Denver-area public-safety agencies utilized Adams County’s leased Band 14 spectrum from FirstNet and deployable LTE communications to gain unprecedented access to network databases during a recent concert by the band Phish, even when commercial-carrier systems in the area were saturated by social-media traffic from attendees.

Phish conducted the three-day concert on Aug. 29-31 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park—home of the Colorado Rapids MLS soccer team—in Commerce City, Colo., which is near Denver and part of Adams County.

In past years, public-safety officials at the scene were not able to access databases for warrants or criminal records of concert attendees, because they depended solely on commercial carrier systems that would become overwhelmed with data traffic from concert goers, despite the fact that carriers deployed cells on wheels (COWs) to increase capacity in the area.

By utilizing a Band 14 COW with two eNodeB LTE base stations from General Dynamics C4 Systems and Intrado’s massive THOR Shield mobile emergency-communications vehicle, first responders were able to communicate with a team of dispatchers on site that had full network access to key databases, according to Mike Brunswig, assistant director of administration for ADCOM911 in Adams County.

“Typically [in the past], they would have a phone or modem device in their vehicles, and the carrier networks obviously get saturated during those types of events,” Brunswig said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “[With access to the dedicated Band 14 LTE network,] they were essentially able to get unlimited bandwidth to whatever devices they were using in the vehicle, as well as to handheld devices [when they were] outside of their vehicle.

“By utilizing the Thor vehicle, we were able to provide a connection back to our ADCOM911 facility, so our dispatcher could have access—through the computer system—to our CAD system and to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to search for warrants, records and things like that. Essentially, they were able to access everything, as if they were sitting here in our [911] center.”

Other applications supported by Band 14 LTE data throughput during the concert event included automated license-plate reading, social-media analytics, and data mining through Intrado’s Beware system, according to Gary Pulford, director of channels for Intrado’s government solutions division.

While the 45-60 MB/s speeds realized on the Band 14 network could have supported many more applications, utilization of dedicated public-safety LTE network was limited by the shortage of Band 14 LTE devices available on the market today, Pulford said. As a result, most LTE connectivity was to a first-responder vehicle, which supported a Wi-Fi hot spot—or “bubble”—that enabled officers to gain high-speed access to network resources.

However, these Wi-Fi coverage areas did not blanket the entire concert area, so public-safety personnel would have to revert back to a commercial carrier network when outside the range of a Wi-Fi bubble, Pulford said. When this occurred, the resulting drop in performance was significant, particularly for personnel running the Blue Force Tracking application, he said.

“The commercial LTE network became so congested in Commerce City that we couldn’t get location information about the officers for Blue Force Tracking—the updates, or the refresh rates, on their location just became really slow and latent,” Pulford said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “In a pure Band 14 world, that wouldn’t have been a problem at all.

“So, when we were within coverage [of the Band 14-connected Wi-Fi coverage bubbles], it was great. But, when we weren’t, it was a problem. And this was all an issue of end devices. If we would have had 200 Band 14-enabled devices, it would not have been an issue.”