Texas Official Shares Public-Safety Broadband Details in Europe
Monday, June 03, 2013 | Comments


Photo courtesy Greater Houston
Convention and Visitors Bureau

By Sandra Wendelken, Editor

A Texas public-safety official participated at the Critical Communications World (CCW) conference in Paris last month, explaining the Harris County, Texas, public-safety Long Term Evolution (LTE) network and providing application scenarios to his European counterparts.

Todd Early, deputy assistant director, Public Safety Communications Bureau for the Texas Department of Public Safety, outlined the funding, spectrum and technical details of the Harris County network. Mostly European TETRA communications officials, who have yet to gain dedicated spectrum for public-safety broadband networks, attended CCW, although the conference had a global audience.

The Harris County network operates under a special temporary authority (STA) license from the FCC, but state officials are negotiating with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board members to lease 700 MHz public-safety spectrum.

The county has invested $11 million from federal port grant money. The 14-site system will eventually be expanded to 90 sites to cover the entire county. Seven tower owners are involved in the initial 14 sites, Early said. “Sharing agreements are key; there is an amazing amount of backhaul,” he said.

Early said the state first started planning in 2009. In January, FirstNet officials visited Texas to learn more about the dedicated network, which launched with its first users last September.

FirstNet officials saw three scenarios when they visited Harris County. Using LTE equipment located at Texas A&M University’s Kyle Field, high-definition video was streamed from helicopters down to devices using the 700 MHz public-safety band 14 spectrum with the goal of improved situational awareness.

The officials simulated a collapsed building with victims in rubble. Participants included search and rescue (S&R), EMS and hospitals, and the emergency operations center. An in-car video on the scene provided the S&R team live video and a floor plan of the building. A live camera showed the rubble and the condition of a victim trapped in rubble. While the victim was transported, responders used video conferencing between emergency medical technicians in the ambulance and the emergency room doctor.

Texas officials also simulated a suspicious package report. A bomb squad and off-site bomb expert were involved with streaming video from a vehicle to the operations center, along with live video from a bomb robot, which X-rayed the package and sent the results to the bomb expert. They also conducted a live video teleconference with incident command, the bomb squad and an FBI bomb expert.

The third case was an active shooter in a movie theater. The technology simulated a citizen texting a picture of the suspect to 9-1-1, video from inside the theater, live video from outside the theater from a police car, and surveillance camera access of the suspect being captured.

When asked about buildout goals and lessons learned from the network, Early said he would like to see more sites approved for Harris County. “Inventory the infrastructure that’s out there,” Early said. “There is no use of duplicating infrastructure. Inventory and work together are the biggest lessons learned.”

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