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The next-generation cellular network is poised to massively upgrade situational awareness for public safety agencies, experts say.
For decades, public safety workers have depended on land mobile radio communications and push-to-talk capabilities to share mission-critical information, but these systems are giving way to wireless data networks as broadband capabilities have expanded.
For instance, data networks can help fire departments use 3D location services to track personnel inside buildings for increased situational awareness and safety, and emergency medical services can transmit real-time data and images to hospitals ahead of arrival so they can be more prepared, according to a recent report from Next G Alliance, an initiative under the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions dedicated to advancing wireless technologies across the country.
These evolving wireless networks have supported first responders’ growing use and dependence on data, video and image transmission, enhanced location tracking, data analytics and other elements crucial to an effective emergency response, the report stated.
But there is always room to improve. Enter 6G: the next-generation cellular network that will operate in higher frequencies, such as millimeter and terahertz communications. It will build upon previous systems by offering users enhanced data rates and bandwidth availability, according to Eirini Tsiropoulou, an assistant professor at the University of New Mexico’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
6G provides “substantially lower latency compared to its predecessor 5G cellular technology,” she said in an email to GCN. When latency is less than 1 millisecond, connected users can take advantage of haptic cyber-physical applications, she said.
One way a 6G network will improve public safety applications is by combining technologies such as edge computing, fog computing and cloud computing to integrate communications and computing infrastructures, Tsiropoulou said. Indeed, internet-of-things devices are expected to explode with 6G’s implementation, according to the report, with deployment of as many as 1 million IoT devices per square kilometer. For example, firefighters using augmented reality headsets when inspecting a hazardous building could integrate data from IoT tools, such as wearables, connected vehicles and robotics, cameras and smart-city sensors, “to produce a robust picture of surrounding risks.”
6G could also strengthen network security for public safety agencies by incorporating safeguards against several types of cyberattacks like jamming, spoofing and others, Tsiropoulou said.
But there’s no rush—yet. According to Tsiropoulou, the first 6G specs are expected to be commercially available by 2030 under the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, a group of organizations aimed at developing a global mobile broadband standard.
Ultimately, 6G “will enable support for mission-critical services, the provision of immersive communications and the capacity to connect billions of omnipresent devices and sensors,” the report stated.