Wireless broadband valuable for emergency agencies

Deploying a wireless broadband network successfully enhanced first responder communications in Washington, D.C., according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

An NTIA report shows results from the Wireless Accelerated Responder Network (WARN) demonstration project that operated in the District of Columbia and its surrounding suburbs from January 2005 to December 2006.

The wireless Internet Protocol network operated on 2.5 Mhz of spectrum in the 700 Mhz band under a special license from the Federal Communications Commission. It enabled police, fire and other public safety agencies to quickly access streaming video and remote databases from laptop computers in their vehicles.

The WARN allowed federal, state, local and private agencies to share information more effectively. That was particularly helpful during the January 2005 presidential inauguration, Fourth of July festivities and International Monetary Fund public demonstrations, the report said.

"WARN demonstrated a critical value in supporting federal and non-federal agencies as they work toward a spectrum-sharing solution to meet the increasingly complex, public-safety, wireless, broadband communication needs in the coming decades," the report said.

However, the project also showed that 2.5 Mhz of spectrum may not be enough to fulfill the needs of public safety. The District of Columbia did not use a commercial broadband network because the available networks did not meet their needs, the NTIA report said.

Nonetheless, the NTIA report recommends that public safety agencies consider utilizing commercial broadband networks if they meet their requirements.

"It was the District's decision not to use commercial services for a broadband network because user requirements (reliability, coverage, security and network management) could not be met. However, in some areas, commercial services may be the only solution in the near term for affordable broadband services," the NTIA report said. "Public safety agencies are encouraged to appropriately use commercial services for broadband applications should their requirements dictate."

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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