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Federal Bill Would Bring $70 Million for Public Safety Communications Gear

August 05, 2010  | 

Federal legislation introduced by a California congresswoman in late July would authorize $70 million in grants to provide first-responders devices capable of the highest-speed transmissions of data, voice, and video services over the Internet.

Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) introduced H.R. 5907 on July 28 to provide interoperability for public safety officials and drive down the cost of the new equipment, according to her office. The bill needs to be approved by both houses of Congress before being signed by the President Obama.

If the bill passes, the development and creation of 4G broadband devices for the 700 MHz spectrum would be a major step forward for advocates of a public safety network. Police departments would be able to incorporate more cellular-based devices while retaining the ability to communicate with traditional radio-based devices.

Some of the devices will include handset devices or other mobile devices that may be used in a patrol car, a Harman spokeswoman told POLICE Magazine. However, first responders and the public safety stakeholder group will ultimately decide which devices are the most important to develop.

To meet the requirements for the grant, the devices would need to deliver real-time communication, reliable data transfer under adverse conditions, sufficient clarity of transmission, and full interoperability between different types and brands of devices.

The Next Generation Public Safety Device Act is currently endorsed by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Emergency Numbers Association and various telecommunication carriers including Sprint, AT&T and the Rural Cellular Association.

Police radio equipment makers such as Motorola and Harris Corp. have yet to support the bill. Radio equipment sales in public safety are dominated by Motorola, which currently has an 80 percent market share in the market, according to a June 9 article in the Washington Post


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