FirstNet: The Asymetrical Threat

A quickly deployable situational-awareness solution from White Canvas Group helped the response to Superstorm Sandy, reports Urgent.com

Called GridMeNow, the smartphone-app lets users share reports and images stamped with the time and location, which can be used to improve damage-assessment and recovery efforts, said Adam Miller, director the Huntingdon County Emergency Management Agency.

“Our area, covering a rural population of 46,000 west of Harrisburg, PA, and spanning 889 square miles, was in the eye of the storm”, said Miller. “GridMeNow created an exceptional force multiplication that enhanced our efforts—effectively replacing boots on the ground and capturing critical images of damage and flood impacts in real time.

The Commercial Mobile Alert System – a free, national alert system that sends emergency notifications to the public via their mobile phone – sent out text messages during superstorm Sandy. Wireless phone carriers began rolling out the emergency text service earlier this year.

But what happens when your infrastructure is down? Wi-Fi Direct allows Wi-Fi devices to connect directly to each other without a wireless access point. Peer-to-peer. Wi-Fi Direct connections are easy and simple, says the WiFi Alliance.

Serval is free, open-source software for mobile phones, letting them communicate even in the absence of phone towers and other supporting infrastructure. The initial public release of the software is scheduled for late 2012.

An economic analysis released this January (pdf) showed that the investments and innovation entailed in the transition from 2G to 3G wireless “spurred the creation of some 1,585,000 new jobs” from April 2007 to June 2011.

The Whitehouse PCAST spectrum report (pdf) promotes expanded spectrum-sharing technologies, originally developed for unused “white space” tv frequencies.

According to the report, some 1000 MHz of federal spectrum, especially in bands above 2.7 GHz, may be shared using the same WS interrogation technology. They advise a Test City should be contracted to test public safety and various Federal bands, initially focusing on the 2700 to 3700 MHz region. Seattle’s RFI for public safety (pdf) lists typical public service stakeholders.

Public sector mobile apps that work in unlicensed white spaces or in “shared” federal spectrum, between 2.7-3.7 GHz, may be a growth area.

FirstNet is a 700 MHz LTE a public safety broadband network (pdf) dedicated to first responders with 2 x 10 MHZ of broadband spectrum, in addition to 2 x 5 MHz of narrowband (voice) channels. The FCC plans to auction off 120 MHz of TV spectrum, valued at $25 billion, giving TV stations $1.75 billion, and earmarking some $7 billion to build FirstNet. It won’t be enough to build the required 44,000 towers.

FirstNet may take 8 years to build – and requires expensive radios. Why wait 8 years for something you can get now from Verizon or AT&T? Furthermore, the architecture may never have the flexibility of “hot spot”, ad-hock networks.

AT&T recently announced it will spend $8 billion just to expand its 4G LTE coverage – not to build an entire network from scratch or buy 4 million radios for its users. At $2K each, that’s another $8B. FirstNet will have an estimated user base between 2 and 5 million. By contrast, Verizon and AT&T both have over 100 million subscribers.

Some say FirstNet could cost taxpayers over $20 billion. For what? FirstNet will provide a Verizon-like LTE service for first responders – but with spottier coverage that will likely cost twice as much as commercial alternatives. Police and Fire won’t be able to afford it. Video streaming from a dozen police cars or fire trucks will bring 700 MHz FirstNet to its knees. Guaranteed. Do the math.

LTE-Advanced, on the other hand, is available today.

LTE-A comes with voice and video calling, more bandwidth and increased density.

Basestations self-organize with femtocells and relays. Automatically. Real-world performance testing, in cooperation with carriers, should be done without delay.

Android phones like Nokia’s 920T, Hauwei’s Ascend P1 and STREAM 201HW, as well as ZTE mobile hotspots can run over LTE-A networks. Today.

Low-cost devices and infrastructure are assured because China, India and other countries will use virtually identical gear. AT&T and Verizon are top-down, old-school. They have limited flexibility and spectrum.

Range, reliability and cost/effectiveness of mobile devices and apps will need to be tested and compared. TD-LTE on 2.6GHz is available now. White Space gear will be available next year.

The goal is to save lives and money.

Self Organizing Metrocells and White Space networks can be thrown up in a day. Yota’s 11 LTE Advanced base stations in Moscow achieved 300Mbps. SingleRAN LTE-A enables simultaneous GSM, EDGE, UMTS or HSPA. Relay Nodes boost LTE-A coverage without requiring dedicated backhaul.

Multiple, low-risk, low-cost performance tests (perhaps in Portland, Chicago and New Jersey) might involve stakeholders like education, first responders, carriers and utilities. Cities need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of different ad-hock networks, both licensed and unlicensed.

Cities should deliver fiber to the rights of way and light poles. There will be 1000 Mhz available between 2.7 and 3.7 GHz, if you believe the grey beards. Let’s use it.

WAVE software, available for Android and IOS, can turn any smartphone or tablet into a push-to-talk handset. A mobile TD-LTE/WiFi router can provide connections to multiple laptops and smartphones. You’re not locked into a (non-existant) FirstNet or cellular connection.

Serval software is a free, open-source solution for mobile phones to communicate in the absence of phone towers. Ad-hock networks will be essential in the aftermath of an inevitable 9.0 earthquake.

Large radio towers need more electricity and are less flexible than “hetnets”.

Unlicensed networks, using Wi-Fi or “white space” radios, allow fast, inexpensive networking.

On the spot. Anytime. Anywhere.

WAVE Connections, for example, has a push-to-talk applications that runs on smartphones and a PC browser to establish talk groups. It runs on iPhone/iPad, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile/CE and can communicate across all cellular networks as well as WiFi.

Nokia’s Instant Community works completely by using the device’s adhoc wifi, enabling you to chat and share content with those around you instantly.

Here’s how to add WiFi Ad Hoc enabler for Android and How to Enable Adhoc WiFi on Android Tablets.

More than a dozen companies are supporting a proposed LTE standard for device-to-device links. LTE Direct uses licensed frequencies so it can be more reliable than using unlicensed radios.

Direct LTE is based on line-of-sight links at a range up to 500 meters and 20-23 dBm signaling limits. LTE Direct is peer-to-peer cellular technology. It can work with Wi-Fi Direct, which is a similar technology that allows Wi-Fi devices to connect to each other without the need for a wireless access point.

LTE Advanced enables Self Organized Networks and push to talk services on the 700 MHz D-Block and 2.6 GHz.

Soon you may be able to order a Dell server, then install your own basestation software, like Elemental Technologies does for their streaming box. Intel’s Xeon Phi has 60 cores with 1 teraflop performance.

It’s the Basestation in the cloud concept – base stations are miles away in server farms. Fiber feeds tiny antenna elements.

When tiny cell sites are fed by generic Xeon servers, they can support additional services like content distribution or Push to Talk. Where it’s needed.

Ericsson and Huawei hate that idea. Intel and ZTE love the Cloud-RAN (Radio Access Network) concept – pdf. They say it will cut costs in half while enhancing services.

NIST asked for and received Comments on FirstNet’s proposal. By its Nov. 9 comment deadline, NTIA had received over 70 sets of comments. Most chasing the pot of gold.

Andrew Seybold (below) makes a lot of sense. He defends FirstNet as an idea whose time has come. But it requires so much (duplicated) investment, it seems like a show stopper. I don’t get it.

FirstNet may be D.O.A.

DHS has spent $430 million over the past nine years to provide radios tuned to a common, secure channel to 123,000 employees across the country. Problem is, no one seems to know how to use them, reports Propublica.

Only one of 479 DHS employees surveyed by the inspector general’s office was actually able to use the common channel, according to the report (pdf).

Related Dailywireless articles include; 4G Walkie-Talkie Nets for First Responders, Google and Microsoft Want UK White Space?, FCC’s TV Auction Workshop, White Spaces to the Rescue?, Skype Integrated into Windows 8, Satellite Backhaul for LTE, Push to Talk Broadband: Public Service, 3G & 4G, Public Safety LTE Tested at RNC

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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