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Public-Safety Broadband Grant Winners Push Forward on Procurements (4/26/11)
By Sandra Wendelken
The seven 700 MHz public-safety broadband waiver recipients that also received Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) funding are in various stages of their buildout plans, according to quarterly filings with the FCC. Only one grant recipient has started network construction.

According to the timeline set by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), networks are required to be completed in 2013.

The Bay Area Wireless Enhanced Broadband (BayWEB) project is the furthest along in the process although the original scope has been scaled back. Governance issues are plaguing the entities involved in BayWEB, which already awarded a contract to Motorola Solutions for construction of the 700 MHz Long Term Evolution (LTE) broadband network.

The Bay area is in discussions with Motorola Solutions on a build, own, operate and maintain (BOOM) agreement for a 193-site network for the projects. Motorola Solutions requested that a legal entity be designed to complete BOOM negotiations by the second quarter to meet the grant performance deadlines because the Bay Area Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) can’t negotiate the agreement.

Project Cornerstone, the initial pilot program in the Bay Area, originally was expected to include an LTE core, 10 sites and 330 Motorola public-safety LTE user modems. The Project Cornerstone funds will now serve three cities, San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco, and four sites. The region received 30 prototype devices from Motorola to begin testing, the filing said.

The Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications Systems (LA-RICS) is building LA-SafetyNet, the region’s 300-site 700 MHz public-safety broadband network using new and existing infrastructure, fixed microwave backhaul rings and 100 miles of high-capacity fiber backbone. Negotiations are in progress with a selected vendor, but the LA-RICS filing didn’t name the vendor. The estimated cost to build and implement LASafetyNet is $245 million; the authority received $154.6 million in BTOP grant funds. No equipment has been purchased or deployed.

The Mississippi Department of Information Technology Services received three final proposals to its request for proposals (RFP) in March. Evaluation of the proposals from Alcatel-Lucent, Cellular South and Motorola Solutions are under way and expected to be completed in the second quarter.

Mississippi is building a statewide 700 MHz narrowband systems called the Mississippi Wireless Information Network (MSWIN), and the Long Term Evolution (LTE) equipment will use the same sites as MSWIN, according to the filing. There will be 134 RF sites when MSWIN is completed in December with 88 sites complete. More than $17.1 million in BTOP funds will be used for a microwave change order to Alcatel-Lucent for backhaul for the broadband traffic. Motorola Solutions is the MSWIN vendor under a contract awarded in 2007.

Adams County, Colo., plans to award its broadband RFP May 2. The state of New Jersey was awarded $9.6 million from BTOP and plans to release its RFP specifications by the end of April.

The city of Charlotte, N.C.’s project, called CharMeck Connect, released a revised RFP April 4 to meet NTIA guidelines and approval for the BTOP funding. Proposal submissions are due in May, and the contract is planned to be awarded by mid-2011.

The state of New Mexico files its quarterly updates under a confidentiality request, so the report isn't available on the FCC website. An attorney for the state said an RFP for the middle-mile component of the network is expected to be awarded soon. The RFP for the LTE technology will be released this summer.

A check of several other 700 MHz broadband waiver recipients without grant money — including San Antonio, New York City, Seattle, state of Hawaii and Washington, D.C. — found that most jurisdictions are studying alternative funding but haven’t made any substantial progress on broadband network buildouts.

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