The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is set to tell the government to go for latest 4G LTE-based systems to provide relief in cases of large-scale natural or man-made public disasters, according to an official familiar with the development.
The regulator’s recommendations, calling for systems that enable both voice as well as data/video communications — the latter is currently missing from the existing framework — are likely to be sent to the government by end of this month.
“Current system permits only voice communication, a limiting factor in providing relief as you are only relying on what you are being told. If you have a video facility, you will have a better understanding of the damage caused and accordingly be able to respond with adequate relief,” the official said.
TRAI, being a regulator of telecom and broadcasting sectors, usually receives a reference from the respective ministries to frame and suggest measures on any issue concerning the two industries.
In this case, the regulator suo motu took up the case to frame the ‘Next Generation Public Protection and Disaster Relief (PPDR) communication networks’.
Traditional communications networks often go down in the wake of natural, and sometimes even man-made, disasters. Even if the communication networks haven’t broken down in such circumstances, they become congested with exceptionally high levels of traffic. This adversely affects emergency responders in their rescue operations.
PPDR communication networks allow for the rapid deployment of networks in situations where capacity is needed on an expedited basis.
In India, primary PPDR communication systems are designed and run by many independent state agencies. Currently, PPDR communication infrastructure in India is either based on old analog systems or it uses narrowband radios.
The narrowband nature of these radios limits them to only two-way voice communications with no inherent support for high-bandwidth transmission requirements such as interactive video communication, remote video surveillance of security or disaster sites etc.
Existing systems suffer from problems like interoperability failures, inefficient use of spectrum, and higher costs. Such systems do not provide the level of secure communication required by India’s security forces resulting in easy leak of information to unwanted entities.