Andrew Seybold Calls for Fast Government Action on Plan for Interoperable Public Safety Communications

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With the FCC scheduled to present its Broadband Report to the administration in February 2010, the renowned wireless analyst and consultant is calling attention to jhe need for interoperability in the Public Safety community. Much needed spectrum is at stake and public/private partnerships offer a solution.

By approving the construction of regional, state and city networks, the nationwide plan can come together within years, not decades and with many fewer billions of dollars spent on the project.

Broadly addressing both houses of the U.S. Congress, the FCC Commissioners, the Director of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau for the FCC, and officials at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, renowned wireless communications industry Analyst/Consultant Andrew Seybold called for swift action on a public-private sector proposal to solve the problem of interoperable communications in the public safety community in an open letter dated December 7.

"This has been a problem for at least forty years, but was brought to the attention of the general public during and after 9/11 and then Katrina," he wrote. "Some progress has been made in solving many of the problems that plague the public safety community but not enough."

Seybold noted that in 2008, the 700-MHz D Block was to be the start of the first public/private partnership for broadband communications, but that the block was not successfully auctioned. In late 2009, a re-auction proposal was floated but was tabled with the change of administrations.

"Between now and February 2010 (when the FCC's Broadband Report is due to the administration), you have the opportunity to make the public safety nationwide wireless broadband network a reality," he writes. "But time is short and there is much to be doneā€¦I am asking that you treat this issue with the priority it deserves."

A Private/Public Solution
Working together, the public safety community and elements of the private sector including private sector network operators, rural power and Telco companies have developed a plan that if approved, will enable such a network to move forward rapidly and at minimal cost, he writes. The solution involves private/public partnerships to establish a series of networks on a region-by-region basis.

Build-out can be fast and cost-effective, Seybold states, with substantial savings to the public safety community because the private network operators can supply the required back-end services with resources already in place.

Proposal Details
The proposal that Seybold supports calls for removal of the D Block from the auction pool and assigning it to the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST), holder of the current public safety license, providing public safety with 20 MHz of spectrum rather than the 10 MHz currently assigned.

The FCC then needs to execute four key actions:

  •      Permit those who have filed waivers to start building their pilot and test systems
  •      License the D Block to the Public Safety Spectrum Trust
  •      Provide the PSST with the mechanics to allow access to the spectrum by the regions, states and cities that have committed to build the networks in their areas
  •      Charge the PSST with responsibility for the integration of all of the networks into a common nationwide public safety network.

Estimates for funding the implementation of the network range from $10 billion to more than $40 billion, Seybold notes, contingent upon the actions of Congress. If Congress approves re-allocation of the D Block to the public safety community, and the FCC allows regional network build-out with the assistance of the private sector on a region-by region, city-by-city basis, the true cost would be more toward the low end of the range.

It is imperative that public safety have unlimited access to all 20 MHz of the spectrum, Seybold states , because the number of applications that will be used across the network will grow over time and because this trend will continue as the nationwide system is completed. The issue of funding can be a resolved through a specific allocation from the Federal government and by using funding already set aside or rural broadband, educational and medical services.

"The public safety community is in agreement, many within the private sector have agreed to partner, and the spectrum is available. By approving the construction of regional, state and city networks, the nationwide plan can come together within years, not decades and with many fewer billions of dollars spent on the project."

About Andrew Seybold, Inc.
Andrew Seybold, Inc. is dedicated to solving client challenges through strategic consulting, client-specific research and analysis, publications, speaking engagements and educational programs. Company founder Andrew M. Seybold and his partners provide deep technology and business expertise, proven best practices and long-established relationships with industry leaders. Mr. Seybold is highly regarded for his COMMENTARY e-newsletter, TELL IT LIKE IT IS blog and the Andrew Seybold Wireless University. For more information, visit http://www.andrewseybold.com.

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