Harris County, Texas, plans to operate its new public-safety LTE network at 700 MHz and hopes to expand the system from 6 sites to 14 sites under a recent ruling from the FCC, according to county officials.

On Aug. 1, the FCC ruled that the county—a 1,700-square-mile jurisdiction that includes the city of Houston—and the city of Charlotte, N.C., could proceed with public-safety LTE deployments on the 10 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum licensed to the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST). But that spectrum agreement will expire on Sept. 2, and the entities will have to apply for special temporary authority (STA) every six months to continue operating.

“We’re very excited to get the approval to move forward and—even with the temporary status that we’re in now— to turn the lights on, basically,” Harris County CIO Bruce High said during an interview with Urgent Communications. “We appreciate that opportunity, and we’re optimistic that we’re going to get opportunities to take this to the next level. We’re looking forward to partnering with our peers out there to implement interoperability in the state and in the nation.”

While the city of Charlotte has indicated it will not proceed with its public-safety LTE plans under these circumstances, Harris County has decided to move ahead with its LTE efforts.

“We understand that there is some risk involved with going live on an STA, but we’re pretty confident that it’s eventually going to get a permanent license, and we’ll be operating permanently,” Craig Bernard, Harris County’s senior director of mobility, said during an interview with Urgent Communications.

Harris County deployed 6 LTE sites before the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) halted the use of federal funding for public-safety LTE projects in the spring. The NTIA did so because federal officials wanted to ensure that the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) would be able to pursue its nationwide deployment plans without being hindered by having to work around too many early systems.

“We have 6 sites that are up in production, and we’re seeking support for some additional funding to move out another 8, so we would have 14 sites,” High said, noting that Harris County has been communicating with federal officials in an effort to get permission to use federal grant money to deploy the additional 8 sites.

With an experimental license, Harris County has been able to test the 6-site system. Initially, there will be 400 to 500 users on the network, Bernard said. One of the most-anticipated applications that will be enabled by the network’s operation will be the ability to stream video from fixed surveillance cameras in the Baytown area—where numerous petroleum and petrochemical facilities are located—to mobile devices, High said.