The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International hosted a town hall meeting earlier this month during their annual conference in Las Vegas that updated the law enforcement community about the effort to obtain a public safety broadband network.
The phasing out of analog broadcasts freed up the 700 MHz frequency spectrum that could, in part, be devoted to this purpose. The move could be a huge budget saver for departments that now reimburse officers to use personal cell phones and other mobile devices to transmit data.
APCO International has plunged into the development of standards for the network, which would be developed in cooperation with the Public Safety Spectrum Trust Corp. that obtained a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to license the frequency spectrum.
The trust will develop the public safety network under a private and public partnership that still needs FCC approval. A 2008 attempt to auction the D-Block segment — one of five in the 700 MHz spectrum — was unsuccessful.
"We, in public safety, are at a significant crossroads," said Richard Mirgon, APCO's president elect, in a statement. "Broadband deployment must happen now. The decisions APCO International makes in the next few months could well define our nation's ability to ensure success for the next generation of public safety communications."
Essentially, the group is advocating the use of Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology that is now being developed and tested by cellular carriers such as Verizon that have outlayed millions to obtain the right to use the spectrum. Marketers refer to LTE as the "4G" network, This next-gen broadband technology will compete with WiMAX for the hearts and minds of users.
Both higher-speed wireless broadband enable faster transmission of larger data files over a longer range.
A group of police departments are seeking waivers that would allow them to develop local broadband networks using a section of the 700 MHz spectrum. The current plan sets aside four of the eight 700 MHz channels for public-safety use.
Read APCO's recap of its Aug. 19 town hall and the list of law enforcement agencies applying for the waivers.