The bigger picture (with related video)
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Transportation’s vital assets
There is little question that transportation entities — like most enterprises in today's technology-driven society — have discovered the need for broadband data to improve operations and efficiencies, whether it involves delivery of video or connectivity to a fare-collection system, according to Barry Einsig, chairman of the Joint Council on Transit Wireless Communications.
"Transportation entities are pulling carrier-based LTE systems into their networks right now, because they have an immediate demand for things," Einsig said. "I'm not going to argue whether they should or should not be on D Band systems or whether they should be on public systems, but the demand consumption already has started. It's not like it's going to stop and wait for the D Block to come on board.
"What the opportunity is here in creating some of these integrated systems is … to share costs, integration strategies and infrastructure."
Indeed, transportation entities can bring significant assets that could be leveraged in the proposed nationwide private LTE network for public safety, Einsig said. Traffic-management centers that integrate public-safety answering points are an example of information hubs that can receive and distribute information to and from first responders, while airports have vast experience collecting, storing and managing large quantities of video information.
In addition, transportation entities can provide valuable rights of way that can be used to locate LTE sites — as well as much needed infrastructure.
"If you think about a municipal area, it could be as simple as traffic-signal intersections," Einsig said. "This kind of cellular … LTE network needs to be close to the street, and most of that real estate is owned either by a utility company or a transportation authority.
"[Also] many DOTs have a tremendous amount of fiber or backhaul networks for existing systems. That would be a great leverage point for a public-safety entity looking to build out LTE, because there's a lot of that backhaul infrastructure already in place."
In fact, transportation entities already use some of this backhaul capability to connect cameras — for example, Atlanta has 2,200 cameras — that provide real-time video from highways, Einsig said. These video feeds should be available to first responders and could be distributed via the 700 MHz broadband network.
"Those cameras are available today for managing traffic and managing incidents," Einsig said. "So, they're being used for public safety in the broader sense, but they're not necessarily being collected and redistributed to first responders. I think that's an easy step that would benefit both groups.
"As you look at being able to collect data — from a roadside, from a mass-transit system or from an airport — and repackage that and redistribute that to first responders, there's a natural collaboration between the two [sectors]."
Similar coordination could prove to be even more valuable in the future, as intelligent transportation systems (ITS) move beyond the pilot stage and operational deployment becomes more widespread, Brownlow said. Today, many mobile ITS applications are being developed to operate on 5 GHz spectrum, but that spectrum cannot be used for networking purposes, specifically to deliver relevant information to key decision-makers, he said.
"How do you get that information that the vehicle is reporting back to the roadside unit, such as air temperature, road conditions, whether the windshield wipers or the lights are on? How do you get that back to the traffic-management center, where it can be used and evaluated?" Brownlow said. "That's either going to be done by fiber, 700 MHz or 4.9 GHz."