the 5G network.
“If you are not thinking about virtualization, you need to be,” Blair said. “Dream Big. Don’t think about the restrictions you have today with 4G or Wi-Fi. They will go away when we get to 5G.”
Verizon has several 5G labs, including a first responder lab in Washington, D.C., which is an incubator for local innovators to grow the 5G ecosystem. Running the lab is a company called ResponderXLabs, which was launched by Amazon Web Services Responder Corp in August 2018 to bring companies together to develop cutting-edge technology for first responders. The goal is to have 15 new technologies available this year.
“Together, we explore the boundaries of 5G network technology, co-create new applications and hardware, and rethink what’s possible in a 5G world,” according to the web site of ResponderXLabs.
Electronics 360 reports that five companies have been chosen by the lab so far, including Adcor Magnetic Systems for sensors and digital 3D environments; Blueforce Development for situational awareness; Kiana Analytics for real-time location, Qwake Technologies for augmented reality; and Aerial Applications for drones.
“Qwake Technology is doing something really, really cool,” Blair said. “We demonstrated their product, known as C-Thru, at the Mobile World Congress last week, and it allows a firefighter to see in a dark, smoke-filled room.”