By Lisa R. Youngers, President & CEO, Fiber Broadband Association
Often when we talk about the technology trends that matter and the ones that drive the virtuous cycle of innovation, we think of consumer behavior. Fiber improves productivity at the office with VoIP phones and cloud-based, data-intensive software as services. We have driven up home bandwidth demand with our excitement for 4K -- and now 8K -- televisions and streaming shows and games. Our smart homes need reliable, low-latency connections to be energy efficient and support more screens than ever before.
While blazing fast, ultra-reliable all-fiber networks have certainly improved our daily lives, they are of critical importance in one area in particular: public safety.
Keeping Emergency Services Connected
From police to medical professionals to firefighters on land, in the air and on the water, fiber plays a critical role in keeping emergency personnel connected, writes Lisa Youngers.
In an emergency, communications to and between public safety services -- police, paramedics and firefighters -- literally can be a matter of life and death. Ensuring reliable communications channels should be a top priority for governments at all levels and for all of us in the telecommunications industry. Deploying all-fiber broadband networks is a key piece, I believe, in ensuring that when you need help, your call will be answered.
5G and public safety — both need fiber
Individuals must be able to call 9-1-1 in an emergency; with the advent of 5G, fiber will become an even more essential element to public safety communications. As wireless networks grow to support public safety needs, fiber will be the first-choice technology as the network's building block. The next generation of wireless requires lots of fiber to maintain increased capacity, network diversity, availability and coverage.
5G also will place enormous demands on fixed-wireline networks. New 5G technologies will use much higher radio frequencies than today's cellular networks. While these higher frequencies carry larger amounts of data, they also have much shorter ranges. For 5G to work well, providers must install additional small radios or cells close together -- as close as 200 feet apart. To provide gigabit service to many users and applications, these small cells must connect to hundreds of thousands -- perhaps millions -- of miles of new fiber optic cable. Fiber and 5G are the foundation for the next generation of connectivity for public safety.
Dispatchers need fiber, too
By the same token, emergency responders must be able to receive emergency calls, locate the person in need and respond. It sounds simple, but there are places in the US -- particularly in rural America -- where this capability is unavailable. For instance, in Washington County, Missouri, the 911 center occasionally loses its broadband connection with the state's emergency system. This interrupts operations, preventing dispatchers from sharing information about warrants, running license plates for police or sending paramedics to an injured hiker. This poses a huge threat to the community.
To have a fully functioning emergency response system, phones and call centers demand extremely reliable networks. Notably, it's fiber that best supports both cellular and fixed connectivity.
Fiber forms the foundation of the highest-quality public safety communications systems. Because of this, we should deploy all-fiber networks nationwide, so our brave emergency personnel can effectively respond to citizens and keep our communities and first responders safe.
It would cost about $70 billion over 10 years to bring all-fiber fixed-access broadband to rural and small-town America, writes Fiber Broadband Association President and CEO Lisa Youngers in this month's exclusive BBWN column. The ROI? Priceless.
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