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With FirstNet fresh on the brain, it makes sense to question just how a carrier – any carrier – could possibly blanket a country as large and geographically diverse as the United States with coverage for first responders. After all, what sense does the cost make in remote areas like deserts and forests, where emergency services might rarely venture? They still need the coverage, but traditional infrastructure seems ill-suited to meet the challenge.

But it seems there is another option on the table: distributed core networks.

Though centralized networks are all the rage now, Core Network Dynamics (CND) CEO Carsten Brinkschulte predicted core networks will become more decentralized over the next five to 10 years as the requirements of a massive Internet of Things ecosystem and public safety applications demand a new network structure.

On the latter point, Brinkschulte noted CND is seeing an increasing level of customers interested in using its Open Evolved Packet Core (EPC) software for public safety. According to Brinkschulte, the company’s EPC software can be integrated into the radio so a small cell or macro cell essentially becomes the network. With multiple cells, he said, you form a network of networks, or a distributed network. Taking this a step further, Brinkschulte said public safety players could plant small cells into vehicles – like police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks – to create a mobile distributed network.

“It’s difficult and expensive to provide universal coverage across such a vast country,” Brinkschulte said. “If it uses LTE, it has at least the same costs to build with proper coverage across the entire country that the commercial operators had, and that’s billions.”

Brinkschulte said CND is discussing a proposal with its partners – both in the United States and elsewhere – that would slash these costs by complementing a fixed public safety network with a distributed mobile network that can be rolled out on demand.

“With this we believe we could radically reduce the cost, depending on how you look at it, maybe by 30 or even 40 percent because you wouldn’t have to build the physical network, the static network for the entire country but only for the densely populated areas,” Brinkschulte explained. “In order to get coverage into the remote areas you would plant small base stations into police cars for example and when the police car drives into a remote area it basically brings the coverage with it on demand when there is demand.”

Two OEMs – one in Europe and one in Southeast Asia – are already working on this type of thing, and it could also be applied to a project like FirstNet, Brinkschulte said.

To provide backhaul for such a network, Brinkschulte revealed CND is working to build a mesh backhaul system that would enable dynamic reconfiguration and eliminate single points of failure by allowing any cell in the mesh network to access the backhaul connections of its neighbors. While Brinkschulte noted satellite is good for covering remote areas, he noted it’s not always the fastest. Thus, fiber, microwave, and in-band LTE are other options that could be utilized depending on use case.

On the IoT side of things, Brinkschulte said distributed networks can bring scalability, reduced latency, and resilience to the equation.

As the IoT grows, he said, centralized networks will become strained as billions of IoT devices all attempt to connect to a single point. But a distributed network would be able to spread that stress out across multiple points, he said. Ditto resiliency. That is, if one point goes down, there will be others there to pick up the slack and keep things running.

So how far out is all this technology?

Over the past year, Brinkschulte said CND has gone from zero clients to 10, and noted those 10 are taking up much of the company’s bandwidth. CND has yet to lock down a big name client – the Verizons and Vodafones of the world – but Brinkschulte said the company is working hard to secure deals and hinted there could be an announcement or two coming up in the near future.

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