The nation’s first multi-vendor interoperable Public Safety LTE network was demonstrated last month at the Republican National Convention.
It marks the first time federal, state and local first responders have simultaneously used a 700 MHz D-block broadband network for a National Special Security Event, and provided a field trial of a multi-vendor integrated LTE system in advance of the $7 billion deployment of the National Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN).
The applications integrated fixed camera feeds, live video transmitted from smartphones, GPS-enabled blue force tracking, and P25 push-to-talk voice from existing federal, state, and local radio systems.
Because their iPhones could not connect directly with the 700 MHz system, officers used pocket-size MiFi wireless routers from IPWireless. A push-to-talk app on the phones could be used to link them with the police radio systems. LTE basestations with ranges of three to five miles were mounted on the St. Petersburg Police Department tower on the south side of Tampa Bay and on a portable tower in Tampa to the north.
The FCC has set aside spectrum for it in the 700 MHz band and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) has been established to hold the spectrum license and oversee deployment of the network. But to date, LTE in the “D Block” has been used only in testbed environments.
Congress intends to raise the money to pay for the dedicated LTE network by selling TV spectrum.
Many public safety officials doubt the viability of using commercial 3G and 4G wireless networks, citing possible downtime during natural disasters. Public safety claims their on-site generators provide power to radio towers over a longer period of time and are more secure.
“Technology will evolve to be more robust,” said Mike Duyck, chief of Tualatin Valley (Ore.) Fire and Rescue. “Everyone will be using it and eventually they will be asking, ‘Why aren’t we?’”
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