Ohio officials gave high marks to situational-awareness applications operating on a temporary Band 14 700 MHz LTE network during a recent exercise, but they said the push-to-talk (PTT) voice communications on the same system need to be improved before they are deployed in a real-world public-safety environment.

Motorola Solutions and partner Ericsson built the three-site LTE network in Greene County, Ohio, which utilized FirstNet’s Band 14 700 MHz spectrum under a special temporary authority (STA), according to Kelly Castle, program director for OhioFirst.Net. These entities teamed with officials from the state’s Multi-Agency Radio Communications System (MARCS) to create five scenarios that generated mock responses from the Beavercreek Township police and fire departments, the Ohio state highway patrol, the Greene County sheriff’s office, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT).

During the exercises, responders utilized several situational-awareness applications, including location-based solutions, license-plate readers and video analytics. Having a dedicated network to provide adequate bandwidth—something FirstNet is supposed to provide to first responders via prioritized access—was a big advantage, according to Rick Schmahl, MARCS program director.

“This was all done without any congestion or overload of the system,” Schmahl said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “In a real-life scenario, if there was a hazmat spill or a bunch of people looking for a DNR officer down, we had the bandwidth we needed to do all of this stuff—that was not a concern.”

One notable applications used during the exercises were those that let paramedics transmit a patient’s vital signs directly to a hospital—a “true time-saver,” Castle said.

Another application—Motorola Solutions’ BriefCam—let responders search through four hours of video footage in about five minutes to find a suspect in about five minutes, which could be critical in a real-world situation, Schmahl said, noting that it would take much longer than that for a human to fast-forward through that much video effectively.

“Being able to find four hours of video within five minutes—that man in the yellow shirt who walked out of the nursing home, absolutely it saved an untold amount of time,” Schmahl said. “Even if you find him in a half hour as opposed to five minutes, a person can walk an awful far distance in that extra 25 minutes—in a 360-degree direction, he can get a lot further away, so it absolutely saved a bunch of time.”

Castle and Schmahl also noted that the ability for responders to share data, picture and video between each other was much more efficient than having everything having to be described verbally by dispatchers, which would use precious LMR voice resources.

However, the performance of LTE voice—utilizing the Motorola Solutions WAVE platform on devices from Motorola Solutions and Sonim Technologies—was not as robust as Ohio officials had hoped it would be.

“To me, one of the most interesting pieces that we didn’t foresee happening was … push-to-talk [performance on the LTE system],” Castle said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “Some of the quality of audio was poor in many instances, whenever there was traffic noise involved or any kind of outside, ambient noise. We didn’t expect that, to the degree that it was.”