NPSTC report questions feasibility of relocating T-Band licensees
The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) on Friday issued a report that characterizes as “infeasible” the federally legislated mandate that calls for the FCC to auction T-Band spectrum (470-512 MHz) by February 2021 and for public-safety users to vacate the airwaves within two years after the auction closes. As such, NPSTC believes that Congress should revisit the matter.
This T-Band provision was contained in the legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama last February that reallocated the 700 MHz D Block and authorized $7 billion in funding for a nationwide broadband communications network for first responders.
T-Band spectrum is used by public-safety entities in the following cities/metropolitan areas:
- Dallas/Ft. Worth
- Washington, D.C. (including parts of Virginia and Maryland)
- Los Angeles
- New York City/Northeast New Jersey
- San Francisco/Oakland
According to NPSTC, five of these areas — Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia — lack adequate spectrum “in any band” to relocate T-Band users, while available spectrum is marginal in three additional areas: San Francisco/Oakland, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.
Another major problem is that relocation costs are projected to exceed $5.9 billion — a figure that will be “much greater than the likely auction revenue,” according to NPSTC.
Further complicating matters is that several existing T-Band networks are shared and provide regional interoperable communications, such as the Boston Area Police Emergency Radio Network (BAPERN) and the Los Angeles Regional Interoperability System (LA-RICS), the report said.
When asked about the NPSTC report today during an interview with Urgent Communications, Charles Dowd — deputy chief of the New York City Police Department, who is in charge of the NYPD’s massive communications network — said that he hadn’t seen the report, but it would make more sense for T-Band licensees to stay where they are for the foreseeable future.
“As we move forward and study this, I think everybody involved — including Congress — is going to realize that this is unworkable,” Dowd said. “Ultimately, the logic of it will be, in my opinion, that we will be allowed to stay on T-Band until there is a voice solution that can replace it in broadband, and who knows when that will happen.”
Based on its read of the legislation, New York City believes two things must happen for the NYPD to move off of T-Band spectrum, according to Dowd. First, the FCC would have to find appropriate spectrum for the agency to migrate to, something that Dowd described as “an odd switch.”
“I don’t know why you’d want to do that — you’re [giving up] something good for something else good,” he said. “I don’t know what the value of that exchange would be.”
It likely is an irrelevant point, because appropriate spectrum doesn’t exist, Dowd said.
“It would have to be at least as good, from a signal propagation perspective, as UHF T-Band … and we just don’t see anything available,” he said.
The second obligation is that the federal government would have to pay for the move, according to Dowd.
“That’s obligated in the legislation, as far as we’re concerned, and we would include in that right down to the subscriber devices,” he said. “So, in the long run, as this gets more fully evaluated, it just won’t make sense to try to do it.”