A new report from Verizon Frontline found that 93 percent of first responders believe intergovernmental coordination is critical when responding to an emergency and 80 percent believe that interoperability – defined as the ability to communicate across agencies regardless of network or device – is urgently needed.

When it comes to making sure communication can take place during an emergency, the vast majority – 72 percent – of first responders rely on smartphones to do their jobs every day. But for smartphones and other devices to enable effective communication, half of first responders – 52 percent – want faster upload and download speeds. Specifically, roughly half of first responders say they want to be able to send and share location data. The survey notes that the ability to send position information while in the field is especially important to firefighters.

Additionally, more than a third of respondents say a reliable network is key to the future of public safety communications technology. When Verizon Frontline asked about their most significant concern while on the job, 40 percent of first responders cited slow and unreliable devices as their biggest hurdle.

Key to improving connection speeds and reliability is the move to 5G networks, with 70 percent of respondents saying they believe 5G will become vital to public safety communications technology in the future because of faster speeds, lower latency, and capabilities like enhanced network priority and preemption. According to Verizon, three out of five first responders surveyed say data and information transmission speeds will benefit the most from 5G advancements.

While smartphones may be the most popular device these days, network improvements are crucial because new devices are gaining in popularity among first responders. For example, drone use by public safety agencies alone could grow from five percent today to 16-percent adoption by 2026, according to the survey.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs