How much and where will High-Power User Equipment (HPUE) devices provide additional coverage?
This week’s Advocate
about HPUE is divided into sections. The first discusses the impact of using high-power user devices for Band 14 FirstNet in terms of coverage and data speeds, the middle section presents a little history and then explains some of the technology that goes into FirstNet and other LTE-based networks in non-technical terms, and the last section gives use cases for HPUE followed by a more in-depth discussion of some interesting products entering the market that are designed to enable FirstNet to support higher-power end-user devices.
Impact of HPUE
First, we need to understand that high-power handheld devices will not be coming to FirstNet anytime soon, though I believe battery power issues including size, weight, and other considerations will be addressed and high power will be included in future handheld devices. HPUE draws a lot of battery power and is more suited for mobile devices that are not dependent on a self-contained battery. Several different types of mobile high-power devices have passed the rigorous testing required by FirstNet and conducted by AT&T and we will be able to use mobile HPUE this year.
The next question is what types of FirstNet users will find this additional power to be of benefit and in what circumstances? Most obvious are FirstNet users in rural areas where cell towers tend to be further apart and data speeds are less consistent than in suburban, metro, and urban areas. HPUE could go a long way toward erasing some digital divide issues, which have become more serious since the pandemic. HPUE tethered to a home WiFi access point would provide great LTE coverage to the home. While use of Band 14 by non-first responders is secondary, once you understand that especially in rural areas, the amount of Band 14 bandwidth needed by public safety will not normally necessitate closing Band 14 to non-first responders. If Band 14 does need to be closed down due to a serious incident, the closure will impact only a limited number of cell sites in the affected area, not all of rural America.
High-power devices installed in emergency vehicles will also increase coverage and provide higher data speeds in suburban areas, metro areas, and urban centers, especially in hilly terrain. If a vehicle is equipped with HPUE as part of a mobile gateway, and a WiFi hotspot is available from the mobile gateway, which is typically the case, the added range will mean better coverage and higher data rates for those within the secured WiFi range of the vehicle.
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