An SD-WAN Can Mean Life or Death for Emergency Services Organizations

In recent years, emergency services organizations including Public Safety Answer Points (PSAPs) have started making the transition away from legacy telephony infrastructures, toward architectures that support VoIP and video and integrate their data and voice networks. This technological overhaul presents unique challenges, given the stakes and particular requirements of operating an E-911 or 999 network:

  • For starters, 911/999 calls are often matters of life and death. Even brief periods of downtime or subtle degradations in network quality are unacceptable when responding to calls that require immediate action.
  • Hard failure of the network can result in dropped calls, as well as disrupted traffic in the control channel. Soft failure can lead to packet loss and latency that degrades the quality of voice traffic.
  • In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission’s Network Reliability and Interoperability Council requires any “Emergency Service Network” to be resilient against such failures. Its guidelines mandate that no single failure or interruption cause a complete system outage.

Transitioning to Voice over IP over the Wide Area Network (WAN) gives first responders a broader, richer set of tools for handling emergencies in record time. However, realizing benefits such as crystal-clear call quality via a VoIP connection requires careful implementation to mitigate associated risks. The new converged network must be failure-proof, compliant with applicable regulations and capable of supplying sufficient bandwidth and prioritization for VoIP traffic.

Talari’s Software Defined THINKING WAN solution ensure that first responders have maximum reliability across their VoIP- and video-enabled PSAPs. Maricopa Region 9-1-1 (Arizona) and Essex County Fire & Rescue Service (The UK) have used Talari’s technologies to implement compliant and high-performing WANs for their emergency networks, for example.

Beyond call quality and high availability: What IP-centric PSAPs require
Why are many emergency responders upgrading from analog to VoIP technology? One of the decisive advantages of an IP-centric architecture is the ability to converge data and voice networks, resulting in reduced overhead, simplified network management and superior redundancy.

Analog architectures keep the data network separate from its voice counterpart. Both are critical to network functionality, since the data portion ensures connections to the Radio Dispatch and Auto Location Information utilities. Keeping data and voice separate, however, creates complexity since a primary and secondary link is required for each one, meaning that four distinct access links are needed including necessary back up links.

Combining voice and data on a single network removes this complexity. Plus, it solves the problem of having to source a diverse selection of local service providers to ensure truly distinct connections that can guarantee reliability. At the same time, sending all traffic through the same network creates new requirements around bandwidth reservation and prioritization, in addition to the traditional ones for call quality and high availability.

Talari’s Software Defined WAN solution for emergency services organizations directly address these challenges. Through continuous monitoring of the quality of each link in the WAN, high priority voice traffic can be routed around degraded network conditions.  Also, using 911/999 call prioritization, bandwidth aggregation for increased capacity and performance plus true redundancy (using many links, whether terrestrial, satellite, wireless or microwave), Talari ensures the best possible path for each call and a resilient network that ensures all mission critical applications and interactions are optimized so lives are saved.

How Maricopa Region 9-1-1 and Essex County Fire & Rescue Service put Talari to use
Maricopa Region 9-1-1 handles emergency calls in the Phoenix, Arizona, region from its 25 plus call centers. In 2011, it implemented a Talari SD-WAN solution to update a circa 2003 architecture, which had been built on a T3 Frame Relay network with backup links using IPSec VPNs.

The Talari solution’s link aggregation and continuous performance monitoring not only met FCC NRIC requirements, but also replaced the concept of disaster recovery with the promise of service continuity. Before Talari, failover to the backup VPN circuits could take up to eight seconds, causing calls to drop and creating an emergency of its own. In contrast, with Talari’s proactive quality monitoring, critical voice traffic can be quickly moved from poor-quality to high-quality links on a sub second basis so that calls remain up and callers don’t even notice any call quality degradation. Read more about Maricopa Region 911.

Essex County Fire & Rescue Service, in the UK, turned to Talari to improve the bandwidth utilization in its mobile Incident Command Units (ICUs). These ICUs had previously fallen back on slow and expensive satellite links due to patchy 3G service out in the field.

Using Talari and additional 3G wireless links allowed Essex County Fire & Rescue Service to get faster and more reliable connections. The Talari solution aggregates multiple available 3G connections to provide sufficient bandwidth and reduce reliance on expensive satellite links. Plus, it seamlessly leverages all of the available bandwidth from the various 3G links to ensure the rescue service isn’t hampered by network performance issues. To learn more about Essex County Fire & Rescue and their implementation of Talari.

Categories: Software Defined WAN (SD-WAN), Network Reliability, Business Agility, Business Continuity