Some needed perspective
At the end of February, I went to Las Vegas to attend this year’s International Wireless Communications Exposition. While there I learned all about — get this — Hoover Dam. One of America’s most ambitious endeavors, Hoover Dam was a central theme of the opening keynote by Morgan O’Brien — chairman of Cyren Call Communications, the Public Safety Spectrum Trust’s adviser — concerning the proposed national broadband wireless network for first responders that would be built on newly available spectrum in the 700 MHz band.
It was on the same stage nearly two years ago that O’Brien first floated the notion of such a network. Now, as then, the project has plenty of naysayers, whom O’Brien addressed by waxing poetic about Hoover Dam, which stands quite literally as one of America’s foremost engineering marvels.
O’Brien tossed out numerous facts about the edifice, which straddles the Nevada/Arizona border roughly 90 miles from Las Vegas and corrals the mighty Colorado River, saving precious farmland from devastating floodwaters and generating vital hydroelectric power. He noted that “there would be no Los Angeles, Las Vegas or Arizona” in their current forms without the dam, which today still generates electricity for more than 1 million people. An unusual aspect of the project was that the dam was built by a joint venture of six construction companies — primarily because none of them individually could come up the $5 million performance bond (about $70 million in today’s dollars) required by the federal government.
Despite the enormous benefits the dam eventually delivered, there were many who didn’t think it should be built, citing myriad engineering and construction obstacles. You probably can guess what’s coming next. O’Brien drew comparisons between Hoover Dam and the 700 MHz public safety communications network, noting that a public/private partnership for funding, building and operating such a network had never before been contemplated. He said the lack of a D Block winner at this juncture is just the first of many obstacles that will need to be overcome for the unprecedented network to reach fruition. Finally, O’Brien reminded that it took 14 years from the time it was first contemplated for Hoover Dam to be built and generate its first watt of power. “These types of projects take a lot of time,” he said.
Pardon the pun, but the analogy holds water. The journey to a nationwide interoperable broadband wireless communications network for first responders will be a marathon, not a sprint, and it will occur over an obstacle course, not smooth pavement. It won’t be easy, nor will it be quick. Nothing worthwhile ever is. The project is in its earliest stages. Give it time — and give the PSST and Cyren Call a chance.