Arriving in 2018

CriticalLinc: A new LTE network for your mission critical needs

Mission critical. It's a term in common use today, but what does it mean to you and your organization? What tools, assets or capabilities are critical for you to accomplish your mission?

If that mission includes telecommunications, mission critical means the ability to communicate reliably, securely and quickly under any circumstances. That's why Southern Linc is building a mission critical LTE network.

As explained by Bruce Albright, Southern Linc's core network manager, our network called CriticalLinc will give you the ability to carry out your mission under virtually any circumstances and conditions, even if that means, for example, communicating with scores of people working to restore power or to rescue victims in the wake of a natural catastrophe.

Perhaps Southern Linc's Engineering Manager Alan McIntyre put it best: "By moving to LTE, Linc is moving to a new level because LTE technology enables us to provide a faster, more reliable and more secure network."

Redundancy strengthens network reliability

It all starts with redundancy, which in turn means reliability. By having redundant network data centers in Birmingham and Atlanta, Linc will be able to continue providing service if problems arise at either location. In addition, there are redundant power systems in both locations with different substations supplying the systems. Linc's power supply is further reinforced by on-site backup power generators located in storm-rated buildings. The generators are connected to Linc's data centers via underground cable.

Linc's backhaul network will boast an 85 percent redundancy at launch. If a failure occurs on a microwave path coming into a cell site, a second path to the site can carry the traffic to continue operating.

Like the new data centers, most LTE cell sites have emergency power sources, some with generators and some with fuel cells that can keep the power running for at least seven days if power is lost.

"We've worked very hard to make all aspects of the LTE network more resilient and resistant to weather or other situations," said Albright.

"Approximately 99 percent of our sites will have emergency power when we finish the initial phase of network construction in 2018."

Network security matters

A mission critical system is also a secure system. Southern Linc's new LTE network is being built in lockstep with Southern Company's IT security systems, using our parent company's multilayer, 24/7 security operations center for network monitoring.

"We're not building a network so you can surf the Internet and watch videos," said Albright. "We're building a network our users can rely on. We're building this network for a very specific purpose, and we're making an extra effort to ensure that it serves the needs of our business and government customers."

Southern Linc is the first choice of first responders. And our new network offers more reasons than ever to count on us. We're building a new mission critical system so customers can perform the missions that are critical to their work, come what may, for the long haul.

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percentage of sites completed for the phase one launch of the CriticalLinc network

LTE Progress and Expected Timing

Moving to LTE: More than flipping a switch

There are many advantages of Linc's new CriticalLinc LTE network. According to Southern Linc Engineering Manager Alan McIntyre, "LTE technology is in constant development. It's a very dynamic and expandable platform. With LTE, we will have a platform that enables many more uses of the network than in the past."

Of course, moving from iDEN to LTE technology is not as simple as flipping a switch. Implementing this kind of new technology involves significant changes. Most of the changes center on the cell towers used to carry wireless communications. Linc is adding LTE equipment such as antennas, radios and cabling to many towers that today carry iDEN equipment. In addition, Linc will acquire 150 more sites before completing the first phase of LTE network construction. More LTE sites will continue to be added following completion of the first phase of the network construction project.

LTE cell sites are on the way

Currently, seventy-one percent of the cell sites needed for the first phase of the project have been completed. As McIntyre explains it, "We're trying to add LTE equipment at many of our iDEN sites so we don't change our coverage area very much. But in some places, that's just not possible."

One of the reasons Linc must add new cell sites for the LTE network is that many of Linc's existing towers simply have no room for the needed LTE equipment. Another reason is that the available space on the site is not suitable for the technology. Yet a third reason Linc plans to add towers is that LTE equipment works differently than iDEN equipment; it is sectored. The advantage of a sectored site is that interference is reduced and capacity is increased.

McIntyre reported that Linc plans to add 150 new sites to the LTE footprint by the end of 2017. "Then over the next three years, we'll continue to add sites so coverage will continue to improve."

When phase one of the project is completed, a total of 960 sites will have been constructed, tested and ready for customers to start moving to the LTE network.

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LTE Push To Talk Service

LTE brings good news to Push To Talk (PTT) users

Southern Linc's move from iDEN technology to our mission critical LTE platform will give PTT users many of the outstanding features and performance they've grown accustomed to. Additionally, LTE will offer more PTT features and functionality than current iDEN technology.

After an extensive search, Wave 7000 PTT technology from Motorola Solutions was chosen for Linc's new CriticalLinc LTE network. According to Tom Bedics, Southern Linc's iDEN engineering and operations manager, "This cutting-edge platform's reliability, group-call performance and low latency were major factors in selecting this technology."

Existing Southern Linc customers will be able to experience the new PTT technology in 2018. "Customers will find many of the same features they're used to," said Bedics, "including private call, call alerts, one-to-one call, group call, emergency call with ruthless preemption and more."

LTE brings new PTT features

There are several exciting new PTT features that will be available on the new network:

  • Priority Talk Group Scanning: This allows users to scan multiple talk groups and prioritize the most important ones so they hear the most critical communications.

  • Enterprise Contact List Transfer: This important time-saving feature offers the ability to push enterprise contacts to individual handsets.

  • PTT Call Priority and Preemption:This feature will let users set different priorities for different talk groups. Tom Bedics explained, "If, for instance, there is an emergency with lots of different users in a confined area something like Hurricane Matthew on the Georgia coast or the 2011 Tuscaloosa tornadoes you could prioritize first responders over normal voice communications or any other application. We'll have the ability to prioritize both important talk groups and important user groups."
More future development options with LTE PTT

Just as important as all these exciting features is the very nature of the LTE technology itself. This is an extremely robust technology that is expanding very quickly. And it opens broad possibilities for further enhancements in the future.

"We're extremely excited about PTT capabilities on the CriticalLinc LTE network," said Bedics. "The Wave 7000 PTT technology will provide the PTT features customers have relied on for years, and we are excited about future enhancements that will make their communications more convenient, more secure and even more reliable."

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Want to know more about PTT? Watch the Tower Signals Video below.

Tower Signals Video

Watch the April Tower Signals Video Update

Please make time to watch the latest edition of Tower Signals, the video update for the LTE Commercial Business Project. In this session, Angie Dillard talks with Tom Bedics, iDEN engineering and operations manager. Tom gives us information on the features of the new WAVE 7000 PTT system.

Customer Success Story

Southern Linc PTT: choice of the Georgia Department of Transportation

Watch as Jeffrey Hill, Georgia Department of Transportation CIO and director of information technology, talks about the ways Southern Linc meets the sophisticated communication demands of his organization and how GDOT used Southern Linc PTT to communicate with multiple first-responder agencies during the Hurricane Matthew emergency.

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