Flow Mobile, a North Dakota–based wireless startup company, has asked the FCC for a 700 MHz waiver that would let it build a broadband wireless network that would demonstrate the viability of a public/private shared network for public safety in North Dakota and other rural states.

While many 700 MHz waivers have been filed, the North Dakota proposal is unique in many respects. It is the first waiver request sought by a commercial company instead of by a governmental entity, although the state of North Dakota supports the request. It is also the first waiver to seek access to narrowband 700 MHz spectrum, as well as the broadband frequencies in the band that are licensed to the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST).

The state of North Dakota already has signed a memorandum of understanding that would allow Flow Mobile to build a demonstration network during the next year and half, said Mike Lynk, director of North Dakota State Radio.

“We’re offering [Flow Mobile] an opportunity to make sure the system and the business plan is going to work, so they can demo it and we can see — from the public-safety side — that it’s a viable option,” Lynk said. “We’re hoping that, after the demos and after the business plan has been implemented, we will have a 700 MHz system throughout the state of North Dakota for public safety and the private sector.”

Although the governor’s office is helping the company in its effort to secure stimulus funding for the project, Lynk emphasized that the state support of Flow Mobile’s proposed demonstration network is not a binding contract. In fact, the state also is working with a consortium of other telecom companies on similar testing arrangement, he said.

Meanwhile, Flow Mobile apparently plans to pursue this strategy with other rural states. Last month, company representatives presented to the FCC detailed plans to build out a joint-use wireless broadband network across 11 rural states for $431 million.

“We are glad to be working with the state,” Flow Mobile President and CEO Sree Tangella said. “We are happy that we can actually make the public-safety network for the state happen, but we cannot reveal any detailed information about the project at this time.”

Among the details that Tangella declined to discuss at the moment is Flow Mobile’s technology. In its latest FCC filing, Flow Mobile describes a plan to deploy “a game-changing technology first in rural America that has the ability to carry high-speed multiple forms of traffic in a mobile environment, provide a low-cost technology with an easy migration path between unlicensed and licensed, and utilize an open-standards approach.”

According to Flow Mobile, its technology is “4G-like” and “provides better coverage than EVDO service at a lower cost.” In addition, Flow Mobile claims its network design can “accommodate all technologies, including LTE,” which has been supported by several key public-safety organizations as the platform of choice for a nationwide 700 MHz broadband standard.

Such possibilities certainly have captured the attention of North Dakota state officials.

“If it all works out and they prove their business plan, we’re pretty excited, because it’s going to solve a lot of communications problems for us,” Lynk said.