Oklahoma has committed the funding needed to deploy a statewide LTE system for first responders, if the FCC grants the state a waiver to use the 700 MHz public-safety broadband spectrum, according to a recent filing with the federal agency.

“Approximately $150 million has been … to oversee buildout of the statewide LTE network and backbone infrastructure,” Gov. Mary Fallin wrote in a December letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. “Although the funding is there right now, we obviously cannot break ground on our planned LTE network without commission authority to operate that network, which in turn represents a delay in the broader benefits the statewide network promises to deliver.

“With resources stretched thin, no state government can afford to allow allocated funds to remain idle, budgeted but unspent. To ensure the continued availability of this funding for our statewide PSBN, we must act expeditiously.”

Oklahoma has been waiting more than a year for the FCC to act on its 700 MHz waiver request to use broadband spectrum licensed to the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST). Last week, one senator and five House representatives sent a letter to the FCC requesting “swift action” on the waiver request.

Meanwhile, the state of Oklahoma is completing its selection process for a vendor to build the proposed LTE network, with a choice possible being announced as early as this week, according to Ty Todd, communications manager for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

When a vendor contract is finalized, the LTE network is scheduled to be built in a three-year period, Todd said. First-year milestones include the deployment of an LTE core, a network operations center, and coverage in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, as well the highway connecting them, he said.

“Geographically, that covers only about 20% of the state, but about 80% of the state’s population lives in that corridor,” Todd said.

Deploying public-safety LTE is part of Oklahoma’s plan to upgrade communications throughout the state under the leadership of state CIO Alex Pettit, Todd said. As a result, the state has planned for sufficient backhaul to support the proposed LTE network, he said.

“The timing on it worked in hand with what we were doing anyway,” Todd said. “We were starting the process of replacing our legacy radio-network infrastructure and supporting basically two statewide systems — the system that combines service for public safety and DPS, and then our other statewide system that provides service to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

“So, we just automatically included in our system design the capacity for LTE.”

Oklahoma supports the Charlotte request to the FCC that calls for government personnel outside of traditional public-safety — fire, EMS and law enforcement — to utilize the proposed LTE network, Todd said. In addition, state officials also would like the opportunity to partner with critical-infrastructure entities such as utilities, although Oklahoma has not discussed the matter with such organizations, he said.

“We would like the flexibility to pursue [critical-infrastructure partnerships],” Todd said. “In our system design, we’re going to design for it, whether it happens or not. I’d rather design for it up front and perhaps have extra capacity and coverage, as opposed to not designing for it and trying to figure out what we’re going to do.”

Although the proposed LTE system is designed to serve the state of Oklahoma, Todd said he believes the core can be leveraged across a larger footprint.

“That would be one of our goals, to provide core services to jurisdictions outside the state of Oklahoma,” he said.