Government entities should be allowed to leverage unused spectrum resources to help fund public-safety initiatives, which would make obsolete the traditional public-safety LMR deployment model—in which governments provide spectrum and pay millions of taxpayer dollars for networks—according to Rivada Networks CEO Declan Ganley.

Spectrum is valuable, as demonstrated by the FCC auction of AWS-3 airwaves that generated more than $41 billion in revenue for the U.S. Treasury earlier this year. With a solution such as Rivada Networks’ dynamic spectrum arbitrage (DSA) and appropriate regulatory permissions, governments could unlock the revenue potential of their licensed spectrum, which would let them reduce the burden on taxpayers to pay for public-safety communications, Ganley said.

“Taxpayers should not be expected to write checks on top of having spectrum carved out for the benefit of whatever user,” Ganley said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “The Motorola model of making stuff and selling solutions and expecting to get paid vast amounts of money for doing that—as well as being given that spectrum for free to do it in and not have any obligation to monetize that spectrum—that model is dead, dead, dead.”

Given the value of wireless airwaves, Ganley said government officials should make protecting their spectrum rights a priority. While acknowledging some of the regulatory and financial factors involved with 700 MHz narrowband spectrum, Ganley said he is surprised that 12 states have returned their rights to use these airwaves to the FCC.  

“I would put this to any governor: If you had gold bullion sitting underneath your state capital, would you be handing it over to the federal government?” Ganley said. “If that gold bullion belonged to your state right now, would you hand it to the Federal Reserve, or would you keep it in your state?

“This is exactly the same thing, except this is arguably more valuable. Because we’re not going to mine and find any more spectrum, but we might find more gold.”

However, Ganley emphasized that any network-capacity sharing arrangement cannot have any negative impacts on public-safety communications—something he said the Rivada Networks’ DSA approach achieves.

“Public safety’s experience in using that spectrum must always be as if no one else is on it, so they have absolute, ruthless preemption to up to 100% of the radio resource across all of the network, wherever and whenever they want it, with no notice—in milliseconds,” Ganley said.

“That has to be [public safety’s] user experience. Otherwise, expecting them to share this on some priority use or some kind of queuing system, they’re not going to be able to fulfill their mission. That has to be their encounter with that spectrum. And, if it is anything less than that, then it is a compromise too far for a public-safety mission.”

This approach is being proposed by FirstNet, which is trying to build a nationwide public-safety broadband network on 20 MHz of public-safety spectrum in the 700 MHz band. FirstNet officials have acknowledged that the $7 billion that Congress allocated for FirstNet in 2012 and user fees will not be enough to fund a sustainable nationwide network, so monetizing the value of its considerable spectrum assets is a key component to the FirstNet business model.