Existing networks for public safety communications are mostly based on systems such as terrestrial trunked radio (TETRA), TETRAPOL and Project 25. These systems are mainly designed to support voice services. However, public safety communication networks are challenged to expand their scope way beyond their original functions toward more sophisticated devices and support new services including packet data communications. Therefore, governments, public safety agencies and research communities are continuously working together and are making significant progresses toward improving public safety communications capabilities. Next-generation mobile technologies are the enablers for meeting the new requirements of the public safety community. Public safety and commercial systems are typically designed and deployed to fulfill different needs and have different requirements, which are directly affecting the quality of service of the communications. The unique and vital nature of public safety affects the technical decisions that are necessary to guarantee connectivity for everyone, anywhere and anytime. For this reason, recent enhancements of the 4G long term evolution (LTE) in the field of public safety communications, such as device-to-device and group communications for mobiles in physical proximity, accrue a great opportunity to bring new services and a high-level of technological innovation to the public safety workers or first responders. We describe and analyze the evolution of public safety communication systems from the technical standpoint providing a complete overview of what is available in the market and a glimpse of future trends. Furthermore, we discuss the challenges to efficiently deploy, operate and interoperate present and future technologies for public safety communication networks and describe how these technologies can help public safety agencies to meet their expectations.
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