A co-founder of Nextel, through Cyren Call Communications, urged the FCC to establish a Public Safety Broadband Trust to hold the license for a key segment of spectrum in the 700 MHz band in a filing to the FCC.
They want to move spectrum that was previously allocated strictly for commercial use into shared public safety and commercial usage. Cyren Call says their proposal would enable a workable, self-sustaining business model for public safety communications.
Commercial and public safety users are battling each other for the spectrum. The FCC allocates the 700 Mhz spectrum into the Lower 700 Mhz band and the Upper 700 Mhz band. Television broadcasters will vacate some 30 Mhz in the upper 700 Mhz UHF band by 2009. It’s scheduled to be auctioned in 2008.
But the government is bankrupt — it doesn’t want to give the spectrum away. And there’s not enough spectrum to provide unfettered commercial competition – the FCC’s prefered strategy.
The 700 Mhz band can penetrate foliage and structures, but the narrow 6 MHz channels are limited in capacity. Currently, public service users plan to use interoperable but narrow band Project 25 radios (with a data capacity limited to 10Kbps) in the 700 Mhz band. They are similar to the two-way radios used by police and firefighters in the 800 Mhz band. By contrast, Mobile WiMax at 2.5 GHz, typically can deliver 100 times that speed (on multiple 10Mhz “channels”) with push to talk voice and data at more than 1Mbps.
Some have proposed Mobile WiMAX-like service in the current 700 Mhz public service band.
One stragety is to use some of the current 24MHz public service spectrum (four, 6MHz tv channels) that is currently unused. Some propose 3-4 broadband wireless channels, each 1.25 MHz wide, that could provide nearly 1Mbps, for integrated voice and data. Cellular-like EV-DO, Qualcomm’s Flarion or a flavor of Mobile WiMax would be used to deliver this broadband technology to public safety users.
But 3-4 broadband wireless channels may not be enough for public service users.
The Cyren Call proposal specifically calls for:
- Establishing a Public Safety Broadband Trust: The FCC would exercise its authority to manage the public airwaves in the public interest by establishing a Public Safety Broadband Trust (PSBT) to hold the license for a 30 MHz block of cleared spectrum in the 700 MHz band and to structure innovative arrangements for its use, placing public safety needs first and making commercial usage secondary.
- Strengthening the Private Sector’s Role: The PSBT would negotiate terms for long-term access to this spectrum with private sector entities that would agree to build and maintain a nationwide, next-generation network for public safety. In exchange, the private sector entities would gain the right to share the network and sell excess capacity for commercial purposes.
- Setting Incentives for a Robust, Competitive Network: The PSBT would set appropriate rules and technical standards to ensure backward compatibility to existing public safety systems, maximum interoperability, reliability, redundancy, competition, innovation and choices for public safety customers using this spectrum. The network would include a satellite-based element to ensure continuous operations when ground-based equipment is knocked out. Public safety agencies would have access to sufficient nationwide capacity to meet their current and future needs, and private companies would have the incentive to compete to offer a variety of interoperable hardware choices at the best prices.
- Creating Self-Sustaining Financing: Rather than demand more money from taxpayers to finance this network, the proposal would give private companies incentives to build and maintain a national network and provide the best services to public safety at the best prices.
Nextel would like to dump their 800Mhz iDen push-to-talk system on the feds, since the feds plan a $10 billion Integrated Wireless Network (IWN). This joint effort between the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Treasury is envisioned to support about 80,000 federal officers in all 50 states. The IWN design is based on VHF, Project 25 radios with a packet switched Internet Protocol (IP) backbone.
Nextel may smell an opportunity. Their iDen network is already built and used by law enforcement. If current Nextel users moved to Sprint’s push to talk, service, then Sprint/Nextel could sell it to the feds. Then they could develop a “joint” commercial/public service service. Just like Cyren Call proposes.
Everyone’s happy. Except Verizon and Cingular, of course. But some sort of cooperation might be necessary and mutually beneficial. There’s just not enough spectrum to go around.
- Aloha Partners’ HiWire MobileTV will use two UHF channels; 54 and 59.
- Qualcomm’s MediaFLO will use channel 55.
- Aloha Partners says they’ll use their channels for mobile tv. That means channel 54, 55 and 59 are going to be high powered (kilowatt) transmitters that may not be good neighbors to low power broadband wireless.
- Simplex 6 MHz (channel 56) is still available. Simplex communications on that channel would be problematic with ajoining high power transmitters. Therefore it will likely be bought by a media company like Disney or Fox.
- Some 30 Mhz on the lower UHF band is still available. Two pairs of 6Mhz with a national reach are left; (52/57 and 53/58).
- The simplex Mobile WiMAX system, using OFDMA, seems to have been effectively neutralized by a combination of political appointees at the FCC and market forces (for mobile tv).
I believe consumers should come first.
Cellular providers currently provide Wireless Priority Service. WPS provides authorized users priority cellular service during times of emergency, dramatically improving cellular call completion rates.
Authorized users – including federal, state and local decision makers are moved to the front of the call queue during times of network congestion.
What’s wrong with that stategy? It works for cellular users. It might work for (commercial) 700 Mhz service, too. Let Nextel sell iDen to the feds. It’s ubiquitous and it works and it’s cheaper than spending another $10 billion on a system that will (likely) be years late and billions over budget.
Related DailyWireless articles include; Public Service Bands, Nextel Gets PCS Spectrum, County Public Safety Nets, Zero Hour for 700MHz, 700 MHz On The Line, The 700 Mhz Club, More 700 Mhz Testimony, 700 Mhz Worth $28B, Smartest Guy in the Room, 700 Mhz: Public or Private, Verizon Goes with FLO, Hiwire’s 12 MHz UHF MobileTV, CapWIN Becomes Self-Aware, Public Safety Shuffle, Police Call, Bills Expand Unlicensed UHF Access, Routers Unwired: Burning Down The House, 3G Band Scam?, Unwired Transportation, Samsung WiMAXes Michigan, Wide Wide World of WiMAX, Statewide WiMAX in Rhode Island, End of TV: February 2009.