Alca-Lu’s LTE Public Safety Network

The city of Charlotte, N.C., has approved a contract with Alcatel-Lucent to deploy an LTE public-safety network in the 700 MHz broadband. Alcatel-Lucent said it will provide an end-to-end LTE solution to Charlotte using the dedicated spectrum for public service broadband.

First responders like Police and Fire will soon have access to their own LTE networks. These antennas may be placed on a municipality’s own public service radio towers. The spectrum is next to the unused “D Block”, which public safety proponents also have their eye on.

The City of Charlotte (pop: 731,424) will provide speeds of 3 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up to all public safety agencies across multiple jurisdictions, constructing 24 new wireless towers to complement six existing towers on the network, and bring over 11,000 public safety users onto the system.

Charlotte will be among the very first cities in the world to deploy LTE for public-safety communications, which means that local emergency workers will be quicker to respond in critical situations and be better able to save lives,” said Robert Vrij, president of Alcatel-Lucent’s Americas region.

The city is funding the broadband network primarily through a $16.7 million Broadband Technology Opportunities Program grant (BTOP) and expects to complete the deployment by July 2013. Charlotte received a waiver from the FCC for early deployment of a 700 MHz public-safety broadband network.

Alcatel-Lucent’s LTE demonstrations of public safety mobile broadband show a video-centric force transformed in a variety of day-to-day operational scenarios. Police vehicles with 5 live cameras, iPad-wielding cops, and mobile command centers with hundreds of thousands of dollars in mobile broadband gear, manned by network engineers are impressive — if wildly optimistic.

Outside a show flooor – in the real world – there is probably not enough bandwidth, infrastructure or money to support all these applications.

Alcatel-Lucent and Motorola hope taxpayers will drop tens of billions on their broadband vision, creating a parallel cellular network for police agencies. First responders say if they owned and operated their own broadband network nationwide, they could deal with all the jurisdictional disputes, technical glitches and cost overruns.

Others are not so sure. In April, the first public-safety LTE pilot network in the San Francisco Bay Area was tested by mobile wireless consultant Andrew Seybold (report and pdf).

The dedicated LTE network was built by Motorola (introductory video), and provides a 10 MHz broadband overlay to the existing Project 25 narrowband (voice) network in the 700 MHz public safety band.

Seybold found that 10 MHz of spectrum will not be enough to support real-time video unless the event requiring live video occurs within a half mile from the cell site. At 3.8 miles, the communications capacity of each LTE sector is maxed out when only one video is streamed up to the tower.

It’s a long way from the show floor.

On the other hand, the Clanton (Ala.) Police Department has selected push-to-talk service from SouthernLINC Wireless to achieve compliance with the FCC’s narrowbanding mandate.

Narrowbanding requires all first responders, such as police and fire, to buy new radios. Currently many radios in the 150 MHz, 450 MHz, and 800 MHz band use 25 Khz-wide channels. The FCC is requiring every police and fire department in the Union to buy new radios that make more efficent use of the spectrum. All wideband voice transmissions must convert to narrowband 12.5 kHz systems no later than Jan. 1, 2013.

It will cost states and municipalities hundreds of millions to comply. Most will apply for federal grants to provide at least some of the funding.

Faced with limited time and a projected expenditure of more than a half-million dollars in order to bring his department’s outdated, conventional radio system into compliance with this FCC mandate, Clanton Police Department Chief Brian Stilwell was at a communications and financial crossroads.

The SouthernLINC Wireless, which uses the push-to-talk iDEN system like Nextel (right), put together a proposal to transfer the Clanton Police Department’s primary dispatch operations from its wideband radio system to the SouthernLINC Wireless network.

After receiving the city council’s approval for the full migration to SouthernLINC Wireless, Stilwell acquired a grant to pay for modifications to their 911 call center console and the additional lines of service and equipment.

SouthernLINC is a regional iDEN carrier providing coverage in the South East United States including southeast Mississippi, all Alabama, all Georgia, and the Florida panhandle.

A SouthernLINC Wireless customer since October 1999, the Clanton Police Department is now exclusively using the carrier’s PTT service for all radio communications, which satisfies the FCC narrowbanding directive more than a year in advance of the deadline.

Smartphones are changing how departments can respond to emergencies, but connecting to a tower 10-12 miles away may not deliver reliable wireless broadband.

Sprint plans to provide a CDMA upgrade for its push-to-talk Nextel service in 2012. It will provide EVDO data on Nextel’s 850 MHz band and LTE on their 1.9 GHz band.

Putting LTE on 700 MHz police relays sounds good – but don’t expect broadband data to reach everyone within a 10-15 mile radius. Six 700 MHz land/mobile radio towers (similar to the Portland map, above), can’t substitute for dozens of 700 MHz commercial celltowers without sacrificing capacity and speed.

Now that the Obama administration has come around to APCO’s position on the need for a dedicated public safety network, the Republicans have now switched sides and are now blocking the proposal for a nationwide network.

If the House is unable to come up with a bipartisan bill, then authorization for a spectrum auction may wind up as a line item from the “super committee” currently working to come up with deficit reduction measures.

Related stories on DailyWireless include; D-Block Legislation Stalled, Seybold: Furgetabout Video on LTE Public Safety Band, Broadband Disability Act, Public Service Radio Convention, Public Safety Net Removed from Debt Ceiling Bill, The D-Block Gamble, D-Block Gets a Hearing, National Wireless Initiative, White House: D-Block to Police/Fire, State of the Spectrum, FCC Green Lights Lightsquared, Oregon’s $600M Public Safety Network Likely Killed, Bay Area 700 MHz Net in Altercation , SF Announces LTE First Responder Net, New York Cancels Statewide Wireless Network, M/A-COM to NY: We’re Good, The D-Block Gamble, National Wireless Initiative, White House: D-Block to Police/Fire, White Space War, White Space To Go, White Spaces Get IEEE Standard, Broadcasters: Portable Devices Kill DTV, Mud Fight in White Space, LTE Vrs WiMAX: It’s a Wrap!, The 700 Mhz Club

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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