Recipients of 700 MHz broadband waivers should be allowed to continue to pursue existing LTE deployments, which should provide valuable information to those designing the nationwide broadband network for public safety, most commenters stated in a recent FCC proceeding on the subject.

Under a law passed in February, the spectrum license to public safety’s 700 MHz broadband spectrum — the 10 MHz held by the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) and the 10 MHz D Block — will be transitioned to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) that was created by the legislation. The FCC opened the proceeding to get input on the manner in which this spectrum transition should be exercised.

One of the primary concerns was the fate of entities that received 700 MHz waivers and had signed spectrum leases with the PSST, so the airwaves could be used to support public-safety early LTE deployments. Most commenters asked the FCC to make the transition in a manner that would allow the deployments to proceed.

“The PSST encourages the commission to allow the Waiver Recipients to continue their ‘test-bed’ early deployment efforts consistent with the commission’s existing interoperability requirements and the eventual transition of the public safety broadband spectrum to FirstNet,” the PSST stated in its filing. “These ongoing deployment efforts could provide a significant amount of useful data and other ‘lessons learned’ for FirstNet, the Public Safety Communications Research program, and other parties.”

Indeed, the ability to gain “real-world” knowledge about public-safety LTE deployment was cited by several commenters, with the PSST noting that it could be years before FirstNet is ready to start building the much-anticipated nationwide network.

In recent weeks, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has cautioned jurisdictions about early deployments and expressed a desire to limit them in an effort to ensure that any LTE gear purchased can be integrated into the nationwide network.

Many of the jurisdictions considering early deployments have received federal grants under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and have dedicated significant resources to these projects. The largest public-safety BTOP grant recipient — Los Angeles County — expressed a desire to continue its LTE efforts.

“If the waiver and lease agreements are not extended, LA-RICS will be in jeopardy of losing $154.6 million of stimulus BTOP funding, since a material condition of the grant award is the existing waiver and lease for access to the public-safety spectrum,” the filing states. “In fact, the other seven public safety BTOP grant recipients share the same concern as to the harm and consequences of grant termination if the waivers and leases are not transferred to FirstNet.”

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