These are exciting times for the public-safety communications industry. For example, the changes in the U.S. House of Representatives mean that there will be different chairs for the various committees that affect the industry. Obviously, this could have a significant influence on the 700 MHz D Block issues.
However, activity goes far beyond changes brought about by the most recent election. At 700 MHz alone, the buildout of LTE systems by the municipalities that obtained waivers represents new, interesting and exciting uses of spectrum and technology. The year 2011 also will see the production of work by the Emergency Response Interoperability Center, or ERIC, which will change how public-safety systems interact with one another. Further, by having a standard — LTE — we may for the first time see the hoped-for efficiencies of having public-safety radio technology on the same platform as commercial radio technology. These developments will change public-safety communications for decades to come.
The 700 MHz band also evokes the possibility that how the industry does its business will be altered. Will public-safety two-way radio users still obtain their radios from the typical two-way radio dealer, or will there be a new marketing regimen in place? If the technology is the same, will units for commercial and public safety be available from the same dealer? Perhaps one outcome is that the traditional dealer will become more of a service shop, with support from manufacturers, relying more on service revenue than sales revenue. There are so many questions and unknowns in this new venture, and 2011 will shed quite a bit of light on the uncertainties.
In other bands, narrowbanding continues apace. However, there still are several details that the FCC still must decide. It is our understanding that the FCC will be issuing a new public notice with some of those details shortly. If past is prologue, that public notice probably will come out on Christmas Eve (tongue planted firmly in cheek). Meanwhile, licensees are trying to decide whether to narrowband to 12.5 kHz efficiency, or go right to readily available 6.25 kHz-efficient systems. Add to this mix the fact that work still is ongoing for a 6.25 kHz P25 standard (at the same time that some folks are blasting the existing P25 standards), and some licensees are confused as to what route to take.
As if this wasn’t enough to keep everyone busy, while a number of licensees are completing their 800 MHz rebands, others are just beginning. Some Canadian border folks have begun their rebands, but many others are being held up by cross-border issues. So, while these licensees may have had rebanding agreements with Sprint Nextel for months, they cannot proceed with any work. Meanwhile, Mexican border licensees anxiously are awaiting the new 800 MHz plan in their area. This should happen during 2011, which will create a huge rush of activity as affected licensees try to figure out all of the puzzle pieces of Southern California 800 MHz use.
Taken individually, any of these tasks would be manageable during any particular year. However, we don’t have the luxury of splitting up all of this activity into different years.
Hang on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.
Alan Tilles is counsel to numerous entities in the private radio and Internet industries. He is a partner in the law firm of Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy & Ecker and can be reached at [email protected].