What the Emergency Broadband Network Mean to You

Broadband plans

Can a dedicated mobile emergency network keep Australians safer?

If you’re Australian, then you’re probably quite familiar with natural disasters. According to Healthdirect Australia, the country’s national public health information service, natural disasters include  heatwaves, bushfires, droughts, floods, severe storms and tropical cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides.

In the past 5 years alone, Australia has gone through 8 natural disasters – Carwoola bushfire (2017), Cyclone Debbie (2017), Tathra bushfire (2018), Black Summer (2019-20 bushfire season), Wooroloo bushfire (2021), Eastern Australian floods (2021), Cyclone Seroja (2021), and Cyclone Seth (2022). Those natural disasters destroyed over 10,000 buildings and claimed over 50 lives.

When faced with such devastating disasters, Australians depend on first responders for rescue operations. Preventative measures are also taken to keep Australians involved and cut down on disasters, material destruction, and death. And in order for that to work smoothly, emergency responders need reliable, fast, real-time communication. 

The government is aware of the need for smooth communication, and all federal, state and territory governments agreed to implement a network to ease communication back in 2009. The result is a public safety mobile broadband (PSMB) for emergency situations, spearheaded by New South Wales (NSW) on behalf of all governments, and TPG Telecom, Optus, and Nokia have been chosen to deliver the first feasibility trial.

In this article, we’ll tell you all about the emergency broadband network and what it means to you. Read on to find out.

How the Public Safety Mobile Broadband eases communication for emergency responders

Emergency service organizations currently use land and mobile ultra-high frequency radio for communication, which really is not that bad. Some others use consumer level mobile broadband networks, which are of lesser standard for emergency communication services.

However, neither of the current technologies can support heavy data traffic and web-based applications. In today’s world, that is a huge red flag, especially in a country like Australia that faces frequent natural disasters.

Last year, the government’s promise of an emergency broadband network finally moved forward in the form of Public Safety Mobile Broadband (PSMB). This network will be all about operational efficiency and effectiveness, exclusive to public services to communicate during and prior to emergency situations, which could literally save lives and property. 

The PSMB would be able to handle everything that current emergency communications can’t – providing access to video, images, location tracking and other data. As the world moves further in the digital world, it would be foolish to leave emergency services behind. The PSMB makes sure this isn’t the case, allowing access to data-heavy applications such as location tracking and live body cam streaming, along with drones that monitor bush fires.

States and territories have handed the development of the PSMB to New South Wales which signed the contract to for proof of concept trials last year. Tests and trials will be carried out, led by the NSW Telco Authority. On their website, the NSW Telco Authority lists the following as objectives and capabilities of the PSMB: “improve access to information, provide real-time, automated situational awareness, and create a platform for emerging technologies to be integrated into operational practices.”

Who will develop the PSMB and when will it be fully functional?

The NSW government have turned to TPG Telecom, Optus, and Nokia for the proof of concept trial. The contract will see the trial run from May of last year to July of this year, after which the technology will begin rolling out next year (2023) in phases. By then, the proof of concept trials would have tested technologies to shape the PSMB for real time use.

TPG Telecom is leading be the mobile network operator. Their CEO, Inaki Barroeta has stated that “The trial will allow for the exhaustive testing of the multi-operator service delivery model to ensure it can provide the critical communications support need for frontline staff during emergencies and natural disasters.”

Bottom line – So what does the PSMB mean to you?

Natural disasters can strike at anytime, leaving many stranded, missing, or even dead. Such situations often result in millions of dollars in lost materials – everything from personal and commercial properties to infrastructure and beyond. 

During those times, we rely on emergency services to come to the rescue. But with those emergency responders using the same or similar mobile networks as the rest of us, they experience network outages and the likes – just like us – making communication less efficient, thus making the life saving aspects of such services less effective.

With an emergency mobile network just for emergency services, communication will be smoother. Data-heavy applications that cannot currently be implemented, will then be the norm. Everything from live streaming visuals on the ground through body cams, to launching drones that monitor bush fires, and more. These benefits can only serve you, the public, better.

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.