Harris County seeks FirstNet OK to expand LTE network
Officials for Harris County, Texas — the location of the only operational 700 MHz public-safety LTE network in the nation — will meet with FirstNet board members next week in hopes of eventually receiving permission to complete deployment of its broadband wireless system.
In August, the FCC granted Harris County and the city of Charlotte permission to operate LTE systems using special temporary authority (STA). Although Charlotte officials decided not to proceed with their deployment plans at the time, Harris County opted to begin operations on the portion of LTE network that was built prior to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration halting work on public-safety LTE deployments last spring.
Currently, police and fire personnel in the city of Baytown are using the LTE network, which has eight operational sites, according to Robert Cavazos, director of broadband services for Harris County. Next Thursday, FirstNet officials will visit the county, which officials hope will lead to broader permission to expand the system to 14 sites, as originally planned, he said.
"We're awaiting word from FirstNet, after their visit, to move forward with additional sites," Cavazos said during an interview with Urgent Communications.
Without such direction from FirstNet, Harris County would not be able to expand the network and would have to apply for an STA extension from the FCC by March, which is when the current STA expires, Cavazos said.
During the FirstNet meeting in December, board member Ed Reynolds described plans to visit the seven public-safety entities that received more than $300 million in federal Broadband Technologies Opportunity Program (BTOP) grants to build public-safety LTE systems. Many of these networks were scheduled to be operating this year, but NTIA halted the deployments to ensure that the FirstNet board would have input into the initiatives.
"We just need to move expeditiously to conclude what we need to be telling them," Reynolds said. "We need to target probably the January timeframe to give them a decision."