DFW Airport offers a glimpse of critical-infrastructure LTE impact
From a technical standpoint, the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport proposal filed recently with the Texas Department of Public Safety is not earth-shattering; there are several other public-safety LTE networks at various stages of deployment throughout the country, from Charlotte to Los Angeles. What makes this proposal unique is that it is a big LTE project — DFW Airport is larger than the island of Manhattan — that is not dependent on federal grant money.
“It should be noted that the planned system will be 100% funded by the DFW Airport,” the filing states. “Funding is already in place for the system. Thus, funding issues and delays that may be hindering other jurisdictions will not delay DFW’s deployment.”
That’s a powerful statement, and it’s one that should not be ignored by public-safety officials or lawmakers on Capitol Hill, where the debate regarding the amount of spectrum and funding — not to mention governance, which may prove to be the stickiest issue of all — for a nationwide LTE network is expected to be renewed in a couple of weeks.
Thanks to revenue from landing fees at one of the busiest airports in the world, this critical-infrastructure location has the money to build out its own LTE network that promises to meet all of the performance and interoperability standards that the FCC and other oversight organizations may establish. Presuming that the appropriate agreements can be reached, that means that the larger LTE network in the DFW would not have to include money to deploy infrastructure to provide private 4G coverage for this massive airport area.
Potentially, it’s a model that could have a potentially significant impact on the speed and cost of deploying the much-anticipated LTE network, if it were repeated nationwide. DFW is not the only airport, and airports are not the only critical-infrastructure entities with steady revenue streams that could be tapped to help pay for some — if not all — the costs associated with deploying and maintaining public-safety-grade LTE systems.
Many in the industry question whether the amount of funding Congress has proposed for the nationwide, public-safety LTE network — be it the $5 billion proposed in the House bill or the $12 billion included in Senate legislation — will be enough to pay for private 4G deployment in the rural areas. The fear among many in public safety is that the big metropolitan areas will get the bulk of the funding, and the less-populated locales will be left with little realistic hope to deploy LTE.
What’s needed is a method to stretch any federal funding as far as possible, and leveraging the resources of critical-infrastructure entities — utilities, healthcare facilities, airports and other transportation-related organizations — is one way to do that. In addition, these entities have very laudable broadband goals of their own, such as the smart grid, telemedicine and intelligent-transportation systems.
In other words, if crafted properly, this 700 MHz broadband spectrum could be leveraged to resolve national broadband priorities in several key sectors of society—not just public safety, although that should always be the priority — with a network that is more robust than any of the sectors could build alone. It also would mean the spectrum and scarce taxpayer monies could be used as efficiently as possible, especially when one considers the amount of time and money that would be spent building four separate networks for these sectors.
Admittedly, trying to make something this comprehensive work could present some political challenges, but those will exist under any plan. But addressing the legitimate and vital broadband needs of all of these key sectors—and thereby allowing more “new” spectrum that is freed to be used for commercial purposes — would be well worth the wait.
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