A cornucopia of wireless options
In recent years, public-safety information sharing has expanded rapidly from fixed office computer terminals to wireless delivery of data for users in the field. Mobile computer terminals or mobile data terminals mounted in vehicles will continue to be important, and with the availability of reasonably priced hand-held computer devices, there is an increasing demand for improved wireless data services.
The world around us is changing, and with the introduction of new technologies, we have opportunities never before available.
Public safety should be able to deploy government-owned or -managed, next-generation high-speed wireless data services that deliver not only secure text messages but documents, photographs, diagrams and streaming video.
But because of a lack of assigned public-safety radio spectrum that is suitable for high-speed data, public safety historically has been limited to narrowband, slow-speed radio channels practical only for voice and text messages.
This is changing with spectrum allocated by the FCC for public safety that is suitable for high-speed data at 700 MHz and 4.9 GHz. The spectrum at 700 MHz is good for wide area networks while the spectrum at 4.9 GHz, in general, is practical for use only in tactical situations, hot spots and incident area networks.
We recently have learned of several exciting new concepts that would give public safety new opportunities to provide improved wireless data services.
- Cyren Call concept
Cyren Call Communications filed a Petition for FCC Rulemaking on April 27. Cyren Call is proposing the establishment of a Public Safety Broadband Trust (PSBT) that would be a federal government-authorized and -established corporation with public safety holding the majority of the seats on the PSBT board of directors. The PSBT would hold a license for a 30 MHz block of cleared spectrum in the upper 700 MHz band currently scheduled for auction. The PSBT would negotiate with private entities that would agree to build and maintain a nationwide, next-generation broadband network for public safety. In exchange, the private-sector entities would gain the right to share the network. Public safety would have priority access to the network. Many public-safety organizations have called upon the FCC and Congress to facilitate a public discussion of the concept (see story on page 10).
- M2Z Networks concept
M2Z has asked the FCC to grant a license for 20 MHz of spectrum in the 2 GHz band so it can construct a nationwide broadband network. Public safety would be a beneficiary of such a network by having free access to basic broadband services.
- Verizon Wireless concept
Although at the time I am writing this column, Verizon Wireless has not publicly announced its plans, it has held private meetings with public-safety officials to discuss a plan it is developing to use existing commercial network assets (towers, switches, transport, etc.) to provide public-safety users with an interoperability platform. Unlike the Cyren Call and M2Z concepts, which propose the use of newly allocated spectrum, the Verizon Wireless concept is focused on the 12 MHz of spectrum already allocated to public safety for wideband (and proposed broadband) use. This concept envisions a process where public safety would have an opportunity to select from a variety of ideas on how to best deploy a state-of-the-art nationwide network.
Current FCC proceedings are under way to consider options for the use of the 12 MHz of wideband (broadband) spectrum already allocated to public safety.
With all of these concepts before us, I urge local and state public-safety officials to provide their thoughts and input to the national public safety organizations and the FCC, so in the future we will have the best services possible.
Harlin McEwen has been in the field of law enforcement for more than 47 years.He has served for more than 27 years as chairman of the IACP Communications & Technology Committee and also serves as Communications Adviser to the Major Cities Police Chiefs Association and the National Sheriffs’ Association, Major County Sheriffs’ Association and as an adviser to the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and various other agencies.