With the major mobile carriers updating their 4G LTE equipment and constructing new towers to fill in gaps, people may believe that because cell service is improving then other problems will be solved as well. The FCC has been issuing reports about how location data from 911 calls isn’t being translated to the emergency responders, and delaying their response time. Alcatel-Lucent, French global telecommunications equipment company, discussed the necessity to build a strong public wireless infrastructure in LifeTalk: Public Safety Communications E-Zine. In this article, Bill Schrier, Chief Technology Officer for the City of Seattle, explained why we are unable to use the system that already in place by the major carriers. “The most common question — especially from cash-strapped legislators and city counselors — is, ‘Why can’t we just use the commercial carrier services? They’ve got 3G wireless service offerings with data capabilities. They’ve got 4G wireless offering with significantly more data capabilities. They’ve got these technologies. Why don’t we just use those commercial services? That’s what we do now for nonmission critical applications!’ The answer, of course is that you don’t want to have mission-critical public safety data communications competing with every teenager’s ‘LOL’ message to their friends,” Schrier explains. Instead of solely relying on the commercial services already in place, there should be a plan to keep the lines of communication open should some disaster take place. However, budgets are being cut and the commercial networks aren’t able to handle the influx of users.
“Among the first things to fail in the event of a large scale natural disaster or a major terrorist attack are the mobile carrier networks. Despite the success of those networks in handling the deluge of texts, pictures, videos, ‘Tweets,’ and Facebook posts during protest events in the United States and throughout the Middle East this spring, that volume of traffic is nothing in comparison to what would likely happen in a major catastrophe,” Schrier said. There are a few solutions that would temporarily solve this problem; however, putting a band-aid over a wound that needs stitching won’t do too much to help. This is why it’s important to have a reliable wireless infrastructure that government officials can easily access during times of tragedy.