Technology marches on. As with personal computing, personal communications and personal entertainment, advances in electronics have led to integration of functions on a scale not seen in history. Most illustrative of this is the smartphone, which integrates more than a dozen devices into one; phone, camera, computer, movie player, motion sensor, GPS locator and others. There is no need for the old “Personal Digital Assistant” (PDA) of just a few years ago. Nor does anyone need the old “Daily Planner” or other personal helps. They are all included in the smartphone. Now, with the near omnipresence of digital RF connectivity, two-way radio voice communication is an obvious inclusion. Thus, Land Mobile Radio is also being obviated.
Those who recognize this are making the move to change out use of the very limited and old-fashioned two-way radio in favor of devices with integrated capabilities – capabilities that their 13-year-old sons and daughters use daily. And why not? The also now obsolete objection to using cellular networks for public and business use, as being unreliable during disaster or congestion, has been overcome through a combination of technological advance, lessons learned and user demand. Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast and Sandy along the New England Coast demonstrated the need for redesign of cellular networks to withstand both the weather and high peak demand for service. With the advent of LTE, both needs have been ameliorated.
The Federal Communications Commission has noted a precipitous drop in applications for new LMR licenses as well as a severe reduction in modifications and renewals. Some have postulated that the coming of the nationwide Public Safety network, FirstNet has caused this. But that is not a viable explanation since FirstNet is not for use by the business or private sectors, which have seen an equal drop in both licensing and new equipment orders. No, it is the integration of function and the advance of LTE networks that is driving the fade of LMR. Its day is done.
With the dawning of a new day for public and private sector communication come new efficiencies and new opportunities for those who provide services on the networks and services to support implementation and use. But that is also simply predicting the present. Smartphones are now being built to meet the durability and longevity standards of the past LMR use. Devices with IP 67, 68 and 69 ratings, Mil spec 810 and better, intrinsically safe Class 1 Division 1 and 2 units with 5 – 8 year life expectancy are available. Public sector demand for reliability, survivability and life duration already exist. The concept is now being accepted of the move away from owned and limited networks to rented use of mega networks. “Taps” is now being played for Land Mobile Radio.
Goodbye, old friend.