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Report from the Field: Advancing Public Safety Broadband Communications

December 30, 2010 by Lance Johnson, Program Officer

700-MHz Demonstration Stakeholder Meeting in Boulder

Earlier this month, representatives from each of the seven BTOP 700 MHz wireless broadband public safety projects spent time at the Department of Commerce Research Labs in Boulder learning about the most recent developments in LTE wireless broadband technology.

Approximately 300 stakeholders, who were interested in the new wireless broadband technology and how this commercial technology could be adapted by public safety using the 700 MHz broadband spectrum, attended the meeting. Attendees included representatives from state, local, and federal government agencies, equipment manufacturers, cellular service providers, and other stakeholder associations. It was one of the largest events ever held at the Boulder campus and included opening remarks by Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Greg Schaffer and NTIA Deputy Administrator Anna Gomez.

This event was sponsored by the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program, a government-sponsored program that performs research to advance public safety communications interoperability. PSCR is a joint effort between the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Office of Law Enforcement Standards and NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences. The PSCR program is building a 700-MHz Public Safety Broadband Demonstration Network to provide manufacturers and first responders a location for early deployment of their public safety systems in a multi-vendor, neutral, host environment.

At the meeting, attendees received information about PSCR’s demonstration network and were able to see the equipment in operation as part of a lab tour. All seven of the BTOP grant recipients participated in discussions about network standards, potential interoperability, and equipment development and testing. The meeting was designed to advance the goal of a nationwide interoperable public safety wireless broadband network – and was an important opportunity for our public safety grantees to learn more about this technology as they prepare to deploy their own public safety networks.

Brian Shepherd, the Deputy Director of the Adams County Communications Center (ADCOM), a recipient of one of the BTOP public safety grants, captured the importance of this meeting to public safety broadband goals when he stated:

  • “The Winter 2010 Demonstration Network/Stakeholder Meeting was an excellent opportunity for our entire team to both learn from and network with everyone who will be involved in the development of the 700 MHz Broadband Network. The relationships developed and information exchanged between the waiver recipients will be invaluable as we move forward with our project. These types of meetings and the continued coordination by the PSCR will be crucial in meeting the overall broadband goals.”

NTIA, BTOP grant recipients, and PSCR will continue to work with each other and the FCC to deploy these pilot projects and to move closer to providing the nation’s first responders with a nationwide, interoperable wireless broadband communications network.