Like a flash, D.C. goes broadband
The District of Columbia announced Motorola and Flarion Technologies will build a high-speed wireless broadband data network — a deal city officials hope will make the case for a nationwide broadband network in the 700 MHz band.
The pilot network, based on Flarion's proprietary flash-orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) technology, will use 10 transmission sites to provide citywide coverage for first responders needing to access the network in the field. Capabilities will include real-time video, Web access and other specialized public-safety applications accessed via mobile data computers supplied by Motorola.
The deal is valued at $2.7 million, funded primarily with federal grant money and expected to showcase what a high-speed data network could look like on the state level.
“This is a major step toward delivering critical information to police, fire and emergency medical services workers wherever they need it to safeguard our lives,” said District chief technology officer Suzanne Peck. “The applications our first responders have asked to support wirelessly are only the tip of the iceberg. Just as the Internet has matured into a powerful communications tool, this network will serve as a catalyst for innovation.”
The District of Columbia Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) in February chose Flarion's technology, which edged out a number of proposals — one of which was Lucent Technologies' bid to use commercialized CDMA2000 1X EV-DO (Evolution Data Only), a high-speed data technology that transmits data at peak rates of 2.4 Mb/s within a 1.25 kHz channel.
“There were stringent requirements for scalability, quality of service and seamless integration with legacy databases and networks,” said Ronny Haraldsvik, senior director of global marketing with Flarion. “The average latency of flash-OFDM is below 50 milliseconds, which adheres to the stringent requirements for the wired broadband experience.”
Flarion claims the spectral efficiency of flash-OFDM is three times that of the CDMA2000 airlink. This wideband spread-spectrum technology divides spectrum into a number of equally spaced tones or frequencies, which ensures there is no interference between users on the same cell. The IP-based technology is spectrum agnostic, can operate in interference-riddled spectrum and is able to transmit data at peak rates of 3 Mb/s, with average throughputs of 1.5 Mb/s.
Flash-OFDM has gained significant traction in recent months with commercial mobile operators. After an extensive lab trial, Nextel Communications in February announced plans to trial Flarion's service to select enterprise customers in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
“Flash-OFDM is probably the most spectrally efficient technology out there right now,” said Steve Gorecki, a Motorola spokesman.
The pilot network closely resembles a wideband data technology trial Motorola commenced in 2001 with Pinellas County, Fla., that enabled live wide-area wireless mobile video, voice and Web access for police, fire, emergency medical service and other public-safety applications. Designated the Greenhouse Project, the system operates at speeds up to 460 kb/s in the 700 MHz band under an experimental 150 kHz Federal Communications Commission license.
OCTO is a founding member of the Spectrum Coalition for Public Safety, a national coalition of state and local governments formed to secure nationwide spectrum in the 700 MHz band. The coalition is calling on Congress to stop the pending auction of the upper portion of the 700 MHz band and allocate an additional 10 MHz in this band to public safety and homeland security.
It also wants broadcasters currently occupying the 700 MHz band to relocate by Jan. 1, 2007. Currently, broadcasters are required to release their spectrum in this band only if 85% of homes nationwide subscribe to high-definition television services.
The 700 MHz band is an issue of hot debate, because a number of commercial interests say they need additional spectrum in order to deploy bandwidth-intensive applications.
“Only Congress can allocate this spectrum to our first responders,” Peck said. “If we miss this opportunity, public-safety communications will be hampered for decades to come.”