77% of US mission critical license holders would like mobile broadband

Mobile broadband networks are something mission critical users would like to have, according to a survey, but less than a fifth of those polled view it as an essential feature.


Next to narrowbanding, the biggest issue in the North American licensed mobile radio market over the next few years will be the demand for private LTE networks for mission-critical communication users. Much has been written about the issues relating to spectrum allocation and funding for these new networks, but what about the actual demand from users?

IMS Research will be exploring this fully in its upcoming report “Broadband LMR/PMR - World – 2011”; however, a recent survey of around 400 US license holders gave us some early insight into the use of data at present and what the pent up demand is for more advanced data services. This blog explores some of the results from this survey.

The positive news is that there does appear to be a large amount of pent up demand for mobile broadband data services. When asked about the importance of mobile broadband as a feature of a mission critical communication network, 77% of mission critical radio license holders indicated that this was a feature that they’d like to have. The slightly worrying issue for the industry though was that only 19% stated that is was an “essential” feature. For most it was viewed as a “nice to have” feature. This does beg the question, how much extra would these license holders be prepared to pay for just a “nice to have” feature? 

Figure 1: Graph polling importance of

The use of mobile data within this user group is already relatively widespread. 69% of public safety license holders from our survey indicated that they were already using mobile data services.

Figure 2: Graph of mission-critical LMR license holders that currently use mobile data. Courtesy: IMS Research

However, for more than half of the respondents this was accomplished not with the LMR network, but by using a commercial cellular service. In some cases the respondent used the LMR network for some data services, but switched to cellular for others when the LMR networks capabilities were insufficient. 

Figure 3: Graph showing what devices are used to access data services. Courtesy: IMS Research

The data applications currently used by respondents tended to be those that did not demand high-speed data. For example only 8% used real-time video services. Applications such as access to email, remote access to databases, location and image transfer were the most common. However, the reason the real-time video wasn’t used appeared to be down to network performance. If network performance was good enough and the application well enough integrated into the wider communication network, 39% of public safety respondents indicated that real-time video would be an application they would use.  A positive result for those proponents of LTE for mission critical communications!

But what about just using the commercial cellular networks then? If there is this demand for mobile broadband and companies such as Verizon, AT+T and Sprint are going to roll our LTE, would these license holders not just use these networks? Why do they need private networks? The survey answered these questions to some extent, but they will be explored further in an upcoming report from IMS Research that focuses specifically on the demand for Broadband LMR/PMR (for more info please click here). In terms of this survey’s respondents, 59% of public safety users were already using commercial cellular services. At first perhaps a worrying stat for the industry. But when explored further the news was more positive. Although commercial cellular use was high, 86% stated that they could never completely replace their LMR network with a commercial cellular service. It would appear that in many cases the respondents were using the commercial networks for data purely as there was no other option.  

Figure 4: Graph comparing LMR versus cellular, reliability perceptions, and public safety versus non-public safety. IMS Research

IMS Research will be publishing a new report examining the demand and future market for broadband mission critical communication, for more information on this report, including information on pre-publication discounts, please click here.

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