Reusing the Airwaves for Safety

According to Security Management, a nationwide public-safety broadband network may become a reality when television stations switch to digital broadcasting in 2009 and the 700-MHz spectrum becomes available for long-range wireless broadband services.

The Public Safety Spectrum Trust Corp. (PSST), the public-safety licensee, which is composed of major public-safety groups, will receive 10 MHz of “D” block spectrum, and another 10 MHz will be auctioned off to a commercial bidder. The winner will be required to create a national wireless broadband network that will be available to public-safety members, who will be given priority on the commercial network during emergencies. A great amount of research will go into commercial handsets and applications that will be beneficial to the everyday user and public-safety entities.

“The idea of having a single nationwide network that will have a common technology base and will allow for nationwide roaming from one end of the country to the other ... It’s a real revolutionary way to look at things,” said Harlin McEwin, -PSST chairman.

The 700-MHz band is considered ideal because it is wide-ranging, able to penetrate buildings, has voice over Internet protocol capability, and can be used for data and video. The auction winner must make a network-sharing agreement with PSST.

McEwin said there are major priorities for the initiative, such as having a satellite to back up terrestrial networks if they fail and to reach sites. PSST also wants to supply reliable backup power to sites that are vulnerable to hurricanes and tornadoes.


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