Pacific DataVision, EWA ask FCC to transform 900 MHz LMR spectrum to broadband use
Pacific DataVision (PDV) and the Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA) today announced that they have submitted a petition for rulemaking to the FCC for permission to pursue a realignment of 900 MHz LMR spectrum that would result in PDV and other licensees having a contiguous 3×3 MHz swath to support wireless broadband services for enterprise dispatch.
In September, PDV announced that it had purchased non-contiguous 900 MHz spectrum from wireless carrier Sprint. This Part 90 LMR spectrum initially will be used to support PDV’s plan to offer enhanced enterprise dispatch services to enterprises that leverage digital radio technology from Motorola Solutions beginning early next year.
However, if the petition submitted yesterday to the FCC is granted, PDV would be allowed to pursue a realignment of existing users in a way that would result in PDV having 3×3 MHs of contiguous nationwide spectrum, which would allow the company to offer broadband services to its dispatch customers, while retaining a 2×2 MHz block for incumbent LMR systems.
Under the proposal, existing LMR licensees in the 900 MHz band could continue to operate their systems, but those systems may be moved to different channels within the band—a migration funded by PDV—to enable the creation of the 3×3 MHz private enterprise broadband (PEBB) swath for PDV, according to PDV Vice Chairman Morgan O’Brien, co-founder and former chairman of Nextel Communications.
“We recognize that there is a long road ahead as the industry works through the complex, but manageable, details of implementing this proposal,” O’Brien said in a prepared statement. “It has become increasingly difficult for the FCC to identify ‘greenfield’ spectrum to meet important new requirements of its enterprise constituents. Realignments and repurposing of existing allocations are today’s only practical way of addressing these needs.”
The fact that the petition’s proposal allows for all existing 900 MHz LMR systems to continuing operating is critical, according to EWA President and CEO Mark Crosby.
“EWA members that will continue operating 900 MHz narrowband systems are satisfied that the petition offers a balanced approach for addressing both traditional and advanced communications needs,” Crosby said in a prepared statement. “Our members with broadband coverage, reliability, security and operating requirements not currently fulfilled on commercial networks have endorsed the petition.”
O’Brien said the petition proposes that the 3×3 broadband swath begin at 937 MHz and continue through higher frequencies—meaning LMR frequencies below 937 MHz would not need to move—but he acknowledged that there are several potential combinations that the FCC could consider to achieve the goal of creating a 3×3 MHz broadband swath while maintaining LMR systems in the band.
“The way I like to analogize it is that this is musical chairs, but you don’t have to take any chairs away,” O’Brien said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “At the end of the song, everybody still has a place to sit down. Other than the convenience factor [for LMR licensees that would have to move], that—to me—makes it a compelling proposition. But we’ll have to see. We haven’t heard every argument, because we haven’t talked to everybody. That’s what the [FCC] rulemaking process is intended to do.
“The plan we laid out in the petition is one way of doing it, and we put in pros-and-cons arguments about this particular way of doing it, but we make it clear that we understand that the there are other ways of doing it, too.”
Under the proposal in the petition, the FCC would require PDV and other broadband licensees to grant priority access to critical-infrastructure entities, according to a joint press release from PDV and EWA. O’Brien previously has stated that PDV’s target dispatch markets are the enterprise critical-infrastructure sectors, including utilities.
“There are plenty of users that we’ve talked to that are enthusiastic to getting access to broadband with priority access,” O’Brien said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.
“That’s the Holy Grail here: broadband, with priority access, for critical infrastructure. I don’t know how else critical infrastructure will get priority access. To me, it’s their only present-day opportunity. I don’t see any other way that they’ll get it. Maybe I’ll be surprised, but that’s what we’re asking the FCC to consider.”
Crosby said he believes there is a need for critical-infrastructure entities to have such priority access.
“When employee safety and property are threatened, our nation’s critical infrastructure providers cannot afford to lose communications,” Crosby said in a prepared statement. “Unfortunately, that happens all too often when a crisis prompts capacity issues on commercial wireless networks.”
This petition is being submitted slightly more than a year after O’Brien made a speech at the 2013 EWA Wireless Leadership Summit in which he said, “For private radio to flourish, it needs broadband.”
PDV and EWA have been discussing the terms of the petition with the American Petroleum Institute (API), the Utilities Telecom Council (UTC) and other representatives of critical-infrastructure incumbents in the 900 MHz band. API and UTC did not sign the petition submitted yesterday to the FCC, although both associations participated in the initial March filing to the FCC that proposed the notion of transitioning LMR spectrum to broadband uses.
“EWA and PDV plan to continue this productive process and to assist the FCC in crafting the best possible PEBB band plan and regulatory structure to address CII [critical-infrastructure industry] broadband requirements while respecting the many important licensees for which narrowband operations continue to be the preferred choice,” Crosby said in a prepared statement.