Federal park police were able to monitor a sophisticated video-surveillance system during the July 4 celebration on Washington's National Mall by leveraging an Alcatel-Lucent LTE system operating on 700 MHz D Block spectrum — the first LTE system to use these airwaves, which have been the focus of debate on Capitol Hill.

This wireless connectivity let command officials in a remote location monitor high-definition video and thermal-imaging feeds from fixed surveillance equipment in the area, according to Capt. David Mulholland, technology services commander for the U.S. Park Police.

“We had some technology that we had put into place that required some very robust bandwidth, because the technology was video-based technology that also included some analytic capabilities,” Mulholland said. “We used very high-end cameras, some of the best in the world — not something you would be able to stream over a cellular connection.

"So, there was some concern about how we were going to get that [signal] from the Lincoln Memorial to the location where our unified command was, which was remote from the actual incident area … and outside of line of sight.”

For the event, the FCC granted temporary authority for operation on the D Block — spectrum that currently is slated to be auctioned to commercial carriers but has been a focal point of legislation that would reallocate the airwaves to public safety. Mulholland said the combination of having dedicated D Block spectrum that did not have to be shared with commercial users was critical to a successful operation.

“Had we not had that [D Block LTE system], we would have only been able to get that very important video and analytic capability to command posts that were within the line of sight — and anywhere within line of sight would have been within the incident,” he said. “And common sense tells you that you have to be able to port that stuff outside the incident.”

While commercial-carrier networks can provide excellent data throughput in many circumstances, Mulholland said the need for first-responder agencies to have access to dedicated spectrum is particularly noticeable during events in Washington, D.C., that attract significant crowds.

“The biggest concern we have is this: I know what happens when 75,000 or 300,000 — or as in January 2009, 1.4 million — people show up. and that’s when everything’s going well,” he said. “What we have to do in my world is take that event and say, ‘Something has just detonated in the middle of a crowd.’ Now think about how clogged that [commercial] system is going to be. At that point in time, it’s even more critical for us to get information out of the incident to remote commanders and to get information back into the incident for those primary and secondary responders who are responding to mitigate that incident.

“We were very fortunate on the Fourth of July that we no incidents whatsoever — that’s a great thing. But, had something occurred, obviously what we didn’t want in the middle of that camera view was — poof — the things go out. We have had events where, because of crowd-level saturation … or an unplanned fiber cut, we lost our cellular communications.”

For Alcatel-Lucent, the system also marked a significant milestone, according to Morgan Wright, vice president of Alcatel-Lucent’s global public-safety segment.

“We’ve now been the first company to show in the field that we can operate across all 20 MHz of Band 14, which public safety wants assigned to them,” Wright said.