NEW DELHI: India’s telecom regulator wants communication networks during disasters to be more robust and reliable, which will enable faster decision making and handling of disaster relief operations in times of crisis, such as the 2004 Tsunami.

For this purpose, it has issued a consultation paper on public protection and disaster relief (PPDR), and sought for views from stakeholders on the features, requirements and technical specifications for creating a response system based on next generation networks.

“In India, primary PPDR communication systems are designed and run by many independent state agencies… the communication infrastructure in India is either old analog systems or it uses narrowband radios, with no inherent support for high-bandwidth transmission requirements such as interactive video communication, remote video surveillance of security or disaster sites,” the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said in the paper issued on Monday.

“Such systems suffer from problems like interoperability failures, inefficient use of spectrum, and higher costs. Interoperability issue can be overcome in broadband PPDR if the broadband PPDR network operates on a common standard nationwide,” the regulator said, adding that world’s emergency services are increasingly looking at LTE.

Adding that threats to public safety can be reduced or contained by having effective and efficient PPDR services, TRAI has sought views by November 20 and counterviews by December 3.

The regulator suggested spectrum or network based broad models with three sub-categories for each – dedicated, commercial and hybrid – for PPDR in Indian conditions.

Under the spectrum model, deployment of dedicated PPDR networks would involve using exclusive spectrum and priority access over commercial networks, which can be shared by a number of agencies. In the commercial approach, spectrum is shared with commercial networks through the country, while the hybrid approach would involve using either dedicated spectrum in a partitioned commercial network or a combination of dedicated and commercial networks.
Considering the high value of spectrum in India, the regulator has acknowledged the huge capital requirement for building a dedicated network for DDPR. But the regulator has asked, “What is the cost and benefits tradeoff envisaged for public protection and disaster relief viz-a-viz commercial value of spectrum?”
The telecom regulator has asked stakeholders on whether spectrum bands can be isolated and used exclusively for public protection and disaster relief, the bands and the quantum of spectrum that would suit the purpose.

Besides asking on the deficiencies of the existing fragmented network, the regulator has also asked whether public sector units should be earmarked for providing nationwide broadband PPDR network, and whether it would be technically feasible and beneficial to permit PPDR trunking service roaming on public telecom networks.