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Breaking radio silence: The value of communication in public services

  • Reserving spectrum for communications by emergency services would improve public safety, according to LSE research
  • It could also yield a high socio-economic benefit, potentially outweighing the opportunity cost of forgoing the sale of this reserved spectrum

tech150Mobile broadband is playing an increasing role in the provision of public services. An LSE report written ahead of the auction of the 700MHz spectrum in the UK and other European countries has found that reserving a portion of the mobile broadband spectrum exclusively for emergency services could potentially lead to an improvement in public safety. The socio-economic benefits of reserving spectrum are estimated to have a monetary value of €34 billion, far outweighing the opportunity cost of a one-off sale to commercial operators (estimated to be around €6 billion).

In today’s social and crime milieu, the use of mobile broadband for field communication within the emergency services improves productivity, enhances the performance of other resources and can bring wider socioeconomic benefits. Police can communicate safety-critical decisions and file reports on the move, while front-line paramedics could use it for navigation and congestion alerts, to access full information about patients or to interact with a consultant in real time. Other emergency services such as the Fire Service could obtain in-the-field real time information for buildings, routes, traffic, and other elements that aid situational awareness.

 Dr Alexander Grous assessed the benefits of mission critical mobile broadband for public safety, looking at aspects such as increased efficiency and socioeconomic value. The report was commissioned by the TCCA, a forum for representing users, manufacturers, application providers, integrators, operators, test houses and telecom agencies interested in TETRA and other critical communications technologies such as 4G LTE.

It encompassed ten EU countries with an extrapolation across the EU28 countries, and a detailed UK assessment. It included primary and secondary research within Public Protection and Disaster Relief (‘PPDR’) organisations such as police, fire and ambulance.

In forecasting the socioeconomic value of dedicated broadband spectrum with respect to safety-related crime reduction, the research focused on the increased ability to intervene; the lives saved due to reduced ambulance response times; mortality and serious accident reduction through enhanced visibility and time spent on the road by traffic police, and other areas. Key results across the EU included:

  • €5.57 billion annual socioeconomic benefit could result from an estimated 12 per cent reduction in current homicide, serious wounding and sexual assault crime costs given the likelihood of more favourable outcomes.
  • €3.98 billion annual socioeconomic benefit could result from ambulance crews saving an additional 1,858 out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims faster,especially within the eight-minute target critical for ‘Type A’ life threatening responses, and from crews being better informed.
  • €4.20 billion potential socioeconomic benefit per annum could result if European traffic police could reduce traffic stop times and thereby avoid an estimated total annual 9,800 major serious injuries and some fatalities that could otherwise occur if an officer is engaged on an existing stop.

The degree to which these potential benefits are realised depends on factors such as regulatory and license conditions; the network mode of delivery; the speed of mobile broadband adoption and the nature of the services that are provided. However, with an estimated annual socio-economic value of approximately €34 billion, the use of mission critical mobile broadband designed with inherent resilience, capacity and security is estimated to outweigh the one-off potential economic gain of around €6 billion across the EU28 countries associated with the sale of the 700MHz band at auction.

Read the full report|

Contact Dr Grous to find out more|

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