Charlotte nixes private LTE plans for Democratic National Convention
A federal decision to halt work on public-safety LTE projects nationwide until the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board is appointed will mean that security officials for the Democratic National Convention will not be able to use a dedicated broadband network, according to an official with the city of Charlotte, N.C.
“We sent out a notice to our city council two weeks ago, informing them that we would not be able to provide the services as anticipated,” Chuck Robinson, the key business executive for the city of Charlotte’s business support services, said during an interview with Urgent Communications.
Robinson said that city officials have made other communications arrangements for public-safety personnel that will be working during the convention, which will begin on Sept. 3.
Charlotte officials had hoped to use the LTE network — the first phase of which was scheduled to be operational this month — during the convention to bolster public-safety communications and to gain real-world experience about using a dedicated LTE network during a large event.
However, all early public-safety LTE deployments using federal funds have been stopped by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which has expressed concerns that the early buildouts could hamper the FirstNet board’s plans for a nationwide network.
But the delays are creating issues, Robinson said. The city hired a project manager to deploy the planned LTE network, but that person is not allowed to proceed with the project. Similarly, key project partners such as Alcatel-Lucent and Crown Castle have similar resource issues.
“Every day, the cost to restart [the LTE project] goes up,” Robinson said. “You have to remember, we had full-bore project teams. Crown Castle and Alcatel-Lucent can’t afford to have project teams sitting on their hands, so they get reassigned to other stuff.
“It’s going to take a whole bunch of work to get everything ramped back up.”
Robinson said that he is anxious to get started on the LTE deployment, noting that the city already has received the equipment to build out about 25% of planned network.
“There’s stuff in the warehouse,” he said. “I’ve got a really nice service-and-packing gateway sitting over in my data center. We’ve already tested the link between it and the core — it works fine. We’re just sitting here, waiting to do something really great.”