Land-mobile-radio (LMR) systems will continue to be used for the foreseeable future, but the LMR industry will need to adapt its offerings to a new communications landscape that includes broadband technologies like LTE, according to speakers participating on a recent panel exploring the subject.

Mark Jasin, executive vice president and general manager of JVCKENWOOD USA, said that he believes integrating LMR and LTE communications will be important to customers during the next several years.

“I am here because I heard LMR died,” Jasin said jokingly to introduce his opening statement during a session at the Critical LTE Communications Forum in Chicago early this month. “I am with JVCKENWOOD, and we are right in the middle of LMR, so I wanted to see if that rumor was true.

“[Some talk] about the transition from LMR to LTE. We would prefer to think of it as more of an assimilation or an integration. I believe, in a webinar a few weeks ago, a large company did proclaim that LMR has not too many days left. We don’t believe that, as a manufacturer. However, we are realists. We know that we have to change. The model is changing; the technology is changing; user requirements are changing.”

Those requirements were on display during a recent broadband test in Ohio, Jasin said.

“The net result of video streaming and data processing in that type of thing took the background response in what was measured in hours to four minutes,” he said. “As a manufacturer, we see those stunning types of numbers and what LTE can do, and we have to follow that path, as well.

“Our industry has some self-analysis to do, and that’s where I see us transforming.”

But such news about broadband tests and successful deployments of push-to-talk-over-cellular (PoC) by non-mission-critical enterprises has caused many elected government officials to question whether making long-term LMR investments is fiscally wise, according to Alan Tilles, a partner in the law firm of Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy & Ecker.

Much of this hesitation is attributable to the planned deployment of FirstNet. However, the fact that FirstNet “is, with all due respect, vaporware—it’s not built, it’s not ready, it’s not operating” makes the decisions particularly difficult, Tilles said. As a result, LMR sales are declining, even though many entities need to refresh their systems, he said.

“The problem that we’re having locally with a number of municipalities that have older radio systems is that the county or city board or council … have been told about all of these neat things that are happening in broadband and go, ‘Oh, we don’t need a new land-mobile-radio system,’ and putting these things on hold,” Tilles said.

“I know, from the manufacturers that I work with, that in the public-safety markets, there’s been a huge drop in the number of radios and systems sold over the past couple of years. You can attribute it to narrowbanding or rebanding, or you can attribute it to “We’re waiting for LTE.” It’s hard to say in each case, but all you have to do is look at their sales stats.”