White House: D-Block to Police/Fire

Posted by Sam Churchill on

The White House has endorsed a plan to give public safety users $3 billion in 700 MHz spectrum to build a dedicated 700 MHz network that could cost as much as $15 billion to build, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The nationwide 700 MHz network, which would not be available to the general public, is said to be part of the administration’s plan to make good on a pledge President Barack Obama made during his State of the Union speech Tuesday to make mobile Internet available to 98% of Americans in five years.

White House officials are also expected to ask Congress to set aside billions of dollars to build the new broadband public-safety network. It would allow police and firemen to share video and other data during emergencies.

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 their plan (above) lowers cost and increases broadband penetration for everyone. First responders would have “priority access” to all the 700 MHz commercial frequencies anytime they need it.

The White House plan opposes the FCC plan, explains the Washington Post. Instead of sharing the 700 MHz “D Block” with consumers, the spectrum would be taken off the market. First responders would be given the 10 MHz “D Block” and taxpayers – not commercial providers – would build the first responder network.

White House officials declined to comment on specifics of the new public-safety network plan.

House Republicans will now need to set aside billions of dollars the government hopes to raise from other airwave auctions, instead of using it for deficit reduction or to offset other federal spending.

The question of what to do with the D-block spectrum has divided members of Congress as well as cellular operators.

Verizon Communications and AT&T, which both hold a large amount of 700 MHz airwaves, favor giving that spectrum to public-safety groups. T-Mobile USA and Sprint Nextel, which do not own any 700 MHz airwaves, think that spectrum should auctioned.

Congress has thus far been unwilling to commit billions more for a new wireless broadband network, which would allow police and firefighters to use two-way video or other data sharing.

The White House Thursday formally rejected the FCC’s plan, saying that giving the airwaves to public-safety groups was a better option. Administration officials are expected to lay out details of their new national wireless plan in the coming fiscal 2012 budget, which is expected to cost upwards of $15 billion. Excluding radios.

On Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia re-introduced legislation to give the airwaves to public-safety groups. His legislation would also authorize the FCC’s plan to take back airwaves from willing TV stations and auction them off to wireless companies. Station owners would get a still unspecified cut of the proceeds from those auctions. The rest of the money would be set aside for the new public-safety network under the White House’s plan.

Those who favor a D Block auction, as the FCC originally supported, are not giving up just yet, notes The Hill.com. Supporters include T-Mobile and Sprint as well as rural cellular carriers who suggest they might want to bid on the spectrum. Future action hinges on legislation. “The FCC has made its position clear, the White House has made its position clear, and now the conversation moves to Capitol Hill,” said an industry observer from the pro-auction side.

Lawmakers were misled about the cost and progress of an emergency radio network in Oregon, reported Brent Walth in the Oregonian, with a follow on faulty maps used to sell Oregon radio network to lawmakers and a third article on possible alternatives to fix the troubled the Oregon Wireless Interoperability Network (OWIN).

The Oregonian reports that OWIN is about two years behind schedule, and the price has soared from $414 million to nearly $600 million. The State of New York canceled their statewide 700 MHz network after costs ballooned from $1 Billion to over $2 Billion and coverage proved spotty. It was the largest technology contract in NY state history, as was Oregon’s $600 Million, 700MHz network. Multiply that times 50.

Satphones can assure nationwide interoperability, since many interoperable P25 radios comply to different standards. Some statewide systems claim P25 compliance, but use proprietary features that systematically restrict “off-brand” radios by using proprietary encryption. Prices can be kept artificially high when only a single vendor can assure interoperability.

On trunked radio systems, Talkgroups are assigned to different users (as long as they use a compatible radio). Competitors include Harris with P25 radios (used by OWIN), OpenSky and EDACS, the Harris BeOn for Push-to-Talk (PTT), and the Harris/Nokia Siemens VIDA 700 MHz LTE system, while Motorola Trunked Radios include SmartZone variations. iDEN is the system the Nextel PPT cellular system users.

There are over 5 billion cell phone subscribers in the world, with near ubiquitous service in urban areas. The FCC (and the 911 Commission) wants public service agencies to work with cellular providers to share costs and deliver more broadband to rural areas. They can share tower construction, backhaul and spectrum. They can even share radios. Everyone wins with interoperability – even APCO agrees.

The FCC’s plan would require the D Block licensee to provide a network that covers 75% of the U.S. population by the end of the fourth year, 95% of the U.S. population by the end of the seventh year, and 99.3% of the U.S. population by the end of the tenth year.

The FCC wants that 10 MHz chunk shared by public service and commercial users. Taxpayers don’t need to fund the construction of a dedicated, multi-billion dollar public safety network if commercial providers build it, say promoters of the FCC plan.

Public safety officials hate the idea. They want taxpayers to build a dedicated broadband network and give the “D Block” to them.

I believe the 10 MHz swath of 700 MHz “D-Block” should be auctioned to commercial providers. First responders would have priority access to all of it. P-25 radios work for voice. Cellular works better for broadband. Imagine the jurisdictional disputes when only ten broadband channels are available in a 100 square mile coverage area. It will pit the State Patrol vrs Sheriffs vrs DOT vrs Fire vrs Homeland Security who all feel they have a right to transmit video from handhelds — just like consumers. Their data usage needs will grow like consumers. But they won’t have the basestation density.

Physics won’t support them. Only cellular architecture will deliver the bandwidth.

The San Ramon fire department has developed an app in-house (above). If everyone used it, they may not have the necessary bandwidth

First responders may find themselves outgunned in urban areas by commercial LTE providers with realtime apps. Rural residents will lose broadband connectivity. Commercial LTE won’t be coming their way with the White House plan.

Who will win? A certain company in Schaumburg, Illinois with 80% market share.

Related Dailywireless articles include; State of the Spectrum, Oregon’s Radio Network Under Fire , Oregon’s Public Service Network: $100M Over Budget, Bay Area 700 MHz Net in Altercation , Battle for Oregon’s State-wide Radio Net, Oregon’s $500 Million Statewide Wireless Network, Riot in D Block, AT&T: 80% Upgraded to HSPA+ , SkyTerra 1 Launched , Why Cops Don’t Just Use Cell Phones, SF Announces LTE First Responder Net, LightSquared + SK Telecom, The 700MHz Network: Who Pays?, Public Safety Spectrum Grab, Public Safety: Show Us The Money, SF Announces LTE First Responder Net, Clearwire to Test LTE, Apps for the City, LightSquared: 5K Basestations by 2011, 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, Twitter 911, FCC Okays 21 Public Service Nets, FCC: Stop Complaining about Interoperability, Police & Fire: No Broadband for You, The 700MHz Network: Who Pays?, The National Broadband Plan, National Broadband Plan Previewed, D-Block: It’s Done; Congress Pays, AT&T/TerreStar Ready Satphone Service, TerreStar Phones Home, Motorola + SkyTerra Team for 700 MHz/Sat Radios, Alvarion, Open Range To Build 17 State Net, San Diego State: Wildfire GIS to Go, Emergency Mapping, Cascadia Peril, 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, .

Posted by Sam Churchill on Thursday, January 27th, 2011 at 4:22 pm .

One thought on “White House: D-Block to Police/Fire

  1. major reason, public safety are having difficulty getting what they really need, which is secure digital equipment, is because amateur radio people are hogging valuable spectrum for private use such as using them as personal long distance cordless phone, private communication, etc. Frequency spectrum allocated to Ham radio are allocated more than 50 years ago, right after WW2, when there were no cell phone or internet, or wireless smart phone. HR607 is intending to re-assign some of the most under utilized ham radio frequency. Many people don’t realize Ham radio have more frequency spectrum than all of the cellular phone company put together. –> http://www.arrl.org/frequency-allocations

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