SF Announces LTE First Responder Net

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Motorola says the City of San Francisco has selected it to build a Long Term Evolution network in the 700MHz band. It will be used for the municipality’s public safety agencies.

As part of the Bay Area Regional Interoperable Communications System (pdf) plan, the system will serve multiple agencies across the greater bay area, including San Francisco, Alameda County/Oakland, Contra Costa County, as well as the cities of Santa Clara and Sunnyvale.

This broadband system provides an overlay to the existing Project 25 standards based IP cores and networks and will cost upwards of $600 million.

The region has invested $106 million to date, including funds available through the Department of Commerce, Public Safety Interoperable Communications Grants, Homeland Security (UASI) Grants and local matching funds using “free” money provided by taxpayers.

The Public Safety LTE system will be installed this year and is expected to be operational in early 2011.

This first phase includes an LTE core, 10 sites and 330 Motorola Public Safety LTE user modems to provide Bay Area responders access to a host of media rich applications delivered over the new broadband network.

“This agreement represents a first step in realizing the BayRICS vision for a unified, state-of-the-art, mission critical voice and broadband multimedia network,” said Laura Phillips, general manager of the Bay Area UASI.

“Combining a Public Safety hardened LTE overlay network with our Project 25 voice and data networks, we have the opportunity to equip our first responders with the advanced communications tools they need to better protect themselves and our communities.”

“Project Cornerstone and the Bay Area BayWEB system will be the first deployment of Long Term Evolution (LTE) Public Safety Broadband in the nation. This is one of the most, if not the greatest, technological advancements in my thirty year law enforcement career,” said Sheriff Gregory J. Ahern, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

Motorola says its Next Generation Public Safety solutions combine advanced technological capabilities with mission critical solutions. Motorola believes public safety requires more than just a broadband pipe.

Motorola, of course, is working with APCO and other public safety organizations, including Verizon and AT&T in order to kill the FCC’s plan to auction the “D Block”.

Verizon Wireless and AT&T, both with 700 MHz spectrum from 2008 auctions, want to see the D Block go to public safety. So does Motorola, which dominates the market for first responder communications equipment and handsets. T-Mobile USA and Sprint Nextel Corp., eager for more spectrum, support the FCC proposal.

The FCC’s plan — supported by the co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission — “will ensure the build-out of a network that is cutting edge, reliable, and cost-effective,” FCC spokesman Rob Kenny said. It would auction off the 10 MHz “D Block”, but allow public service agencies to use the commercial frequencies. The FCC says it lowers cost and increases broadband penetration for everyone.

Public safety users currently use 800 MHz for most voice traffic, and recently were given the equivalent of four television channels (roughly Ch 63 & 64 and Ch 68 &69) in the 700 MHz band. Half those frequencies will be used for narrowband voice, the other half for broadband (LTE).

Public service users were also given 10 MHz through an agreement by Nextel & the FCC (see: 800mhzrebanding.com). Nextel relinquished their interfering channels for new spectrum at 1.9 GHz and is funding the rebanding program to the tune of $2.5B.

For the most part, public service agencies were in no rush to use those additional 800 MHz frequencies — even though it didn’t cost them a dime. The FCC’s 800MHz Band Reconfiguration task force had to repeatedly extended the deadline to slowpoke government agencies who apparently didn’t see the need.

Now Public Safety wants more spectrum. They have their eyes on a potential cash cow – the “D-Block”. In the $10 billion 2008 spectrum auction, the 10 MHz “D Block” (758–763 and 788–793 MHz), didn’t get the minimum bid of $1.3 billion (pdf). While public safety agencies can’t resell their Nextel spectrum, the “D-Block” might be a horse of a different color. But first they’ve got to grab it.

Jay Rockerfeller’s bill proposes giving the D Block to first responders, then letting them lease back the spectrum for commercial use.

Funding a stand-alone, dedicated, nationwide broadband network for first responders with 100% coverage everywhere is the problem. It could cost over $30 billion and take spectrum (and money) away from taxpayers who are already paying for a perfectly good broadband cellular network that is nearly identical.

Serving the public may not have anything to do with it.

The FCC’s first responder radio plan puts the cost of building the public safety network at roughly $6.5 billion and the cost of operating and maintaining it at between $6 billion and $10 billion over 10 years – less than half the cost of a stand-alone network, the FCC says. Commercial operators would build the network, but the spectrum would be governed by the Public Safety Spectrum Trust – and first responders could use it on a priority basis.

The 9/11 Commission head prefers the FCC’s approach — auction it. Consumers fund the network buildout. More bars in more places. First responders get priority access everywhere. It’s simple. Everyone benefits. It’s called sharing.

During Katrina, first responder and cellular towers were down so a Qualcomm microcell was created. Handsets registered to the network and located in the range of the picocell transceiver could connect. For calls outside the network, a ViaSat IP Satcom Flyaway Terminal provided a gateway.

A picocell base station can also fit in a UAV like the Shadow or an Insitu Integrator.

AT&T’s National Disaster Recovery program has over 300 trailers nationwide, loaded with networking equipment and ready to go for ANY emergency. AT&T has invested over $500 million in its disaster recovery program – for cell phones.

Actual first responders will probably use a $500 iSatPhone with a monthly fee of $19.95 for 75 cents per minute talk time. Nothing to build. Nothing to break.

Over 1.1 million people subscribed to satellite phone services in 2009. Mostly civilians. Perhaps ordinary people should be trained to take charge and move out, helping first responders lost without communications. Like in Katrina.

The APCO International Annual Conference, held Aug 1-4 in Houston, is the public safety communications industry’s largest conference, bringing lobbyists, vendors and end users together.

At the conference, Harris announced their VIDA Broadband LTE, a complete 700 MHz Broadband LTE network solution that is part of the Harris VIDA (Voice, Interoperability, Data, Access) network platform. The VIDA network integrates VIDA Broadband LTE with P25 (Project 25) radios and their OpenSky communication systems, in use by first responders across North America.

Related 700 MHz articles on Dailywireless include; Public Safety Spectrum Grab, Public Safety: Show Us The Money, Phoney Spectrum Scarcity, D-Block: It’s Done; Congress Pays, The 700MHz Network: Who Pays?, Big Bucks for 700 MHz Public Safety, FCC: Stop Complaining about Interoperability, Police & Fire: No Broadband for You, Commentary: Future of Public Safety Communications, New York Cancels Statewide Wireless Network, New York’s $2B Statewide Network Close to Canceling, M/A-COM to NY: We’re Good, NY Gives Tyco 45 days to Fix Network, Battle for Oregon’s State-wide Radio Net, Cascadia Peril, Hearings on 700MHz Auction, FCC Finalizes Rules on 700MHz, Public Safety: We Like 700MHz Public/Private Plan, 700MHz: Money Talks, Verizon Gets the “C” Block, The 700 Mhz Club ,

Posted by Sam Churchill on Friday, July 30th, 2010 at 10:32 am .

Leave a Reply