Major takeaways

First responders want speed
and reliability.

At the top of the wish list for first responders is a faster network, with 32% seeking improvement. 

There is also a significant desire for faster upload and download speeds in the field (52%), while 51% say they want to be able to send location data. Another 47% want to be able to share this location data as well. The survey notes that the ability to send position information while in the field is especially important to firefighters.

Meanwhile, over a third say a reliable network is key to the future of public safety communications technology. When asked about their most significant concern while on the job, 40% cite slow and unreliable devices as their biggest hurdle.

Coordination and real interoperability
are top of mind.

From a communications perspective, 93% of first responders say coordination between agencies is critical when responding to a crisis, and 80% believe that interoperability – the ability to communicate across agencies regardless of network or device – is urgently needed.

Tech adoption and improvement
continue to evolve.

The past two decades have seen tremendous advancements in communications technology for first responders. 

Devices are overwhelmingly seen as the strongest area of technological improvement over the past twenty years across all public safety agencies at 75%. This is followed by the usage of data for situational awareness (55%) and network reliability (48.5%). 

Smartphones now outpace existing land mobile radio systems for daily communications tasks, but not by a huge margin, with 72% using smartphones compared to 68% for LMRs. The trend toward greater smartphone usage in the field  is expected to continue for the next five years. 

However, emerging technologies such as internet-connected vehicles, drones and tablets could see significant growth.Drone use by public safety agencies alone could grow from 5 percent today to 16-percent adoption by 2026, according to the survey.

5G is key for first responders.

Almost all respondents (97%) say they have heard of 5G but only 40% say they are confident in their understanding of the technology. At the same time, more than 70% think 5G will become vital to  the future of public safety technology. 
5G features such as ultra-fast speeds and low latency, enhanced network priority and  preemption, the ability to send larger files, real-time video, and the ability to connect a large number of devices, make it a compelling offering for first responders facing exponential growth in data usage.

In fact, three out of five first responders surveyed say data and information transmission speeds will benefit the most from 5G advancements.