A few weeks ago, I argued that public safety take a look again at WiMAX — not as a long-term alternative for a nationwide Long Term Evolution (LTE) network, but as a stopgap measure until a nationwide network is in place, which could take five years or more.

Certainly I received the usual comments arguing that commercial providers are not up to public safety's standards (i.e. reliability, priority access). I get it. But does it have to be, at this point, for public safety to take advantage of WiMAX?

In the midst of an economic slump, local governments are beginning to operate like enterprises — looking for ways to drive efficiencies to reduce costs. Broadband services are a way to do that. What about the citation that can be automatically populated via back-end databases or barcode scanning over a WiMAX network, perhaps with pictures or even video? Or the proverbial example: The ability to transmit video, maps and photos for a number of incidents. There are all sorts of examples.

The difference, though, is to not expect these services to be hardened, but view them as a very useful adjunct. There are plenty of examples where public-safety agencies are using commercial technology to make their lives easier, including adjunct cell-phone texting systems and even iPhone apps. But the key is that public safety doesn't rely on them to be mission critical at this point. Technology will get there, but in the meantime, would it be better to have something than nothing at all?

On the same note, as some readers pointed out, WiMAX likely will play a vital role in mobile broadband communications for rural first responders. In fact, WiMAX may be the only solution they will have in those areas, as vendors such as Alvarion and smaller providers such as Digital Bridges are focusing on those areas. I would be very surprised if we see any LTE players targeting rural markets for some time to come.

What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below?