FCC grants STA extension to Texas, allows Harris County to continue LTE operations
Harris County, Texas, can continue operating its public-safety LTE network, after the FCC last week granted a 90-day special temporary authority (STA) to the state of Texas that enables use of the 20 MHz of spectrum licensed to FirstNet.
Harris County has been operating the LTE network—the only operational public-safety LTE network in the country—for more than a year, but the previous STA was to expire on Nov. 26, according to state officials. The FCC granted that STA in the fall, after getting an indication from FirstNet that it wanted the LTE network to continue operations while FirstNet continued negotiations on a long-term spectrum-lease agreement with the state of Texas.
Without an STA renewal or a spectrum-lease agreement with FirstNet, Harris County would have to cease operations of the public-safety LTE network on the spectrum licensed to FirstNet.
Although FirstNet General Manager Bill D’Agostino has said that FirstNet staff will not seek permission to continue spectrum-lease negotiations with recipients of Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grants, the FCC order states that “FirstNet concurs in Texas’s requested 90-day renewal,” a fact that a FirstNet representative confirmed with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.
“The FirstNet board hasn’t yet voted to extend spectrum-lease negotiations with the state of Texas, but it is expected to do so soon,” according to a FirstNet spokeswoman.
The FirstNet board will conduct its next meeting on Dec. 17.
To date, FirstNet has signed spectrum-lease agreements with only two entities: the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System Authority (LA-RICS) and the state of New Mexico.
The FCC order issued last week indicated that Texas officials have stated that all but two of the 13 sites in the Harris County LTE system are operational today, and the remaining two sites are expected to be integrated around the end of the year.
Calls by IWCE’s Urgent Communications to officials with the state of Texas were not returned in time for any comments to be included in this article.