FCC commissioners this week released a much-anticipated order that would allow public-safety entities—most notably, jurisdictions in the state of Texas--to deploy and operate public-safety LTE networks immediately, although long-term questions concerning these systems remain.

As part of the order, the FCC approved the interoperability showings for the city of Charlotte and the state of Texas, which was the final step needed for those entities—two of the 21 jurisdictions with an FCC-approved waiver to use public safety’s 700 MHz broadband spectrum—to deploy and operate 700 MHz public-safety broadband systems.

However, these spectrum rights will expire on Sept. 2, after which the entities will need a six-month special temporary authority (STA) from the FCC to continue operating.

This lack of long-term certain has discouraged the city of Charlotte from pursuing its public-safety LTE plans. However, Harris County, Texas--the jurisdiction that has been at the forefront of the Texas public-safety LTE effort—still may decide to proceed with its broadband network, according to Todd Early, deputy assistant director and statewide communications interoperability coordinator for the Texas Department of Public Safety.

“We’re working under the impression that they will be moving forward,” Early said during an interview with Urgent Communications, noting that Harris County is expected to make a formal statement on the matter in the near future.
“We’re optimistic. This provides us a path to move forward, and it allows us to have a process to follow.”

After several months of filings with the FCC, the state of Texas was glad to see the FCC approve an order regarding 700 MHz waiver jurisdictions, Early said.

“Overall, we’re pleased and grateful that the FCC has taken action and given jurisdictions guidance in moving forward to provide this important service to public safety,” he said.

Any STA provided by the FCC will grant rights only to the 10 MHz of spectrum currently licensed to the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST), not the 10 MHz D Block, which Congress has said will be licensed to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). Texas plans to file an STA application with the FCC early next week to meet the deadline established under the order, Early said.

Another aspect of the order included a denial of all pending 700 MHz broadband waiver requests. The order did not clarify how the spectrum licensed to the PSST will be transferred to FirstNet.

“They have not indicated to us when they intend to transfer the license or how that will be accomplished,” PSST Chairman Harlin McEwen said during an interview with Urgent Communications. “We’re just being patient.”