New York City this week announced that it has awarded a five-year, $500 million contract to Northrup Grumman to provide the city’s broadband wireless public-safety network, which will be built with commercial technology from California-based vendor IPWireless.

New York’s wireless network will utilize 10 MHz of licensed spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band. The need for spectral efficiency was one reason Northrup Grumman chose the UMTS technology from IPWireless rather than a spectrum-intensive technology such as WiMAX, said Jon Hambidge, vice president of marketing for IPWireless.

“Intel has been pretty clear that an operator needs 30 MHz to operate a mobile WiMAX system, because neighboring sectors have to be on different frequencies or they will cause interference with each other,” Hambidge said. “What we’ve managed to do is create a system that works so that all the neighboring sectors can be on the same frequency without interfering with each other.”

To achieve this, IPWireless uses an interference-cancellation technology known as advanced multi-user detection that is the company’s “secret sauce” in the commercial marketplace, Hambidge said. Used by commercial carriers such as European wireless carrier Orange, the IPWireless solution utilizes TD-CDMA and MIMO to deliver data rates of 8-10 MB/s download and 1-2 MB/s upload in a typical download-intensive environment, which may not be used by New York public safety, Hambridge said.

In the middle of next year, IPWireless plans to make a software release that will more than double the data rates on the New York City network to reach 30 MB/s throughput, Hambridge said.

Although the New York City project is the first announced public-safety project for IPWireless, the wireless vendor has done several other public-safety projects with Northrup Grumman in addition to deploying thousands of UMTS base stations in the commercial market, Hambidge said.

“We’ve actually been working with Northrup for about three years, so it’s not like their putting out a new, untested technology,” he said. “We think Northrup has done a really nice job of putting all the services on top of the network. I know that a lot of other cities are looking at doing similar projects, so it’s a nice beachhead for us.”

The new network is designed to enhance New York City’s existing mobile wireless communications network with high-speed data and video capabilities, as well as new wireless applications to support first responders and transportation personnel.

"Northrop Grumman's solution will provide our emergency responders with quick access to critical information in the field, enabling them to be better prepared to protect our city and its residents," Paul Cosgrave, commissioner of the New York City department of information technology and telecommunications, said in a prepared statement. "This decision comes at the end of a lengthy evaluation, including a pilot implementation in lower Manhattan during which equipment was tested and evaluated."