North Dakota revamps 700 MHz waiver request
North Dakota has resubmitted its waiver request to the FCC that would allow early buildout of a 700 MHz broadband system on public-safety broadband spectrum in the band, as well as use of airwaves currently reserved for public-safety narrowband services.
The new filing is almost identical to the state’s previous filing but is more “generic” in nature, instead of mentioning wireless startup Flow Mobile — a company that already has received a special temporary authority (STA) from the FCC to deploy a pilot broadband network in North Dakota — by name, said Mike Lynk, director of North Dakota State Radio.
“It’s not like we’re pulling any support from Flow Mobile,” Lynk said. “It’s just that the first filing made it sound like we were working only with Flow Mobile, and that’s not the case.”
Indeed, North Dakota also is working with a “consortium that represents the telcos” to demonstrate that building a broadband network for public safety and the private sector throughout the state is a viable business model, Lynk said. He declined to provide additional information that would further identify participants in the consortium.
Within the public-safety community, North Dakota’s proposal has been among the most controversial of all the 700 MHz waiver requests to date. Many public-safety representatives considered the initial filing inappropriate, because it was filed by Flow Mobile, not by the state or other public-safety entity.
While that portion of the proposal was rectified, the other source of contention has not been altered. North Dakota officials want to dedicate the 700 MHz narrowband spectrum — airwaves that currently have no planned use — for the broadband project.
Public-safety representatives have expressed concern that granting such a reallocation could set a dangerous precedent in other states and could hamper interoperability efforts in North Dakota when responders from other regions of the country try to use 700 MHz narrowband mutual-aid channels when outside aid is needed in the state.
Other questions revolve around Flow Mobile, a startup wireless firm that has declined to identify publicly the technology it plans to use. Officials have described the technology as “4G-like” and can interoperate with all technologies, including LTE — the broadband technology that has been endorsed by several key public-safety organizations. Such interoperability would be done at the network level and would require dual-mode devices for users to roam between the Flow Mobile network and a proposed national LTE network, according to Flow Mobile officials.
In June, Flow Mobile made a presentation to the FCC that detailed plans to build out a joint-use wireless broadband network across 11 rural states for $431 million.