Group issues first-responder network requirements

A public safety communications umbrella group has published its recommendations for setting up and operating the 700 Mhz broadband network that the Federal Communications Commission is establishing for first responders.

The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council, which represents more than a dozen organizations involved in first-responder communications, offered its vision of a 24/7-operating network available for critical public safety missions in its 53-page statement of requirements.

Those requirements should include mission-critical availability, robustness, accessibility and hardened infrastructures, the council said.

The FCC is creating the new network as part of the transition to digital television. As television broadcasters vacate portions of the radio spectrum, the vacant spectrum will be publicly auctioned. A portion of the 700 Mhz band will be made available to first responders, of which a segment is to be set aside to create a new broadband network for public safety.

The new broadband network will be used for commercial purposes but public safety users can pre-empt it in emergencies. It will be jointly governed by the FCC and by an agreement between the winner of the so-called D Block, which includes adjacent commercial spectrum, and by a public safety national licensee, which has not yet been established. The auction is scheduled for January.

Under the terms proposed by the national public safety telecommunications council, the new broadband network must be available to meet mission-critical needs on an around-the-clock basis. First responders will use the broadband network to transmit data, including video and voice.

"The innovation accompanying modern communications must embrace the standards associated with around-the-clock operations and coverage wherever a critical incident, large or small, is found," the council said.

This means that the D Block licensee must provide 24/7 support, including field support, to keep the public safety network running in emergencies, the council said. Furthermore, availability of the network should start at 99.9 percent and increase to 99.995 percent within 10 years.

The broadband network must strive to achieve a level of robustness comparable to land mobile radio technologies in use by police and fire agencies, the council said.

The network should provide interfaces to the Internet, public telephone networks and satellite networks and should be capable of being upgraded to IPv6, the council said.

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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